2018 Blue Bird Circle Award

Bruce Shapiro, MD

Profile written by Thomas M. Lock, MD


Bruce K. Shapiro

Bruce Shapiro’s early years were spent as the oldest of three children of a middle class family in Brooklyn, New York. His family moved to Long Island where he attended high school. Due to Bruce’s early interest in medicine, he left Long Island at 17 and enrolled in the AB/ MD program at Boston University. This was a time of turmoil during the Vietnam War and the emerging sexual revolution. His dormitory was near Fenway Park which, at time, opened its gates every game for free admission in the 7th inning. Bruce rapidly became a Red Sox fan! Bruce’s senior year of medical school was highlighted by his marriage to Elizabeth. Bruce and Elizabeth now have three adult children and six grandchildren.

Bruce decided on Children’s Hospital National Medical Center for his pediatric training. He thrived in the residency program. He served as chief resident in 1974-75 and during this time, debated which career pathway he would choose following his residency. He considered fellowships in infectious disease and child development. A fellow resident asked him if he had heard of the child development program that Dr. Arnold Capute was running at the Kennedy Institute. Dr Shapiro subsequently arranged a meeting with Dr. Capute and the rest is history.

Bruce completed a fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics at the John F. Kennedy Institute from 1975-1977. His training as a fellow and as a junior faculty member was under the direction of Dr. Arnold Capute, the “Father of Developmental Pediatrics”. He quickly became involved in multiple research projects, including the Primitive Reflex Profile, which led to the publication of a monograph and many peer reviewed articles. During this very hectic and exhilarating time, Bruce was placed in charge of bringing bagels and cream cheese to Saturday research meetings at the institute.

Bruce’s long and productive career is best understood in the context of the groundbreaking interdisciplinary environment at the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The KKI has for the past 50 years had core funding as a member of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND), programs that provide graduate level interdisciplinary training as well as interdisciplinary services and care. Bruce has served as Director and PI/Associate Director of the KKI LEND program since 1977, serving 200 trainees per year from 14 core disciplines.

It was in this environment that Drs. Capute and Shapiro developed the vision and path forward for the new specialty of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Bruce was a key contributor in the efforts to establish recognition of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities by the American Board of Medical Subspecialties (ABMS). This effort required obtaining the support and cooperation of the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Dr. Shapiro established the first Neurodevelopmental Disabilities residency that was approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Since 2009, Bruce has served as a member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Examination Committee, and as Chair of the committee since 2011. He has also served as a member of the ABPN Steering Committee since 2011, and has been a member of the ACGME Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Milestones Working Group.

Dr. Shapiro has been course director since 2005 and member of the program committee for the annual national Spectrum of Developmental Disabilities conference at JHU for the past 40 years. He served as Chair of the JHU Continuing Medical Education Advisory Board from 2009-2014 and Pediatric Residency Review Committee from 1994-2010.

Bruce has authored over 49 peer reviewed manuscripts, 63 book chapters or monographs, and six books in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Bruce currently is the Arnold J. Capute MD, MPH Chair in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University. He was awarded the Capute Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2010.

Bruce has been a valued mentor for over 120 specialists in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Post-Doctoral trainees. His mentees have held faculty positions at prestigious university hospitals throughout the United States and the world. Some have gone on to head large university based interdisciplinary institutes, centers and NDD residencies. Bruce has also been a mentor for directors of other programs in their efforts to achieve accreditation.

His trainees describe Bruce as approachable, modest, respectful, and firm when appropriate. He inspires critical thinking in patient care, academic pursuits, and healthcare policies. His residents feel motivated to grow their fund of knowledge by reading about their patients and diagnoses, doing original research, and developing treatment plans.

Dr. Shapiro trains and supports each trainee to incorporate their personal interests and career goals to individualize their training. Examples of this include facilitating outside electives, recommending interdisciplinary courses at the school of public health and business school, and promoting professional connections for potential mentorship. He further supports work-life balance for his trainees, allowing for flexibility in cases of family or medical leave.

Dr. Shapiro advocates for the important role of research during clinical training and its role in advancing the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities. He encourages his trainees to take a leadership role in their area of interest through clinical or basic science research and presents opportunities for them to do so. As part of the NDD program at Kennedy Krieger, he has developed a faculty Research Oversight Committee that ensures quality research mentorship for residents.

Bruce’s dedication has not only shown in his founding a new program and tackling the required stacks of forms and paperwork. He has built partnerships with faculty at the

JHU School of Medicine, with whom this training is a collaboration, greatly enriching both sides. He has wrangled opinionated residents, ready to revise the program from the get-go, and held the course, even while making substantive changes over time in response to trainee feedback. He has mentored residents in how to engage with the phenomenal resources of their own institutions, and the community beyond.