2016 Top Doctor: Allen Kaplan, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2016
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Pediatric Neurology
Med School/Year Graduated: Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago, 1966

Years in Practice: 41

photography by Steve Craft; Allen Kaplan, M.D.You’re one of the founders of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Has your original vision for the hospital been realized? What about PCH makes you most proud?
The original vision of Phoenix Children’s Hospital has exceeded expectations. The hospital was originally a “hospital within a hospital” with 78 beds and is now an independent, free-standing children’s hospital with over a 400-bed capacity and a 300-physician staff. What is exceptional about PCH has been the development of a multitude of subspecialty programs. The hospital is fortunate to have dedicated physicians, nursing staff and support services to care for our children and families. I am also very pleased to have been a part of the evolution of neurosciences.

Have you kept in touch with any of your patients?
I have developed many relationships with families over my 41-year career in Phoenix, even seeing three generations with various neurological disorders. As co-director of  [the Jaydie Lynn King] Neuro-Oncology [Program] for 32 years, we have seen significant long-term survivors and long-term friendships due to improved treatments of brain tumors.

What drew you to pediatrics?
I’ve always enjoyed interacting with children, and I assure you they are more fun than adults. What drew me to child neurology was probably genetic. My father was a psychiatrist, but died when I was 12 years old. The concept of neuroscience has been an interest, but pediatrics has been a love – thus, pediatric neurology.

How does pediatric neurology typically differ from general neurology? Is it mostly a matter of bedside manner?
The concept of children being little adults is not true. Children demand different approaches to the understanding of their disorders. Infants and young children cannot communicate their difficulties. Toys and magic have been very helpful to me.

What have you learned about children after all these years of treating them?
It would be impossible not to continue learning when interacting with children. They are candid, truthful, cute and funny. Although there are tragic moments, not a day goes by that I don’t find laughter.

What is neurofibromatosis, and how common is it?
Neurofibromatosis Type I (NFI) is a common genetic disorder, with one in 3,000 children affected. Neurofibromatosis is a neurocutaneous disease, but may involve all organ systems. The disorder is associated with abnormal cell growth and tumors. Research has improved our understanding of NFI, and hopefully there will be a cure in the future.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Golf, travel and I am a passionate collector of old pediatric textbooks.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
An art or medical historian. I have always enjoyed medical history and its importance to our present and future. History leads us forward with lessons learned from the past.