Dr. Adele Hofmann; Pioneer in Medicine for Adolescents


Dr. Adele D. Hofmann, a pediatrician who helped to redefine the way medical professionals treat adolescents, died June 15 of congestive heart failure at a Newport Beach hospital. She was 74.

Hofmann, who practiced pediatrics for nearly 50 years in New York and California, was an early champion of adolescent medicine as a distinct field. It is now recognized as a sub-specialty of pediatrics.

"She is the grandmother of adolescent medicine," said Dr. Deborah Stewart, a former colleague who is now associate dean of medical education at the UC San Francisco facility in Fresno. "She said adolescents are left out of our health systems. . . . She was tirelessly reminding people--and, at times, ferociously reminding them--that that was the case."

Hofmann was a founding member of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, based in Blue Springs, Mo., and served as its president in 1976-77. In 1978, she founded the Section on Adolescent Health within the American Academy of Pediatrics, which named an award in her honor.

She also wrote with Dr. Donald E. Graydanus "Adolescent Medicine," now in its third printing and considered the authoritative text in the field.

Before the 1980s, health practitioners generally viewed teenagers as large children without emotional and physical needs unique to their age group. Hofmann, an endocrinologist who began practicing in the 1950s, started to specialize in adolescents early in her career, particularly runaways, gay and lesbian teenagers and other disenfranchised youths. She was, according to Stewart, one of the first doctors to focus a practice on teenage patients.

She was an ardent advocate of improving medical professionals' awareness of adolescents' sexual needs. "As a society, we give them sexually provocative movies and TV shows and put young girls in revealing clothes in magazines, yet we don't give them the skills to deal with the natural temptations that result," Hofmann said in 1993.

Her experience with troubled youths, including teenagers who were pregnant or had a sexually transmitted disease, led her to concentrate on issues involving consent and confidentiality.

"She was the architect of the issue of confidentiality," said Dr. Charles E. Irwin Jr., president-elect of the Society for Adolescent Medicine. "She articulated in a very coherent manner the importance of the need to care for adolescents in a confidential manner. She chaired many of the early meetings that wrote the guidelines that are now in place."

Many states now have laws enabling adolescents who are estranged from their families to have access to medical care. These laws, Stewart said, are "directly due to [Hofmann's] advocacy."

Hofmann wrote extensively on the legal rights of minors, adolescent behavior and treating high-risk youth. She also was the coauthor of "The Hospitalized Adolescent," with an introduction by Anna Freud. Published in 1976, it is considered the definitive book on the long-term care of adolescents.

Her career included stints in pediatric and adolescent programs at several New York hospitals, including Beth Israel Hospital and New York University Medical Center, where she ran the adolescent medicine unit for 12 years.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she was medical director of ambulatory pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Orange County and director of adolescent medicine at UCI Medical Center. She retired in 1996 but continued to teach at UC Irvine until shortly before her death.

Born in Boston, she was the granddaughter of Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh, an explorer, writer and artist. After graduating from Smith College, she attended the University of Rochester Medical School, graduating in 1952.

She completed a pediatric residency at Babies Hospital of Columbian Presbyterian Medical Center and was a National Foundation Fellow in endocrinology.

A resident of Laguna Beach, Hofmann is survived by a daughter, Annie Gardiner, of Oakland, and a son, Peter Hofmann, of Middletown, Conn.

A memorial service will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, at the Dana Point Yacht Club, 24399 Dana Drive in Dana Point.

Donations may be sent to the 8% Early Intervention Program, c/o Probation Community Action Assn., 909 N. Main St., Santa Ana 92701, or to the Nature Conservancy.

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