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Department History

An Introduction from the Chair

"That they may have life and may have it abundantly."

The James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children had been open for nearly a decade when these words were embedded on a bronze plaque set in the original lobby of Riley Hospital.

This phrase has served physicians, nurses, and hospital staff as a personal inspiration and a continuing creed for almost a century. Some things should never change. These ten words still serve to guide all of us today and in the future in our daily work here at the hospital named to honor the memory of Indiana's most famed poet, James Whitcomb Riley. As we look forward to our hospital's centennial in 2024, take time here to learn more about how we began, the former chairs, and some of the early leaders who have guided the growth and development of the Department of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Information Courtesy of the Riley Historic Preservation Committee

A special thanks to the committee members who worked tirelessly to put this content together:

  • Richard L. Schreiner, MD
  • Mary Ann Underwood
  • Karen Bruner Stroup
  • Thomas D. Lund (deceased)
  • Chris Mize


9949-Clapp, D.

D. Wade Clapp, MD

Chair, Department of Pediatrics

Read Bio D. Wade Clapp, MD

The Dream for a Children's Hospital Becomes Reality

The dream for the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children began in the days following the death of the famed Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley, who died on July 22, 1916. As an author of published poems and stories and acclaimed performer of his poetry on the national lyceum lecture circuit, Riley was a recognized name and an endeared state and national treasure.

Friends of Riley who gathered initially on July 24, 1916, met because they wanted to do something to honor his memory and legacy. More conversations followed.

In 1917, one of those friends, Dr. Lafayette Page, proposed a children’s hospital. This idea grew into a dream that captured the imaginations and hearts of many of Riley’s powerful and influential friends.

These determined friends of Riley forged ahead to chart the path for a children’s hospital to become reality. By 1924 thousands of others across the Hoosier state worked tirelessly to make the dream happen.

On November 19, 1924, the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children opened. Some of the steps leading to the building and opening of the hospital are shown below to provide a historical perspective.

  • March 1921: The Riley Memorial Hospital Bill was passed by the Indiana General Assembly. The bill provided state appropriations to help build the hospital ($125,000 for construction and $75,000 annually for operation) as a department of Indiana University. The James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association, Indiana University, and the Indiana Child Welfare Association united to champion this bill.
  • March 31, 1921: The Joint Executive Committee is formed. The Joint Executive Committee consisted of representatives from both the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association and the Indiana University Board of Trustees. The Committee was charged with the task to supervise the fund raising, promotion, building, and operations of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children.
  • April 9, 1921: The James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association (now the Riley Children’s Foundation) officially incorporated on this date.
  • October 7, 1922: Due to a downpour of rain, the cornerstone dedication ceremony for James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children occurred on the anniversary of James Whitcomb Riley’s birth at the Claypool Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.
  • October 7, 1924: The formal dedication for the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children took place, again on the anniversary of James Whitcomb Riley’s birth.
  • November 19, 1924: Opening day at Riley Hospital for Children provided many women with opportunities to pioneer new ground as community leaders and volunteers and in the nursing and rehabilitation professions. The Riley Cheer Guild was created in April 1924 and dedicated women volunteers launched the dream on opening day to bring good cheer to children. Other women such as Mary Elizabeth Heckard pioneered new ground in Nursing, Winifred Conrick Kahman did the same in Occupational Therapy, as did Lute Troutt in Dietetics. 

Philanthropist, Josiah Kirby Lilly, Incorporator and Organizational President of the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association, and President, Eli Lilly & Company, equipped the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children with pharmaceutical supplies for its opening.

A Brief History of the Department of Pediatrics

The lives and accomplishments of the leaders of the Department of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine tell a compelling and powerful story of the department’s history and evolution of the practice of pediatrics. These leaders guided the department’s growth, development, and contributions to the care of children in Indiana, nationally, and worldwide.


1924-1931: The Launch of Children's Medical Services at the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children

When the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children first opened its doors on November 19, 1924, there was no official Department of Pediatrics. There were, however, many key leaders in place who helped to launch children’s medical services at the hospital. Dr. Samuel E. Smith, Medical Provost of Indiana University, was the general superintendent in charge. Dr. Smith was assisted by Robert E. Neff, Administrator for the Robert W. Long Hospital and James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, and Director of the Social Service Department. Medical care of patients was supervised by Drs. John H. Oliver, John Finch Fairbanks, and Lafayette Page. Patients were seen by pediatricians from the community who worked part-time at the hospital and did not receive a salary.

Both Drs. Smith and Page served on the Joint Executive Committee established in 1921, the same year that the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association was incorporated. Dr. Page, an internationally known ear, nose, and throat physician, also was an Incorporator of the Association and is credited with proposing the idea to create a children’s hospital to honor the memory of Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley.

Additional roles for Dr. Smith were Provost for Indiana University at Indianapolis from 1923 to 1928 and Vice-President of the Indiana University Board of Trustees from 1919 to 1925. Dr. Smith, widely regarded as an authority on mental illness, earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville School Of Medicine in 1884. Dr. Smith served in several medical, administrative, and leadership roles in institutions, commissions, and committees throughout his career addressing the care of people with mental illness. Dr. Smith died on May 29, 1928.

Dr. Page was professor of otolaryngology at Indiana University School of Medicine and made important contributions to the medical literature. Dr. Page served during World War I at the Colonel Eli Lilly Memorial Red Cross Hospital, also known as United States Army Base Hospital 32. His research and knowledge helped develop an adequate remedy that led to a marked decrease in the serious effect of gas burns and gas poisons on Allied troops. His distinguished service in the treatment of gas cases won him recognition throughout the French and Allied medical services as well as the American Expeditionary Forces. Dr. Page died on July 14, 1929.

Dr. John H. Oliver, professor of surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, was in charge of children’s cases at the Robert W. Long Hospital in Indianapolis. Children were admitted to a twelve-bed unit before Riley Hospital was opened. Dr. Oliver served as first chair of the Department of Surgery from 1908 to 1912.

Dr. Barnhill served as first department chair and professor of head and neck surgery for the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Barnhill initiated the first post-graduate course at Indiana University School of Medicine in 1915, which continues today and is the longest continuing medical post-graduate course in the United States.

Pediatric Chairs

Those who have served as chair of the department set and built upon the blueprint that continues to guide the department today. All, in different ways, have held to highest expectations for excellence, innovation, discipline, integrity, knowledge, and leadership that are reflected throughout the department’s history.

Matthew Winters, first chairman of pediatrics

Matthew Winters, MD

1931 - 1951

Learn More Matthew Winters, MD

Lyman T. Meiks, MD

1951 - 1967

Learn More Lyman T. Meiks, MD
Morris Green, third chair of pediatrics

Morris Green, MD

1967 - 1987

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Richard Schreiner, fourth chair of pediatrics

Richard L. Schreiner, MD

1987 - 2009

Learn More Richard L. Schreiner, MD
Wade Clapp, fifth chair of pediatrics

D. Wade Clapp, MD

2009 - present

Learn More D. Wade Clapp, MD