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For Peds’ sake


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Dr. Shelov sidelights
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Summer 2011 issue (pdf)

Dr. Steven Shelov is forever focused on the next generation

When Steven P. Shelov, MD ’71, first learned he had been named Alumnus of the Year by The Medical College of Wisconsin/Marquette Medical Alumni Association, he was in Egypt, right before mass protests resulted in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. It wasn’t until he returned home to New York that Dr. Shelov fully realized he was receiving a school-wide tribute.

“I’m both overwhelmed and honored,” he said. “One does not realize when moving through one’s career that it could amount to something recognized as this important by the Medical College. The Medical College is very important to me as it was the only medical school I got into in 1967, so I owe my entire career to it.”

Dr. Shelov was a graduate of Yale University, but 1966 had been particularly competitive for medical school entry, he said. He and 12 other Yale classmates were not accepted anywhere they applied. Dr. Shelov credits Harvard graduate Gerald Kerrigan, MD, who was Dean at the time, for recruiting more Ivy League students, former classmate John Amatruda, MD ’70, who put in a good word, and the additional year of science coursework he took, for the opportunity to interview the following year at Marquette University School of Medicine.

As it turns out, the choice was in everyone’s best interests. Dr. Shelov has forged a remarkable career spanning more than 36 years in academic medicine with the care of children and education of medical students and residents at the forefront.

Last year, Dr. Shelov was named Associate Chief of Staff at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and was recently asked to serve as Interim Chairman of Pediatrics. He also joined the faculty of the nation’s newest medical school – Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine, where the first class of students will enter this summer. This is actually a reduced level of activity for Dr. Shelov, which gives him more time to spend with his six grandchildren, but it is part of a long history of dedication to pediatrics.

Reflection on the journey

“It’s funny. You don’t sit there at some point in life, at 30 years old, and decide ‘A-ha! Here’s where I’m going.’ Life is much more quirky than that.
My major aspiration once I knew I was staying in academics was to become the consummate teacher and spread as wide as I could in that, but I had no idea what the specific directions would be, and I don’t think anyone does. Life is too full of unrecognized opportunities that occur. You have aspirations when you are young, generally, but the details are just flukes, picking up opportunities and things you had no idea would happen. I’m not sure that’s any different than most careers.

Anyone who says they had it all planned is kidding themselves. The way I’ve seen people’s lives change, grow and evolve is very much the case often. I certainly have felt very lucky and very fulfilled, that’s for sure. The moral to people is, when there are opportunities, volunteer. Don’t be afraid if it’s a challenge, and you don’t think you’re up for it. You are. Seek help where there are roadblocks, don’t overreach, and keep your passion at the center of it.”
– Steven P. Shelov, MD ’71

Serving the most vulnerable

During rotations at the former Milwaukee Children’s Hospital, Dr. Shelov acquired his passion for working with kids. He discovered the need for community pediatrics and decided on a fourth-year elective in public health. Under the watch of professor and mentor Frederic Blodgett, MD, he developed the first lead poisoning screening in Milwaukee. Through the project, he identified lead high-risk zones in the city so physicians could begin treating those children before their illnesses advanced.

“We went to the head of the Milwaukee Health Department and started the lead poisoning screening program with a mobile van, using a process created in Milwaukee by scientists to use just a finger prick for the test,” Dr. Shelov said. “We saw the correlation and began treating kids with elevated levels, and lead poisoning essentially went away in Milwaukee.”

This community-based approach to medicine was reinforced when Dr. Shelov chose a residency program in social pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Rather than the typical inpatient approach to training, this program focused on the underserved, of whom there were many in the Bronx where Montefiore served about 800,000 children. The experience was the beginning of a 25-year commitment to the patients, students and residents there.

“I stayed on as junior faculty at Montefiore. Then I faced a choice,” he said. “Do I join a practice, or do I stay in the academic arena? I said, ‘I like teaching and academics way too much to be in private practice.’”

During 19 years as Director of Resident Education, Dr. Shelov was responsible for educating and certifying about 800 pediatric residents at Albert Einstein. In addition, he oversaw the education of 4,000 medical students through their pediatric clerkships. He rose through the ranks to Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics. He was instrumental in the planning and design of a dedicated children’s hospital at Montefiore. Ground-breaking on the facility was just beginning in 1997 when Dr. Shelov left to pursue an opportunity he couldn’t refuse – Chairman of Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Maimonides was the leading health care facility in Brooklyn, serving more than 1 million children, and it presented Dr. Shelov with the chance to truly build the pediatric program to a complete, children’s hospital-level program. It required a culmination of the skills he had accumulated to date. Here as well, Dr. Shelov took the lead in implementing a new children’s hospital at Maimonides. He led the department while continuing to teach until 2010.

Medicine in the media

Meanwhile, Dr. Shelov was becoming somewhat of a household name. He made multiple television appearances and for four years, was the pediatrics expert for The Today Show. About the same time, he was serving on the public education committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). He and the adult physician on The Today Show hatched an idea to publish a book from the AAP, geared toward parents, that assembled advice from the best physicians in the country. At the time, Dr. Spock was still the unofficial authority.

First published in 1991, and now in its fifth edition, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child-Birth to Five has sold over 5 million copies – the largest selling children’s health care book. Dr. Shelov is editor-in-chief of this, the official child care book of the AAP, as well as a spin-off: Your Baby’s First Year, now in its third edition.

“To me, the overriding principle is educating the next generation, whether its parents or medical students,” he said.

Dr. Steven P. Shelov (right) leads discussion with pediatrics residents at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where he is Associate Chief of Staff.
Dr. Steven P. Shelov
(right) leads discussion with pediatrics residents at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where he is Associate Chief of Staff.

New frontiers of teaching

Education is Dr. Shelov’s primary focus at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the new Hofstra medical school. He describes Cohen as the quintessential children’s hospital, with 175 beds and serving 5 million children over a seven-county radius. He is overseeing the pediatric residency program there and will serve as a master teacher and mentor for Hofstra medical students. As the author of a medical student text book and a health policy expert who has served several presidential administrations, Dr. Shelov has a lot to offer the new recruits.

He is looking forward to further developing the new, longitudinal curriculum that interweaves clinical experiences through all four years of medical school. Each student will be trained as an EMT at the outset of the M1 year, and during the first two years, they will serve in a community practice to learn how it works and then cross reference basic science with the clinical experiences they have.

“It’s non-traditional, but we think it will make more well-rounded medical students,” Dr. Shelov said. “Most significant for me, educationally, is working through a brand new medical school with brand new students, taking them through the process of becoming physicians with my experience at the Medical College still very close in my memory.”

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