Dr. Nichols’ Retirement Brings Memories, Tribute

Bottom line: Dr. David Nichols led the ABP with diplomacy, integrity, compassion, humility, and an unwavering focus on its mission.

David G. Nichols, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) will retire at the end of this year after nearly 25 years of service. He started as a volunteer on the Critical Care Medicine (CCM) Subboard, later becoming its Chair, before joining two Maintenance of Certification (MOC) committees and then the Board of Directors. He became President and CEO of the ABP in 2013. 

Dr. Nichols’ accomplishments during his tenure are many, and some will be featured in the ABP’s 2021 Annual Report (coming out in the spring). But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the ABP asked his former ABP colleague and future retirement lunch buddy, Dr. Gail McGuinness, to describe the personal qualities of this man for whom many are grateful.

Guest post by Dr. Gail McGuinness

During his stellar career, Dr. David Nichols has just about done it all: a superb clinician trained as a pediatrician, anesthesiologist, and CCM subspecialist; an educator and Dean: a physician scientist; and a leader among leaders, shepherding the ABP during a time of extraordinary challenges and change for certifying boards.

When David was introduced at his first staff meeting as CEO, he was greeted by a performance of the song “We are Family.” He gamely engaged in the celebration and dancing that ensued. His distinctive laugh rang out. Some might call it a guffaw. He endeared himself to the staff with his gracious good humor.

But there was more in the years to come. Before long, he was rappelling down a multistory building to help raise money for a local charity, while we held our collective breath, hoping that his generosity would not require a new CEO search. 

Dr. Nichols rappels down a building for charity.

But more importantly than sharing laughter, David inspired those who had the good fortune of working closely with him. His unwavering focus on the ABP’s mission built trust among the staff and Board leadership because we had a common purpose to improve the lives of children. There was a laser focus on quality of care and how certification and our daily work could improve that care. David held himself accountable and expected no less of others.

David is also a listener. Through the years, he has listened to pediatricians, colleagues from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), residency training program directors, parents on the ABP Family Leadership Committee, and ABP staff, among others. He listens quietly, considers all views, and analyzes the data before offering an opinion or making a decision. His diplomacy served him well and engendered respectful debate. His common-sense approach and careful consideration of issues was apparent at ABMS where he rose quickly to a leadership position. Many of his decisions were difficult ones, and some led to transformative change at both the ABP and ABMS.

A kind and generous man who leads with integrity, compassion, and humility, David supports his staff and Board leadership and inspires their confidence. He frequently says that any recognition that he receives belongs to the entire ABP team — and he means it. I feel privileged to have worked closely with him, learning from him every day, debating complex issues, and benefiting from his ongoing and consistent support. I also am fortunate to count him as a friend and look forward to having lunch with him in 2022.

Dr. David Nichols deserves all of our gratitude and best wishes for this next phase of his life. I know, however, that wherever his heart and passion take him, the well-being of children will be front and center.

About the Author

Dr. Gail McGuinness

Gail A. McGuinness, MD, retired in 2017 after 16 years with the ABP, where she had most recently served as Executive Vice President. In that role, Dr. McGuinness was responsible for exam administration, credentialing, subboard oversight, and new subspecialties. In addition, she provided redundancy for internal operations for the ABP President and CEO and served as the ABP liaison to a number of organizations with interests in graduate medical education and workforce issues. Dr. McGuinness was board certified in General Pediatrics and Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine until she retired in good standing in 2017.