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Family-centered leader of Riley Hospital for Children dies Aug. 6

  • Aug. 14, 2013

“Let all who walk this way know that Indiana cherishes her families, that she loves her children. In this very special haven, no child shall cry unheard … none shall walk alone … and no mother or father shall be friendless.”   -- Morris Green, M.D. (1922-2013)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Morris Green, M.D., served the families of Indiana for more than 45 years, 20 of which were spent as the physician-in-chief of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children and as chairman of the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. He died Aug. 6 at the age of 91.

Dr. Green was best known for instituting family-centered care at Riley Hospital, a model of care that was quite unconventional. At a time when hospitals were restrictive about visiting hours, Dr. Green implemented a policy that allowed parents to be at their children’s bedside as much as possible and made it possible for parents to be a partner in their children’s care.

“He was very progressive, and his approaches were viewed with skepticism by some at the time, but Dr. Green insisted that a child be treated as a whole person, not as the disease, and that the family be included as an important part of the care of the child. This was family-centered care long before the phrase had been coined,” said Richard L. Schreiner, M.D., who succeeded Dr. Green in 1987. Dr. Schreiner is the Edwin L. Gresham Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics.

Today, family-centered care is the norm, not the exception.

Morrie, as his friends called him, “was 10 years ahead of his time,” Dr. Schreiner said. “He also was the best overall clinician in the hospital; he knew more pediatrics than anyone else and would examine a child, listen to the parents and masterfully come up with the diagnosis.”

Collaboration was a key to Dr. Green’s success as the leader of one of the most prominent children’s hospitals in the country, a status he spent his career fostering. A mentor to many younger pediatricians, Dr. Green also was very focused on medical education and took a special interest in pediatric residents at Riley Hospital and Wishard Memorial Hospital.

“Dr. Green was a visionary leader in the field of child emotional and behavioral health,” said Marilyn J. Bull, M.D., who is the Morris Green Professor of Pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine. “Under his directorship, pediatric education at Indiana University was elevated to the highest of national standards, and over half of the pediatric residents trained at Riley Hospital for Children entered practice of primary care pediatrics serving the children of Indiana across the state.

“Dr. Green left a legacy of excellence in clinical pediatrics and was a role model and mentor for countless pediatricians. It was an honor to have been appointed the first Morris Green Professor of Pediatrics, and I know that the world will remember Dr. Green as a brilliant pediatrician who served children with great insight and compassion,” said Dr. Bull, who is also the founding director of the Division of Developmental Pediatrics at Riley Hospital at IU Health.  

A native of Indianapolis, Dr. Green received an Bachelor of Art from Indiana University in 1942 and his medical degree from IU School of Medicine in 1944. He completed a 10-month internship at the IU Medical Center before being inducted into the U.S. Army Medical Corps as a captain. In 1947, he began a two-year pediatrics residency at the University of Illinois Research and Education Hospital.

Before returning to IU School of Medicine as an associate professor of pediatrics in 1957, Dr. Green was on faculty at the University of Illinois College of Medicine from 1949 to 1952 and Yale University School of Medicine from 1952 to 1957. Dr. Green returned to Riley Hospital to start an ambulatory (outpatient) service for children at the behest of the first full-time chairman of pediatrics Lyman Meiks.

In July 1967, Dr. Green was named chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and became the first physician-in-chief of Riley Hospital. At the time, the department’s annual budget was $400,000; 20 years later, he was guiding a department with a $6.5 million annual budget. Outpatient visits jumped from 17,000 in 1958 to more than 100,000 in 1987.

During his tenure, Riley Hospital expanded with the opening of Phase II, which included the Parent-Care Pavilion for parents, allowing them to live with and share in the care of their children. The Newborn Intensive Care Unit was created; special services were instituted for care of children with cancer and diseases of the kidney, gastrointestinal tract, blood and endocrine system; and the pediatric surgery program, including cardiovascular surgery, flourished.

Dr. Green is the author of four editions of “Ambulatory Pediatrics” and five editions of “Pediatric Diagnosis,” both leading textbooks for pediatricians. He also initiated a continuing education course for pediatrics, family physicians, nurses and allied health personal. The Riley Hospital for Children Child Care Conference is now in its 48th year.

After stepping down as chairman and physician-in-chief, Dr. Green spent the next 10 years seeing patients in the developmental pediatrics clinic. In 1990, he spent one year as the Indiana state health commissioner.

Words of encouragement from Dr. Green still greet patients, families, doctors and nurses when they walk through the Way of Honor at Riley Hospital: “How a society cares for her children shows forth the moral and spiritual standards it embraces and with which it endows its progeny. Nowhere in this nation is this humanistic impulse better exemplified than in the altruistic support that has flowed from persons in every walk of life for the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children -- itself a human achievement of historic proportions.” 

Funeral services were held Aug. 11 at Aaron Ruben Nelson Mortuary. Memorial contributions may be made to the Morris Green Scholars Fund, Room 5900, Riley Hospital for Children, 705 Riley Hospital Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46202.

Friends may leave a memory or message of condolence by visiting the online obituary at www.arnmortuary.com

Dr. Morris Green examines a patient at Riley Hospital for Children

Dr. Morris Green examines a patient at Riley Hospital for Children

Print Quality Photo

Morris Green, M.D.

Morris Green, M.D.

Print Quality Photo

Mary Hardin