the latter reportedly said, “I
suppose you know that Halifax
was the birth place of pediatric
surgery as a specialty.”
folklore surrounding the origin
of pediatric surgery was so
pervasive that it continued to
be retold even by the leading
authorities in the field.
However, Dr. Ladd had set
the record straight some 13
years earlier in 1963 in a letter
to Gerald Zwiren, MD, FACS, a
pediatric surgeon in Atlanta, GA,
who had asked him to verify the
story. “I fear I will have to make
many alterations [to the story],”
Dr. Ladd wrote. He had made
the decision to focus on pediatric
surgery nearly a decade earlier,
when he completed his training at
the Boston City Hospital in 1908
before joining the visiting staffs at
The Children’s Hospital and the
Infant’s Hospital in Boston. (The
two hospitals merged officially in
1961.) “The Children’s was [my]
very first and most permanent
love,” Dr. Ladd wrote. “As soon
as it became feasible after the
first World War, I devoted myself
exclusively to pediatric surgery
and have never regretted it.”
Dr. Ladd’s place as the father
of pediatric surgery is secure,
even though the historical
narrative linking the Halifax
disaster and the origin of pediatric
surgery turned out to be false.
Dr. Ladd ascended to the position
of surgeon-in-chief of Boston
Children’s Hospital in 1927. His
clinical work defined the specialty
and inspired a generation of
trainees who came under his
mentorship. In 1997, 80 years after
the Halifax Explosion, nearly
three-fourths of pediatric surgery
program directors and two-thirds of all practicing pediatric
surgeons in the U.S. and Canada
could trace their training lineage
to Dr. Ladd.
7 In the decades that
followed the Halifax Explosion,
thousands of surgeons have
continued his devotion to the
surgical care of children. ♦
The author acknowledges the
diligent support and invaluable
assistance of Amy M. Duncan,
librarian, Sacred Heart
Hospital, Pensacola, FL, in the
preparation of this article.
1. Nance ML. The Halifax disaster of
1917 and the birth of North American
pediatric surgery. J Pediatr Surg.
2001; 36( 3):405-408.
2. Goldbloom RB. Halifax and the
precipitate birth of pediatric surgery.
3. Gillis DA, Lewis SD, Little DC. The
Halifax explosion and the birth of a
surgical specialty—myth or reality.
J Pediatr Surg. 2010; 45( 5):855-858.
4. Randolph J. The first of the best.
J Pediatr Surg. 1985; 20( 6):580-591.
5. Hendren WH. From an
acorn to an oak. J Pediatr Surg.
1999; 34(suppl): 46-58.
6. Zwiren GT. Correspondence. J Pediatr
Surg. 2001; 36( 10):1606.
7. Glick PL, Azizkhan RG. A Genealogy of
North American Pediatric Surgery: From
Ladd until Now. St. Louis, MO: Quality
Medical Publishing, 1997.
Dr. Ladd performing surgery The Halifax Explosion and its aftermath