In Time for Mother's Day, Landmark Baby Book by Father of Modern Obstetrics now Available at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern Medicine
Women's Health May 08, 2015
Collection of baby book cover publicationsAt the close of the 20th century, when Joseph DeLee* informed his father of his decision to become a doctor, he was met with disappointment. Joseph’s father was like many Americans of that time, and viewed modern medicine with skepticism. When Joseph did become a doctor and devoted his life to advancing obstetric medicine here in Chicago, he would discover that many in his field shared his father’s traditionalism, advocated for the continued use of midwives and general practitioners who performed deliveries in their patient’s homes, rather than within a hospital environment.  For Dr. DeLee, convincing the public to rethink its views would become his life’s work, and his eventual success would become his legacy.

In 1888, DeLee entered into what is now Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and immediately took a special interest in obstetrics, making a point of observing deliveries at a time when medical students were not required to do so. Shortly after graduating, DeLee, just 25 years old, garnered enough financial support to open a small maternity clinic on Maxwell Street, the Chicago Lying-In Dispensary, where he offered free care. DeLee began to fight the uphill battle of running a maternity hospital, sometimes even paying mothers to deliver their child. In time, however, DeLee’s use of modern medical procedures and sterile facilities proved effective, and young medical professionals who heard about his results began seeking Dr. DeLee’s tutelage.

Our baby's first seven years cover As DeLee's practical experience grew, he also found his interest in obstetrics bolstered by his academic achievements. In a span of fifteen years, DeLee earned a professorship at Northwestern, was made President of the Chicago Gynecological Society, and was elected to the office of Vice-President of the American Gynecological Society. DeLee began to publish papers on his modern view of obstetrics, including a book called Obstetrics for Nurses, which offered guidelines for the application of his medical techniques. Over the course of his life, DeLee would publish more than 100 articles in medical journals, and produce several books and films to educate medical professionals. Before the 1920s, DeLee’s methodology, which included novel ideas on preventative care and strategic surgical intervention during deliveries, finally began to supplant other methods of child birthing.
By the time DeLee retired, he had established one of Chicago’s most prestigious hospitals, taught at  Northwestern University and the University of Chicago’s medical schools, perfected dozens of medical procedures and authored medical texts that are still studied by medical students today. DeLee’s legacy endures in the care mothers and their children receive today, which is informed by research that began in that first clinic that Dr. DeLee opened on Maxwell Street.

Our child's medical records book publication coverNearly one hundred years after Dr. DeLee’s famous speech on medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital strives to continue his legacy with his most enduring work: Our Baby’s First Seven Years. First published in 1928, Our Baby's First Seven Years is a baby book with exquisite illustration that documents not only a child's development milestones but his or her medical milestones as well. Now in its eighth edition, the book has been a treasured heirloom in families all over the world for generations. Now, by donating all proceeds from the book’s sales to research in obstetric medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital hopes to carry the spirit of Dr. DeLee’s work forward into the 21st Century.

Our Baby's First Seven Years is available for purchase at the Pulse Gift Shop, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, on the second floor of the Galter Pavilion, 675 N. Saint Clair Street. 
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