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The Pediatric Mechanic

The Pediatric MechanicWhile Tufts' Dr. Ivan Frantz III enjoys both working under the hood and speeding behind the wheel, nothing is a bigger thrill for him than helping sick kids get well.

Boston [08.10.05] It might be hard to imagine Tufts-New England Medical Center chief pediatrician and Tufts School of Medicine chair of pediatrics Dr. Ivan Frantz revving the engine of a souped-up automobile to three-digit speeds. But the same tenacity he brings to his hobby of award-winning racing is evident in the drive he brings each day to neonatal intensive care.

The key to success in both situations? ''Don't do something stupid," he explained to The Boston Globe.

That’s not always easy – especially when dealing with the calculated risks inherent in medical care. But Frantz – who also happens to be an award-winning driver of vintage formula racing cars – is used to taking risks.

''Some of these kids are incredibly sick," he told The Boston Globe, ''and you need to take all the knowledge you have – plus some knowledge you don't have – to develop a plan to take care of them."

One such experience came in 1983, when he helped pioneer a new ventilation technique on a premature baby here in Boston. While the machine he helped develop made the baby breathe faster, each breath was smaller, with the hope of going easy on the tiny infant's underdeveloped lungs.

''It was scary," the 60-year-old Frantz recalled to the Globe. ''We knew it worked on animals. But we really didn't know how well it would work with children. And the equipment we had certainly wouldn't meet any FDA standards today."

The procedure worked and has since become commonplace.

''Thousands and thousands of babies in the U.S. get treated with these types of high-frequency ventilators every year," Dr. Jonathan Davis, chief of neonatology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., told the Globe. "And it all started with pioneers like Ivan, and others, who had the idea that you could build these crazy machines."

Frantz told the Globe that back then, he was just one of many "young doctors, tinkering in the middle of the night in the ICU [intensive care unit] to try to make what we had work better."

Now, according to the Globe, he supervises approximately 70 pediatricians and as many as 50 interns and residents, keeping the pediatrics unit at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts-NEMC running like a well-oiled machine.























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