Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.
Robert Anderson Aldrich, MD, was a pediatrician, teacher, and children's
advocate, a catalyst to medical and political leaders for improving
children's health and understanding human development.
Born in Evanston, Ill, in 1917, Dr Aldrich died in Seattle, Wash, on
September 16, 1998, of cardiovascular disease. He graduated from
Amherst College in 1939 and Northwestern University Medical
School—first in his class—in 1944. He served an internship at
Evanston Hospital. In World War II he served as a naval medical officer
at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After discharge from naval duty, he completed
pediatric residency training followed by a research fellowship at the
University of Minnesota. In 1949 he joined the staff of the Mayo
Clinic. In 1954 he identified and described the Wiskott-Aldrich
syndrome, a serious immunologic disorder of children. In 1951 Dr
Aldrich joined the faculty of the University of Oregon School of
Medicine as assistant professor of pediatrics. In 1956 he was appointed
chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of
Washington School of Medicine, building the department by adding talent
and new teaching methods.
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr Aldrich director
of the new National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in
Bethesda, Md. Dr Aldrich organized the Association of Medical School
Pediatric Department Chairmen, which became an important voice in child
health. He was an activist in several medical societies, and his
recognition and connections around the world grew as he traveled often
to give talks on children's health care and to help develop programs
in Asia, Europe, and the Near East. Of note were 10 years of Ekistics
conferences in Greece with an international group of experts from
divergent fields contributing knowledge on how to make the city a place
to live in rather than a place to endure.
Returning from the National Institutes of Health in 1964, Dr
Aldrich headed the Division of Health Resources at the University of
Washington. He served as chair of the faculty senate during the student
uprisings of the late 1960s, advocating that young people should have a
part in decision making. In 1966 he was appointed to the President's
Council on Mental Retardation under Presidents Johnson and Nixon.
In 1970 Dr Aldrich accepted the post of Vice President for Health
Affairs at the University of Colorado, where he was instrumental in
putting the Health Center on a sound fiscal basis, upgrading patient
care procedures, and adding preventive medicine to health education. On
returning to the University of Washington in 1980, he participated in
the Congenital Defects Division of the Department of Pediatrics while
working in the Graduate School of Public Affairs.
Dr Aldrich was the author of many articles in scientific journals and
books on child development, including The Biocultural Basis of
Health: Expanding Views of Medical Anthropology and
Grandparenting for the 90s. He was active in organizations at
the city and state levels related to improving the lot of children, but
he is most remembered for founding Kids Place with Mayor Charles Royer
of Seattle. Dr Aldrich was dedicated to making cities healthy places
for children and families to live, an approach emulated in many US
cities, as well as in Japan and Europe. He received many awards and
governmental citations at home and internationally, including an Award
for Outstanding Public Service from the University of Washington in
Bob Aldrich loved camping, fly fishing for the wily steelhead,
and discussing unorthodox ideas with colleagues. He caused many a
student and researcher to burn the midnight oil with his wisdom and
insights spanning 60 years of dedication to children's health and
human development. He was one of medicine's most stimulating thinkers.
Dr Aldrich is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marjorie; sons Andy,
Stephen, and Frederick; sister Cynthia Rowe; brother Stephen L.
Aldrich, MD; and 8 grandchildren.
Riley, Jr HD. Robert Anderson Aldrich, MD. JAMA. 1999;281(18):1762. doi:10.1001/jama.281.18.1762