Pediatrics (also spelled paediatrics or pediatrics) is the branch of medicine that involves the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends people be under pediatric care up to the age of 21. A medical doctor who specializes in this area is known as a pediatrician, or paediatrician. Pediatricians work both in hospitals, particularly those working in its subspecialties such as neonatology, and as primary care physicians.
Some of the oldest traces of pediatrics can be discovered in Ancient India where children's doctors were called kumara bhrtya. Sushruta Samhita an ayurvedic text, composed during the sixth century BC contains the text about pediatrics. Another ayurvedic text from this period is Kashyapa Samhita.
The Swedish physician Nils Rosen von Rosenstein (1706–1773) is considered to be the founder of modern pediatrics as a medical specialty, while his work The diseases of children, and their remedies (1764) is considered to be "the first modern textbook on the subject". Pediatrics as a specialized field of medicine continued to develop in the mid-19th century; German physician Abraham Jacobi (1830–1919) is known as the father of American pediatrics because of his many contributions to the field. He received his medical training in Germany and later practiced in New York City.
A major difference between the practice of pediatric and adult medicine is that children, in most jurisdictions and with certain exceptions, cannot make decisions for themselves. The issues of guardianship, privacy, legal responsibility and informed consent must always be considered in every pediatric procedure. Pediatricians often have to treat the parents and sometimes, the family, rather than just the child. Adolescents are in their own legal class, having rights to their own health care decisions in certain circumstances. The concept of legal consent combined with the non-legal consent (assent) of the child when considering treatment options, especially in the face of conditions with poor prognosis or complicated and painful procedures/surgeries, means the pediatrician must take into account the desires of many people, in addition to those of the patient.
In high school future pediatricians are required to take basic science classes such as, biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, and calculus and also foreign language class, preferably Spanish (in the United States), and get involved in high school organizations and extracurricular activities. After high school, college students simply need to fulfill the basic science course requirements that most medical schools recommend and will need to prepare to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) their junior or early senior year in college. Once attending medical school, student courses will focus on basic medical sciences like human anatomy, physiology, chemistry, etc., for the first three years, the second year of which is when medical students start to get hands-on experience with actual patients.
In the United States, a medical school graduate wishing to specialize in pediatrics must undergo a three-year residency composed of outpatient, inpatient, surgical, and critical care rotations. Specialties within pediatrics require further training in the form of 3-year fellowships. Specialties include critical care, gastroenterology, neurology, infectious disease, hematology/oncology, rheumatology, pulmonology, child abuse, emergency medicine, endocrinology, neonatology, and others.
In most jurisdictions, entry-level degrees are common to all branches of the medical profession, but in some jurisdictions, specialization in pediatrics may begin before completion of this degree. In some jurisdictions, pediatric training is begun immediately following completion of entry-level training. In other jurisdictions, junior medical doctors must undertake generalist (unstreamed) training for a number of years before commencing pediatric (or any other) specialization. Specialist training is often largely under the control of pediatric organizations (see below) rather than universities, and depend on jurisdiction.