Dr. Arnold Capute, 'Father' of Developmental Pediatrics, Dies at Age 80

December 2, 2003
Capute's contributions to the field of developmental pediatrics are immeasurable

Baltimore- Dr. Arnold J. Capute, a faculty member at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for nearly forty years, died November 30 at age 80 from congestive heart failure. Dr. Capute devoted the majority of his career to increasing pediatricians' understanding of neurodevelopmental disabilities, and was instrumental in the creation of the field of Developmental Pediatrics, now called Neurodevelopmental Disabilities.

"Dr. Capute was here when the Institute first opened its doors in 1968, and he is recognized as the first and best teacher in the field of developmental pediatrics," says Dr. Gary Goldstein, president of Kennedy Krieger Institute. "More people have received their training in Developmental Pediatrics at Kennedy Krieger than anyplace in the country because of his passion and his success."

A New York City native, Dr. Capute graduated from Queens College and Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia. He began his career in pediatrics in 1948 and maintained a general pediatrics practice in New York for nearly two decades. After relocating to Baltimore in 1967, Dr. Capute joined the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Capute directed the first training program in developmental pediatrics and made significant contributions to the field's literature throughout his career. His textbook, Developmental Disabilities in Infancy and Childhood, has become a critical reference for medical students. In 1978, Dr. Capute designed an annual continuing education course, Spectrum of Developmental Disabilities, that offers pediatricians and other interested professionals several days of presentations by international experts in topics in the field. The conference now attracts between 250 and 400 registrants each year.

Dr. Capute's commitment to training future generations of pediatricians has been recognized by his peers through many significant awards. In 1977, he received the Alexander J. Schaffer Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching from the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1984, Dr. Capute became the third recipient of the Professors' Award for Distinction in Teaching in the Clinical Divisions at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1986, he received the Richmond Cerebral Palsy Center Award of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine. In 1990, he received the Warner-Lambert Company Scholars Award. In 1997, the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine awarded Dr. Capute its Distinguished Service Award. In November 2003, Dr. Capute received the American Academy of Pediatrics Educator Award, given to member pediatricians whose educational activities have had a broad and positive impact on the health and well-being of children.

"Dr. Capute was a mentor, friend and advocate for children with disabilities," says Dr. George Dover, pediatrician-in-chief and the Given Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "As a pioneer in the field of developmental pediatrics, he educated generations of pediatricians and will be remembered as a gifted teacher as well as a compassionate physician. His contributions to the field are immeasurable."

Dr. Capute's most lasting contribution to his field is arguably his staunch support of the creation of a Board Subspecialty Certification in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities in 1999. Dr. Capute spent more than 20 years pursuing this goal, and the fellowship he began in 1967 ultimately became the first Board Certified program in this field. Five additional medical schools have since been approved.

Dr. Paul Lipkin, director of Kennedy Krieger's Center for Development and Learning, trained under Dr. Capute between 1984 and 1986 and returned to the Institute in 1995 to work alongside him. "From my experience as a trainee, faculty member and colleague, I believe Dr. Capute represented the epitome of the clinician educator," says Dr. Lipkin. "He created a long-lasting legacy teaching general pediatricians and subspecialty pediatricians alike, and has contributed to the entire field of child health."

Dr. Capute is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Louise Perkins, four sons and eight grandchildren.

Kennedy Krieger Institute is dedicated to helping children and adolescents with disabilities resulting from disorders of the brain achieve their potential and participate as fully as possible in family, community and school life. For more information about Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit www.kennedykrieger.org.

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