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After 54 years of caring for kids, leading Broward pediatrician retires

Kids said the darnedest things to Dr. Arnold "Bud" Tanis. Tens of thousands of kids. Three generations of kids. For half a century.

There's Kendall, 5. She answered the phone when Tanis called her home one day to check if she was feeling better. He barely got his name out when she cut him off and hung up. "Don't call here. You only want money."

William, 10, was relieved not long ago to survive a routine Tanis exam checking his ears, eyes, nose, throat and all the rest. "Whew," the boy said. "I feel so vandalized."

On Sunday, Tanis was surrounded by stories warm and sad alike from his 54-year career as one of Broward's leading pediatricians, when he gathered his patients for a party and signed off from active practice.

"I loved every minute of it," said Tanis, who will turn 82 Wednesday. "The children are so charming. It's what has kept me young."

Tanis made his mark as a co-founder of Pediatric Associates, which started as a two-doctor team in a tiny Hollywood office in 1957 and grew into the nation's largest private practice for children. The group has 130 doctors in 21 offices stretching from South Miami to Fort Pierce.

Tanis was among the most prominent pediatricians in the state during the 1980s. He was president of the Broward pediatrics society and president of the Florida Pediatric Society from 1986 to 1989.

He led the statewide group during a major Florida crisis over medical malpractice insurance and was a main voice to persuade the state Legislature to require child safety seats in cars and to require that insurers cover immunizations.

Tanis grew up in Chicago and got into the University of Chicago at age 14 under a special program. He got his medical degree and went into the Navy at a base in Key West. When his hitch was done, he came up to Hollywood and partnered with Dr. Edward Salzman. By 1967, they grew to five and became Pediatric Associates.

Some of his earliest patients are now approaching retirement and have brought their children and grandchildren into his care. At least 60 families have been three-generation Tanis patients.

Medicine has changed in almost every way since he started. The biggest advance? Tanis doesn't hesitate: vaccines, especially the one against HIB (Haemophilus influenzae type B). Before that, children died from the relentless bacteria.

"Whenever you saw a kid with an ear infection — and you know how common ear infections are in little people — you had to worry, 'Is this the child that will develop HIB meningitis?'" Tanis said. "I can't tell you how sad it was to get called to the hospital after a child had a seizure from HIB and died."

Kids are different, too.

"I'm a little troubled by the pervasiveness of kids relating to machines and not human beings," he said. "They come in with their devices, mom will ask them a question, and they are completely oblivious."

But some things never change.

"When a child sees you from 30 feet away and shouts, 'Dr. Tanis!' and comes running up and hugs your knees, you cannot buy that for money," Tanis said. "That is the greatest feeling in the world."