During my term as your president, I’ve been privileged to meet so many of you who have shared your journeys and challenges caring for children in the U.S. and around the world.
It’s so clear that you not only care for — but care deeply about — the patients and families you serve.It’s also clear how committed you are to the Academy’s mission of ensuring optimal physical, mental and social, health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
This mission characterizes us as pediatricians and Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics. And squarely behind our mission, stands our vision.
I remember first reading the words of our vision statement and getting chills: The vision that children have optimal health and well-being and are valued by societyspoke to my heart and helped explain how I felt about my work as a pediatrician. These words inspire me to this day.
We know that taking care of a child is taking care of the future. We know that health in the earliest days lays the groundwork for a lifetime of well-being. We know that working to ensure the health of every child means healthier adults, healthier communities and a healthier country.
I’ve been taking this message to our members, our partners, our stakeholders and the public. By focusing on this message and our vision, we’ve been able to raise awareness of the importance of the foundations of health for every child built upon optimal nutrition, nurturing relationships, and healthy and safe communities and environments.
There is no doubt that each of our voices is powerful, but the strength of 64,000 voices is monumental!
Setting standards and clinical guidelines, we raise national discussions on issues as far-ranging as:
- how legalizing and mainstreaming marijuana can affect children and adolescents to
- ensuring the physical and psychosocial health of children following crises and disasters to
- protecting children from food insecurity, climate change and exposure to tobacco and e-cigarettes.
We raisedthe level of dialogue on vaccines, which led to a return to common sense on media coverage of vaccination.
We raisedthe bar — and a little ruckus — in Washington, D.C., and we helped to pass the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization Act and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act.
We know that our advocacy is powerful, but it also is deeply personal. We feel the desire of every parent, every family to have a healthy child, and we respond.
We can’t help ourselves.
I recently took the red-eye to O’Hare and was in the taxi on the way to our Academy headquarters. The sun had yet to rise, and the driver and I were chatting. When he learned I was a pediatrician, he lit up in a way I know you all have experienced. He began telling me about his 6-month-old daughter, for whom he had so many hopes and dreams, and how he wanted to give her the best possible life so he was working two jobs. He lamented that he had so little time with her and asked me what he should do. I said “read to her.”
He looked puzzled and reminded me she was only 6 months old. I told him how reading builds brains and vocabularies, changes behavior and sets children up for success. We wound up discussing early child development, literacy and learning. He was amazed and so grateful that he could “do something for her” even in the little time he had.
When we arrived at the hotel, he couldn’t stop thanking me and shaking my hand. He will read, he said, and spend time with his daughter. There was something he could do to help her have a better future, and he would do it.
It’s through all our encounters and the relationships we have with parents, children and each other that our efforts magnify.
It’s the individual voices and ardent advocacy of each pediatrician — combined with the collective voice and strength of the American Academy of Pediatrics — that will raise the value of children in society and bring our vision to life.
Thank you for all you do and for this life-changing opportunity you have given me. I am proud to call myself a pediatrician and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.