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2021 Red Book Dedication for Louis Z. Cooper, MD, FAAP

2021 Red Book Dedication for Louis Z. Cooper, MD, FAAP

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Unprecedented. As we continue to move through the coronavirus pandemic that started at the end of 2019 and accelerated throughout 2020, use of this word has skyrocketed not only as it applies to medicine but also in business, politics, the media, and countless other aspects of our everyday lives. Truth increasingly is called into question, and basic facts are disputed to the point where it is challenging to find common language to try to chart our path forward. We truly are living in unsettled and unsettling times, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming and, yes, unprecedented.

But rarely is a given circumstance completely novel. Almost always, we can reach back to an earlier time, with earlier leaders, to learn how challenges were met and ultimately overcome. There is precedent even in the unprecedented. The 2021 Red Book is dedicated to such a visionary leader from an earlier era. A man who stared down an earlier pandemic—rubella—and helped lead the world through it in the 1960s. A man who went on to lead the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) at the turn of the new millennium, as the world was being forever changed following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Across all of these decades, Louis Z. Cooper, MD, FAAP, exhibited both the compassion and the determination that we can learn from as we face our current global crisis today. It is for all of these reasons that the 2021 Red Book is dedicated to him.

During his residency in Boston, Lou studied penicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. After serving in the United States Air Force, he completed a public health service fellowship, during which he worked with Saul Krugman, MD, on development of a rubella vaccine. During this time, the world was immersed in the rubella pandemic of 1964–65. In the United States alone, an estimated 12.5 million people were infected with rubella, 11 000 pregnant women lost their babies, 2100 newborn infants died, and 20 000 infants were born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Literally moving from the bench to the bedside, Lou isolated rubella virus and measured antibody responses in the laboratory while also evaluating hundreds of mothers and infants with CRS. Through these efforts, Lou established the clinical definition, features, and health impacts of CRS. Realizing that defining the disease and diagnosing the infection were only a part of what was needed, in 1965 Lou founded the Rubella Project with initial funding from a March of Dimes grant and public health department support. The clinic delivered medical and psychosocial care to 300 patients with CRS in the first year alone. The project eventually evolved into a multidisciplinary medical, educational, and social service organization, and laws passed in New York with the strong backing of the Rubella Project later served as examples for a federal special education law.

In addition to service to patients and their families, Lou served the Academy across many years. He was District II Chair, New York Chapter 3 Chair, and a member of the AAP Committee on Child Health Financing and Task Force on Pediatric AIDS. In 2001–02, he was the AAP President, helping to guide our field during another most challenging period following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. In later years, he resumed his work on rubella as a senior adviser of the Measles & Rubella Initiative, a global eradication project supported by the Academy.

Lou died on October 3, 2019, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 87. He did not see this current pandemic, but I believe that we can glean from his lifetime of accomplishments what his advice to us would be. He would tell us to roll up our sleeves, find a way to help, and run the race that is ours to complete. He would tell us to always put our patients at the center of all that we do. He would tell us that, together, all of us can make a difference and change the outcome of this current crisis. After all, when Lou entered Saul Krugman’s laboratory, the rubella pandemic had not yet flared, but he was in the right place at the right time, and this, coupled with his passions and energies, changed the course of that pandemic. I believe that Lou would say that nothing is unprecedented—we just need to know where to look to find the guidance from the past to lead us through the challenges of the present.


2018 Larry K. Pickering, MD, FAAP, and Carol J. Baker, MD, FAAP

2015 Stanley Plotkin, MD, FAAP

2012 Samuel L. Katz, MD, FAAP

2009 Ralph Feigin, MD, FAAP

2006 Caroline Breese Hall, MD, FAAP

2003 Georges Peter, MD, FAAP

2000 Edgar O. Ledbetter, MD, FAAP

1997 Georges Peter, MD, FAAP

1988 Jean D. Lockhart, MD, FAAP

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