The Indian Academy of Pediatrics has been closely linked with the development of Pediatrics at some centers in India. In the 40’s there were only 12-15 pediatricians in India – 6 in Mumbai, 2 in Delhi, 2 in Madras and about 4 to 5 in Calcutta. Pediatrics made a beginning in Mumbai in 1928, when Dr. George Coelho, rightly called the Father of Indian Pediatrics, became the Superintendent of the BJ Hospital for Children – the first children’s hospital in India. He remained the head of the Department of Pediatrics till 1953. In 1929, Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children became a separate independent children’s hospital.
Dr. George Coelho started independent research and services in 1928. The postgraduate course for a diploma in child health was started at BJ Hospital and Bai Jeerbai Wadia hospital for children in 1944 and the University of Bombay in 1946. Many of the senior pediatricians of today in the country worked at the BJ Hospital for children under the leadership of Dr. George Coelho. He edited the Indian Journal of Child Health from 1952 to 1959.
A separate department of pediatrics was created in Government General Hospital, Chennai, in 1946 with Professor ST Achar. He was later responsible for the creation of a separate Institute of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital in Egmore, Chennai.
In 1948, the Department of Pediatrics was started at the Nair Hospital and Topiwala National Medical College with Dr. Shatilal C Sheth as the head of the department. At around the same time, the Department of Pediatrics was started in Patna with Dr. Lala Suraj Nandan Prasad as its chief. In the early 50’s, Dr. PN Taneja, the senior-most pediatrician in Delhi, became the first chief of Pediatrics at Irwin hospital; and later full-time professor of Pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Simultaneously, Dr. JN Pohowalla became the professor and head of the department in Indore. In 1933, Dr. KC Chaudhuri founded the first independent pediatric journal namely, the Indian Journal of Pediatrics, in Calcutta. Dr. Chaudhuri also started the Indian Pediatric Society in 1948. By 1958, the Indian Pediatric Society had organized nine National Pediatric Conferences in different cities in India.
The Association of Pediatrics of India started in 1950 in Bombay by Dr. George Coelho listed only pediatricians as “Ordinary members”, and those interested in pediatrics as “Associate Members”. The Indian Pediatric Society, however, had a number of non-pediatricians as “Ordinary members”. Dr. Coelho was of the opinion that the policies regarding teaching, service and the research in pediatrics should be decided by pediatricians only. Dr. Chaudhuri, on the other hand, was of the opinion that all medical personnel including general practitioners who were interested in pediatrics should be made “Ordinary” members of the Indian Pediatric Society. Dr. ST Achar along with the second generation of pediatricians in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Patna, and Indore acted as the catalytic force for the merger of the two national pediatric bodies.
Another important difference of opinion between Dr. George Coelho and Dr. KC Chaudhuri was regarding the organization of independent and separate conferences for pediatricians. Dr. Coelho decided to establish the Annual Conference of Association of Pediatricians of India in collaboration with various specialty organizations like Cardiologists, Neurologists, Hematologists and other internal medical disciplines. He felt that this would help influence the status of pediatrics as a separate discipline with the senior medical professional of the country, who were the decision makers in the field of medical education.
However, Dr. KC Chaudhuri thought that the pediatricians of India should have a separate independent annual conference of their own. He felt that conducting a separate annual meeting of pediatricians would help establish pediatrics as an independent discipline.
Considering the difference of ideas and approach of the two senior pediatric pioneers, the younger generation of pediatricians decided that it was necessary to unite the voice of all pediatricians across India by the common bond of a National Pediatric body. The Indian Pediatric Society at its annual conference at Jaipur in December 1961, adopted a resolution proposing the constitution of a single All India Organization, representative of Indian Pediatricians, instead of two. The Association of Pediatricians of India at its annual conference in Indore in February 1962 responded with a similar proposal.
A joint committee was set up to formulate proposals to achieve this end. The members of the committee were Dr. Sisir K Bose, Dr. Harish Chandra, Dr. SP Ghosal, Dr. SS Manchanda, Dr. BD Patel, Dr. P Tirumala Rao, Dr. Shantilal C Seth, Dr. PN Taneja, Dr. PM Udani and Dr. JKG Webb. The committee held its first meeting at Hyderabad in March 1962. Dr. Sisir K Bose was elected its Convenor. The committee laid down the principles on which the new body to be called the “Indian Academy of Pediatrics” would be constituted. The Secretaries of the two existing bodies, Dr. SP Ghosal and Dr. BD Patel were called upon to draw detailed proposals regarding the constitution of the proposed “Indian Academy of Pediatrics”.
The joint committee held its second meeting on the eve of the joint Hyderabad conference of the two bodies in 1963. At this meeting, the draft constitution together with the recommendation of the joint committee was approved and forwarded to the Indian Pediatric Society and the Association of Pediatricians of India for consideration and acceptance.
The Indian Pediatric Society and the Association of Pediatricians of India then jointly decided to form the Indian Academy of Pediatrics as the single representative body of Pediatricians of India and the first National Conference of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics was held in Pune in 1964. The official journal of the IAP – Indian Pediatrics, incorporated the Indian Journal of Child Health and the Journal of the Indian Pediatric Society; commenced publication in January 1964 from Calcutta. The central office of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics was established in Mumbai.