Joseph A.Zenel, MD, Editor in Chief, Pediatrics in Review
“Emphasis on the ﬁrst syllable. Rhymes with kennel.” This is my well-seasoned response
when asked how to pronounce my last name. At the start of each school year when our
children were growing up, our children would annually complain at the dinner table
about how badly our last name was pronounced by the new teacher. Invariably our children
would follow with, “Yeah, we know Dad! Emphasis on the ﬁrst syllable. Rhymes with
My last name used to be longer and signiﬁcantly more nuanced in pronunciation. Family
legend has it that my paternal grandfather, ﬂeeing from World War I, emigrated from
Poland at age 14 years and could not write or spell his last name in English. On arrival
in the United States, the coal mining company that hired him signed his last name
with the single letter Z. My grandfather went directly to work, did not go to high
school or college, and, unfortunately, died before I was born. Family legend also
states that when my father went to school, either the administration or my father
changed our family’s last name to make it easier for others to spell and pronounce.
(Unfortunately, when he changed the name by placing a single n in the middle, he did
not realize that most people on ﬁrst glance would emphasize the second syllable on
pronunciation.) College was out of the question for my father when he graduated from
high school; he worked as an accountant for a brewery, but was soon drafted when the
United States entered World War II. Thanks to the post-war GI Bill, my father received
a college education, which, in turn, led to opportunities, a successful career, a
family, my birth, my medical education, and me becoming a pediatrician.
According to the Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, pediatrics is “a branch of medicine
dealing with the development, care, and diseases of infants, children, and adolescents.”1 The word pediatrics derives from the Greek words pais, which means child, and iatros,
which means doctor or healer. As pediatricians, our charge is that ﬁrst syllable,
ped. As pediatricians, we strive to provide an environment best suited for a child’s
optimal development. As pediatricians, we care for all children from all backgrounds.
The mission of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is “to attain optimal physical,
mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and
young adults. To accomplish this, AAP shall support the professional needs of its
members.”2 One professional need is education, through which we better ourselves and the children
we care for. Pediatrics in Review, an American Academy of Pediatrics peer-reviewed journal, enters its 40th year of
publication. From its inception, Pediatrics in Review has been dedicated to educating
pediatricians on current, evidence-based, relevant knowledge crucial for the practice
of pediatrics throughout the world.
I am both honored and proud to be a pediatrician and the editor-in-chief of Pediatrics in Review, and I am very fortunate that I grew up in a place that offered opportunities for
personal growth and achievement, a place my grandfather sought at great risk to his
life. All I have of my grandfather’s possessions is his coal mining pickaxe, the head
of which displays a shallowly engraved Z. I often imagine a lonely, scared, 14-year-old,
adolescent boy scratching Z on that rough-surfaced tool as he wondered how to survive
in a new country. What he did reminds me that as pediatricians we are dedicated to
helping all children in need, especially those from very disadvantaged backgrounds.
While I remind others to place the emphasis on the ﬁrst syllable when pronouncing
my last name, I also remind our readers that Pediatrics in Review,as it enters its
40th year of publishing, places and will continue to place its emphasis on that “ﬁrst
syllable” in pediatrics: the infant, the child, and the adolescent.