How Dr. Gallagher helped define care of adolescents
AlysonSulaski Wyckoff, Associate Editor
Did you know?
After tending to the care of teens as a physician in boarding schools, J. Roswell
(“Ros”) Gallagher, M.D., FAAP (1903-1995), realized how little was known about their
medical treatment. He spent the rest of his career striving to change that.
Known as the “father” of adolescent medicine, Dr. Gallagher created the first U.S.
clinic for adolescents in 1951 and in 1960 wrote Medical Care of the Adolescent,the first adolescent care text. The recipient of the C. Anderson Aldrich Award (1972)
from the AAP Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Dr. Gallagher also
was a member of the Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and a consultant to the Committee
on Youth, both forerunners to the Committee on Adolescence. In the mid-1960s, he was
the AAP liaison to the Boy Scouts of America.
Not long after his first boarding school job in the 1930s, Dr. Gallagher realized
the general lack of knowledge of issues facing teens:
“…at that boarding school I found myself woefully deficient in the care of an adolescent
troubled by delayed growth, a Sprinter’s fracture, homesickness, acne, epilepsy, obesity,
an anxiety state, diabetes, a sprained knee or school failure, to confess to only
a few,” he said in his remarks on receiving the Aldrich Award. His more experienced
colleagues were almost equally frustrated, he added.
While working at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., Dr. Gallagher started an adolescent
research unit/medical clinic that became known for providing exemplary care and a
kind of laboratory for the study of adolescents, the late Charles A. Janeway, M.D.,
said while presenting him with the Aldrich Award.
Ironically, Dr. Janeway pointed out that Dr. Gallagher never actually wanted adolescent
medicine to become “a narrow specialty, but rather a set of principles, based on an
understanding of physical and emotional development, to guide physicians in dealing
more effectively with teen-age patients.”
Dr. Gallagher said physicians should set aside special hours to see adolescent patients
and even establish their own waiting room. He was ahead of his time in advocating
for seeing adolescents alone for part of the appointment. When addressing a teen’s
school problems, he said it is imperative for physicians and school systems to achieve
a mutual understanding “so the youngster will not suffer.”
After his success at Phillips, Dr. Gallagher was recruited to establish an adolescent
research unit at Boston Children’s Hospital; it became the first academic training
program in adolescent medicine. By 1968, at least 50 teen clinics and wards opened
their doors in the U.S. and abroad, according to his obituary in the New York Times.
After retiring in 1967 as clinical professor of pediatrics and chief of the adolescent
unit at Boston, Dr. Gallagher became clinical professor of pediatrics at Yale School
of Medicine, his alma mater, until 1972. During his career, he authored numerous articles
that were published in journals and consumer publications ranging from Parents to Seventeen to the Boy Scout merit badge pamphlet series.
Fifty years ago, Dr. Gallagher also founded what now is the Society for Adolescent
Health and Medicine, serving as its president from 1968-’70.