(858) 966-4011 chadwickcenter@rchsd.org

In Memory of Dr. David Chadwick

Tribute to David L. Chadwick, MD (1926 – 2000)

 David L. Chadwick died peacefully Sunday, January 19th, 2020 surrounded by his loving family and wife, Michele, at their home in La Mesa, California.  David was a giant in the child maltreatment field and one of APSAC’s strongest champions and supporters.  He was one of APSAC’s core founders and served as APSAC’s second president.  He is the first former APSAC president to pass away.

During APSAC’s first few months of existence, David successfully pushed for the new multidisciplinary society to address all forms of child abuse and neglect rather than primarily focusing on sexual abuse which catalyzed its formation.  He bolstered APSAC’s initial membership by including membership in APSAC as part of the registration fee for the annual San Diego child abuse conference that he had started in January of 1986.

David was a brilliant and remarkable physician whose career spanned more than 60 years.

He became interested in the study and prevention of child abuse early in his education, serving as medical student intern in 1949 under pediatric chief resident, Henry Kempe (who later became one of the world’s foremost pioneers in identifying and treating child abuse) while both trained at the University of California San Francisco.

After an infectious disease fellowship and service in the Air Force, David joined the pediatric medical staff of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital in 1958 where he met Helen Boardman, the hospital’s only social worker, who compelled him to address child abuse.  He left Los Angeles Children’s in 1968 to become the first employed physician and first Medical Director of San Diego Children’s Hospital.  In 1985, David founded the San Diego Children’s Hospital Center for Child Protection, leaving his position as Hospital Medical Director to become the Center’s Director.  That center, now the Rady Children’s Chadwick Center for Children and Families continues to provide many services to maltreated children and their families.  The Center continues to host an international child and family maltreatment conference that attracts 2,000 attendees from around the world each January.


David dedicated much of his professional career to addressing child abuse and neglect. In 1962, David, Helen Boardman, and others joined Henry Kempe in drafting the original model child abuse reporting law and was instrumental in its adoption in California. David authored or co-authored several books.  He was the recipient of many honors for his professional work addressing child abuse and neglect, including the C. Anderson Aldrich Award for “outstanding service to maltreated children” from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Scientific Achievement Award from the American Medical Association for his pioneering work in child abuse treatment and prevention, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and the Vincent J. Felitti Distinguished Scholar Award from the Academy on Violence and Abuse.

Following his retirement from the Center and Hospital in 1997, David continued his work in child maltreatment including serving three years as a part time research professor at the University of Utah from 2002 to 2004.   After returning full time to his home in La Mesa, California, David continued to work reading, reviewing, and writing books.  Until shortly before his passing, David continued to champion an effort to establish a more equitable and accessible way for disseminating scientific and other new knowledge, the Cooperative Scientific Knowledge Exchange, CSKE.  He was a life-long rebel and innovator who made the world a better place through his thinking, sharing, and action!

David Chadwick was an extraordinary man and a superb pediatrician, caring for, protecting, and serving children and families.  He was a loving husband and father.  He was a devoted member of APSAC.  David will be greatly missed.  Those who knew him well and worked closely with Dave are fortunate for the time shared with him.  Dave gave much to his professional colleagues, the child maltreatment field, and most of all to the children and families to whom he dedicated his life.