This month I am writing my blog from the national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in San Francisco.  Here more than 13000 pediatricians from all over the country and the world gather to learn what’s new in pediatric care and what are some key issues that affect children’s health and wellbeing.

Some of the major issues that are being emphasized at the meeting are (1) the need for pediatricians to do their part to help children all over the world, (2) to recognize that exposure to the media (e.g. television, movies, music,  and videos) carries significant risks to a child’s development and behavior unless we partner with our children to learn how to use the media productively, and (3) how getting children outside to experience nature may be an unheralded therapy in treating mental health as well as possibly even the obesity problem in our country (a problem referred to as nature deficit disorder).  Of course there are many sessions devoted to how the pediatrician can play a critical role in ensuring that the recently passed health reform bill will truly benefit children by allowing them access to high quality affordable care.

What makes this year’s conference even more impressive to me is the leadership role the doctors who work at Vermont Children’s Hospital are playing at this meeting.  Members of our pediatric medical staff are leading sessions on better ways to do routine check-ups and health maintenance,  how to  conduct office-based research,  new treatments in critical and surgical care, better ways to reduce injury, and many other topics.

In addition, at this meeting our Vermont Children’s physicians introduced new books they had written, new toolkits for health prevention they had created, and participated in editorial board meetings for the nation’s leading pediatric journal (Pediatrics) given that some of us are fortunate to serve as editors of this journal.  Some of our physicians were invited to emcee a national pediatric game show for hundreds of attendees who came to learn from us.  Even my weekly health tips on television, radio, and in local newspapers (“First with Kids”) received national attention, with other states eager to share what our hospital is striving to do in our efforts to educate the community on how to improve the health of our children.

What makes this year’s national AAP conference even more exciting is that we got to host an alumni event for graduates of our medical school and pediatric residency training program.  This year close to 50 alumni came to our reception to tell us about the incredible work they are doing in child health all around the country—noting that if it were not for their time in Vermont, they would have never been able to be as accomplished as they now are.

While we may sometimes take the excellence of our doctors and nurses for granted, it is nice to see that the rest of the country does not, by asking us to be national leaders for the American Academy of Pediatrics and in turn to improve the health of children and families we serve locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.  Going to a meeting like this reinforces how proud and fortunate I am to be a part of our University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the UVM Medical Center — and I hope those who work here, as well as those we serve, feel similarly. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM. Visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.uvmhealth.org/firstwithkids

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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