June 22, 2021
OPS Members Bob Mendelson, MD, Jacob Reiss, MD, and Betty Reiss, MD, have known each other since 1970, when Jacob and Betty first arrived in Portland, during what Dr. Jacob Reiss refers to as some of the “wonderful, rich, early days of pediatrics in Portland.”
The three now-retired pediatricians met through their memberships in The Portland Academy of Pediatrics (PAP), which hosted monthly gatherings for community pediatricians, including both solo practitioners and group fee-for-service practices. PAP was founded in November 1947.
Dr. Mendelson, who worked with a primary care private practice and joined PAP in 1964, says that it was mostly a professional networking group for the relatively few number of pediatricians in the city at the time. PAP meetings included a dinner and social time, as well as a CME presentation. Pharmaceutical and formula companies supported an open bar before group members eventually decided not to allow these kinds of sponsors.
Every June, PAP also hosted a special social year-end meeting at the Lake Oswego Country Club, which included special guest speakers like Governor Kitzhaber and former Portland Trail Blazer Dave Twardzik. As part of the annual festivities, Bob organized a tennis tournament. He and Jacob competed for the tournament trophy for decades, and they often got together for personal games throughout the year.
“It was a very collegial and warm atmosphere,” Jacob said. “Everyone who participated in PAP felt close to it.”
As pediatricians for Kaiser Permanente, this hospitable PAP environment appealed to Drs. Betty and Jacob Reiss. Jacob says that in that era at other professional medical societies, the concept of KP’s “prepayment” healthcare model wasn’t always embraced by physicians.
Networking at PAP gave members the opportunity to leverage the strengths and specialties of local colleagues. “In earlier years, very few primary care pediatricians had subspecialties like endocrinology or dermatology,” Bob said. “If you met someone with special training, you could contact them about a case, even if they were in another practice.”
“The changes in Portland and elsewhere over the years have been monumental,” Jacob said. “Prior to the 1970s, there were very few women in medicine, and relatively few in pediatrics in Portland.” Bob said that his practice was the first in Portland to recruit a female pediatrician.
Jacob also noted that over the years, pediatrics has evolved from largely focusing on infectious diseases to more recently encompassing behavioral and mental health.
In the late 2000s, PAP began to dissolve. Bob said that the group moved to a newer, less central meeting place, and at the same time, other professional medical organizations – including OPS and the AAP – were gaining participation from pediatricians throughout the state.
OPS has many active retired physician members. What are your memories of 20th century pediatric care? We’d love to share these, or any other member stories. Please contact Cheryl Matushak, OPS Membership Manager.