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Local Pediatrician Up for National Post



A Richmond-area doctor is in the running to become the national president of the American Academy of Pediatrics -- a high-profile position that typically represents the voice of the medical profession on the national-media circuit.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, 48, a pediatrician who serves as president of the academy's Richmond chapter, is one of two candidates nominated for the position. Kraft says she represents a new generation of female pediatricians who are leveling the playing field in what was once a male-dominated profession. The majority of pediatricians younger than 40 are women, she says.

If elected, Kraft says she plans to raise awareness of her profession's changing demographics.

"There are some real opportunities with our younger pediatricians that I would like to see the academy put some effort toward developing," she says.

The academy, created by physicians in 1930, is a 60,000-member organization consisting of pediatricians throughout the nation. It's been at the forefront of social and political issues such as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Medicaid funding, childhood vaccinations and autism.

Each year members of AAP elect a national president through an online election process in September. The elected candidate becomes president-elect the first year, the national president the second year, and serves as an aide to the next president the third year. Previous presidents and presidents-elect have received extensive national media coverage as references on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and CNN, and for guest appearances on NBC's "Today" show.

"You're really the [face of pediatrics] throughout the world for three years," says Kraft, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "It's very high-profile and I have the ability to make an impact."

If elected, Kraft would be the sixth female president of the organization.

But there is a second female candidate vying for the position this year as well — Dr. Judith Palfrey, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Children's International Pediatric Center in Boston.

Dr. David Tayloe Jr., AAP's president-elect, calls both candidates "outstanding."

"We need, really, both of their high talents," he says, "but we'll have to make a decision."

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