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Dr. Howard Allen Pearson, 1929 - 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 09:45

I am deeply saddened to inform you of the passing of Dr. Howard A. Pearson.   Dr. Pearson served with the ABP from 1977-1999.  He was an Oral Examiner for over ten years.  Throughout his term with the ABP, he served on many committees: Program Directors Liaison Committee, Written Examination Committee, Time-Limited Certification Committee, Certifying Examination Item Bank Committee, and the Recertification Task Force.     Howard, along with the assistance of Laurence Finberg, MD, published the history of the Board to commemorate 75 years of the board’s history “The American Board of Pediatrics 1993-2008” .  We are grateful for Howard’s work for the ABP for so many years.  The obituary sent to us from Yale University is listed below.  

David G. Nichols, MD, MBA
President & CEO
American Board of Pediatrics


Dr. Howard Allen Pearson, aged 86, passed away on October 16, 2016, in New Haven, Connecticut. Howard was born to Harry and Mabel (Holmgren) Pearson on November 4, 1929, in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved to Lynn, Massachusetts in 1939. Howard became an Eagle Scout in 1944 and graduated from Lynn English High School in 1947. He enrolled in Dartmouth University and pursued medicine. He met Anne Stark Livingston when they were both working at the Craigville Inn on Cape Cod. They married on March 10, 1951. He received his M.D. from the Dartmouth-Harvard medical program in 1954.

Dr. Pearson joined the United States Navy and served as a medical resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he was mentored by Dr. Thomas Cone. He pursued pediatrics and then hematology/oncology at Harvard Medical School with Dr. Louis Diamond, one of the founders of this sub-specialty. He established the pediatric hematology/oncology program at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1962. In 1968 he accepted a position at Yale School of Medicine/Yale New Haven Hospital. At Yale, he became the chief of pediatric hematology/oncology, and then chair of pediatrics in 1973, a position he held for 12 years. He felt that one of his major accomplishments was bringing the private community in the greater New Haven area into the fold of Yale’s program. He made significant contributions in the pediatric hematology/oncology service and clinical research, particularly for children with thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. In the 1970s, he identified a new syndrome, which was named Pearson’s Syndrome after him. He had over 300 peer-reviewed medical publications and wrote several medical textbooks. One article, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1978, was called “The Born-Again Spleen.” Dr. Pearson had discovered that about 50 percent of children who have had their spleens removed surgically because of traumatic rupture experience splenosis, a regeneration of the spleen.

Toward the end of his term as chair in 1986, Dr. Pearson was approached by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman and A.E. Hotcher about creating a camp for children with cancer. It developed into an adventure for him and a wonderful, magical opportunity for thousands of children since 1988 through what became The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. People at “Camp” called him “Doc.” Doc established the medical support at Camp for children with serious illnesses, which was critical to the success and fulfillment of Paul’s idea. Paul recognized how important that was and named Pearson Pond at Camp in Doc’s honor. In addition to being the Founding Medical Director of Camp, Dr. Pearson was its medical director and on-site physician for the first 14 summers. During his time at Camp, Doc carved nine totem poles, eight of which survive and can be seen in Camp’s Dining Hall. The totem poles capture the spirit and magic of Camp and its children, staff, and volunteers. Recently, Doc and a daughter-in-law wrote Fulfilling Paul Newman’s Dream—‘Raising a Little Hell’ and Healing at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which relates the Camp experience from his perspective. In his true spirit of giving, any profits from this book will be donated to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Dr. Pearson served as President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 1992-93. Because of his foresight and leadership, the Academy fast-tracked a policy statement on preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by placing infants to sleep on their backs. It saved thousands of young lives. He also established the Academy Archives Program to preserve the history of the AAP, including the Oral History Program to record the lives of distinguished pediatricians in their own words. His own oral history is available at the AAP. In 2002, Dr. Pearson received the prestigious Howland Award, given by the American Pediatric Society to leaders in academic pediatrics. He became a professor emeritus at Yale in 1999 but continued interviewing Yale School of Medicine candidates until 2014. He served on the Board of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp until 2014. On October 1, 2016, the 1951 Dartmouth class honored him with the “Spirit of ’51 Award.”

Dr. Howard Pearson is survived by his wife Anne of 65 years; his brother Palmer “Buddy” Pearson, sister Helen (Harry) Nelson, brother Richard (Ann) Pearson, and half-sister Judy (Mike) Feeney; five children, Stephen (Mary Lou Shefsky) Pearson, Mark (Julieanne) Pearson, David (Paloma) Pearson, Leslie Pearson, and Douglas Pearson; granddaughter Jennifer Pearson, whom he and Anne raised as a daughter; 13 other grandchildren, Matthew (Tasha Adams) Pearson, Daniel Pearson, Andrew Marshall, Alexander Pearson, Kathryn Pearson, Sarah Pearson, Annemarie Pearson, Paloma Cristina Pearson, John Pearson, Siobhan Robinson, Sile Robinson, Damon Robinson, Jr., and Seanna Robinson; and five great-grandchildren.