5 Questions 

A Conversation With James A. Stockman III, MD

Stanford T. Shulman, MD; James A. Stockman III, MD


I’ve been privileged to know Jim Stockman for over 25 years, beginning when he served in a variety of roles at Northwestern University and Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Since 1992, Jim has been the president of the American Board of Pediatrics, one of the most important positions in pediatrics anywhere.

Dr. Shulman: What do you think are the developments in your specialty that have had the most impact?

Dr. Stockman: The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) has been active in the spread of knowledge about the science behind quality improvement. Translating progress into patient care is best achieved by doing so in a quality improvement mode. It’s important to have methods by which you can measure and analyze your processes of delivery of care.Just one example was realized last year when central line-associated bloodstream infections among hospitalized pediatric patients were nearly eradicated. It took 5 years to implement quality improvement practices in the pediatric intensive care and hematology/oncology units in members of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI). The result was 355 lives saved; 2,964 central line infections prevented; and $100 million in cost savings.

Dr. Shulman: Impressive. So, in other words, quality improvement saves lives. You’ve had quite a long and distinguished career. What’s your most memorable moment?

Dr. Stockman: The first would be when I was the pediatrician to the labor and delivery of our firstborn twins, purely because the pediatrician wasn’t able to make it. And by the way, the delivery was not only of twins, it was a double footling breach. At term. Vaginal delivery, a long one.

Dr. Shulman: Oh, wow. But luckily, everything turned out fine.

Personal classic car collection of Dr. Stockman. Source: James A. Stockman III, MD. Reprinted with permission.

Dr. Stockman: Yes. The second most memorable was receiving the Joseph W. St. Geme Jr. Leadership Award, largely because it’s named for one of my mentors, and because it is an award that comes from a variety of organizations, so it’s really coming from my peers.

Dr. Shulman: What advice would you give to a practitioner who’s just starting out?

Dr. Stockman: I think to avoid burnout, you need to get involved in your field. Joining and becoming active in organizations such as the AAP allows you to network with others so that you don’t feel isolated.

Dr. Shulman: What is your favorite book and why?

Dr. Stockman: I hope I haven’t read it yet.

Dr. Shulman: That’s an intriguing answer.

Dr. Stockman: They’ve all been downhill ever since Holden Caulfield’s character in The Catcher in the Rye. I read a lot and I’m always hoping the next one will be the best one.

Dr. Shulman: If you had not chosen medicine, which field would you have chosen?

Dr. Stockman: I’d be a car salesman.

Dr. Shulman: I suppose that’s not a surprise. You are quite the collector of classic cars. Your wife once told me that during a 5-year period in Chicago you bought and sold 40 or 50 separate autos. And that was before eBay!

Dr. Stockman: Yes, my collection is very diverse. Among them are a ’56 Cadillac, a Sting Ray, a Triumph, and a twin turbo engine Porsche 911. I love driving them on all the country back roads here in North Carolina. There is life beyond acadème!…


Editor-in-Chief Stanford T. Shulman, MD, chats with leading pediatric experts about medicine and life beyond practice.

James A. Stockman III, MD, is president of the American Board of Pediatrics; Editor-in-Chief, Focus and Opinion: Pediatrics; Editor, Yearbook of Pediatrics; Editor, Current Problems in Pediatrics; and Editor, The Child’s Doctor. Among the many appointed positions he has held, Dr. Stockman is currently a Clinical Professor, Pediatrics, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Duke University, Durham, NC.


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