As the crisis of migrant children separated from their parents at the border began brewing, AAP Interim CEO Mark Del Monte, J.D., gathered AAP staff for an impromptu update. He explained how the AAP was addressing the situation, welcomed questions and talked about members’ concerns. He reminded staff that the AAP cares about the well-being of allchildren.
“This is what we’re for,” he told staffers.
The informal gathering was a snapshot of Del Monte’s ability to connect with others and his commitment to the Academy, its members and the mission. Just over a year later, Del Monte was named CEO/executive vice president, the first non-pediatrician to hold the position.
“I love this place, and I love this work. I could not be more grateful to the Board of Directors for this opportunity,” he told the staff on Sept. 13 when his appointment was announced by AAP President Kyle E. Yasuda, M.D., FAAP.
Gregarious and articulate, Del Monte has spent 14 years making his mark at the Academy. During that time, he has worked with dozens of AAP committees, sections and councils to improve pediatric practice, make the health care system better for pediatricians and craft AAP policy. He has led senior staff — including six pediatricians — and traveled extensively to conduct Grand Rounds and represent the Academy nationally and internationally.
“The Executive Committee and I are so excited for the AAP to have Mark as our ninth CEO,” said AAP President-Elect Sara “Sally” Goza, M.D., FAAP. “He is an amazing advocate for children and the doctors who care for them. Even as we face turbulent times for children and our profession, we know we are in good hands with Mark at the helm.”
Del Monte and his four siblings were raised in northern California. A product of Catholic schools from kindergarten through college, his compassion for others and determination were evident early on. While only 13 or 14, he answered phones in a church rectory at night. As an economics undergraduate at Gonzaga University, Del Monte worked as a hotel desk clerk to help pay for school.
He went on to law school at University of California at Berkeley. The curriculum was challenging, and he had doubts about his career choice. He wondered if he even wanted to finish.
Those doubts disappeared during his second year, when he signed on for a semester at the HIV/AIDS law program at East Bay Community Law Center, where he could help individuals access benefits and solve legal problems. At the time, people infected with HIV might have only 24 months between diagnosis and death.
“And the moment I walked in, literally Day 1, I thought: ‘If practicing law means helping people in this way, then I’m in. I’ll be a lawyer.’”
Del Monte was hired at the center after graduation. He helped start a program offering legal services for women and children with HIV, and taught law students to continue the work.
In 1997, on his first official day in law practice, Del Monte worked with pediatricians at Children’s Hospital Oakland, providing legal services for children in the HIV clinic. He felt an immediate connection with the pediatricians there.
“I shared their commitment to making the future for all children the best it can be,” he said. “I still feel that way 20 years later.”
From one to many
In 2001, Del Monte was tapped as director of policy and government affairs at the AIDS Alliance for Children & Families in Washington, D.C. It was a big change going from client work to policy advocacy and lobbying in the nation's capital.
“(But) I learned very quickly that what you would do for one client at a time, you also could think about public policies affecting whole communities. That level of impact was very exciting,” he recalled.
Next, he moved to the AAP Washington office. Among the memorable successes are passage of the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act and a pediatric medical devices law. He also recalls the entire D.C. staff’s efforts on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), getting Bright Futures into the ACA and enabling the expansion of Medicaid.
“As lobbyists in health care, we all knew that — for us — the ACA was a generational chance to make significant improvements in the health care system. This was the Olympics, the World Series and the Super Bowl,” he said. “It wasn’t a perfect bill but a major step that I’m proud to have worked on.”
When he’s not working, Del Monte enjoys traveling with friends and visiting family, especially his niece Avery and nephew Parker. Watching his sister’s confidence in her pediatrician increases his resolve about the AAP’s importance.
“I see in my own family the power of the clinical interaction between doctor and family. It is precious and worth protecting.”
Looking to the future, he draws inspiration from the past. A portrait of the Academy’s founders hangs prominently in his office. “They’re watching over me,” he said, with his characteristic hearty laugh.
As he takes the baton, Del Monte is committed to upholding the core strengths of the Academy: policy, education and advocacy.
“We have exactly what we need to be successful,” he told AAP staff. “Our mission is clear and important, and so let's get going. Let's go do it.”
AAP career highlights
2005 Assistant director, AAP Washington office
2010 Director, Washington office
2013 Chief public affairs officer
2016 Chief deputy and senior vice president, Advocacy and External Affairs
2015-’17 Interim development director
2018 Interim CEO/executive vice president (EVP)