Mass General has been caring for children since the hospital first opened its doors in 1821, but it wasn’t until almost a century later that the Department of Pediatrics was officially recognized. Today, Mass General for Children (MGfC) is a worldwide leader in pediatric care and one of the top five pediatric research centers in the country. Since 2008, Ron Kleinman, MD, has served as Physician-in-Chief for MGfC.
We asked Dr. Kleinman, who is stepping down in 2022, what he’s most proud of from his tenure and what the future might look like for pediatrics.
“My goal when I took as over Physician-in-Chief was to enhance the four pillars of our mission: clinical care, education, research and community health. In order to do that, our entire department needed to function as an integrated and cohesive unit — and I think we’ve accomplished that. We have gone beyond being an outstanding component of Mass General to being a true hospital within a hospital, with a strong community network of primary care physicians and more than 100 different specialty and subspecialty programs and services. And today, I believe we have an opportunity to propel our efforts and create a new standard of comprehensive care across the entire MGB system.
One of the ways we can do that is by expanding our efforts to prevent chronic illness. Pediatrics has always had a strong focus on illness prevention — take measles vaccinations, for example — and the preservation of health through equitable access to health care. Science is now making it possible for us to identify the antecedents of chronic adult conditions, such as coronary vascular disease and diabetes, in childhood.
I believe we have an enormous opportunity now to combine our expertise in developmental biology, immunology, neurocognitive development — and so many other areas — with artificial intelligence to create new models of disease that will provide a deeper understanding of the genetic and environmental influences that result in these chronic conditions. With that knowledge, we can make a targeted effort to prevent these conditions from occurring.”
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