From 1968 until 1981, Dr. Michael Lewis was Director of the Infant Laboratories at Educational Testing Service in Princeton , NJ . From 1975 until 1980 the Infant Laboratory, under a ten million dollar grant from the Department of Education, became the Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children. The focus of this Institute was on the study of children with handicapping conditions, including Down Syndrome, development delays, and low birth weight. This Institute included a collaborative study with St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City , where a laboratory for the study of pre-term development was created. This was a continuation of prematurity research with Drs. Stanley James and John Manning Driscoll Jr. at Baby’s Hospital at Columbia University . At this time, he was Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at Baby’s Hospital at Columbia University and then at St. Luke’s Hospital. In the course of this research, Dr. Lewis became familiar with Dr. Lawrence A. Taft, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers Medical School . Through contact at research meetings, Dr. Taft and Dr. Lewis became colleagues and together edited a volume entitled “Developmental Disabilities: Theory, Assessment, and Intervention,” published in 1982 by SP Medical and Scientific Books.
As the first Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Taft was actively developing a Pediatrics Department that mirrored his own interests and included a Division of Neonatology, in which high-risk births and prematurity were treated and studied; a Division of School Health; a Division of Neurology; and a Division of Developmental Disabilities; as well as the more traditional specialties and subspecialties in a growing Pediatrics Department.
Given Dr. Lewis’ interests in development, both normal and dysfunctional, Dr. Taft invited him to become an Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics and subsequently invited him to give a series of seminars on normal and dysfunctional development, including the development of cognitive-attentional processes, and social and emotional competencies. These lectures led to further collaboration between Drs. Lewis and Taft, and subsequently led to an invitation for Dr. Lewis to join the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics, to be housed in the Medical Education Building in New Brunswick , NJ . The possibility of establishing a research institute for the study of normal and dysfunctional development, through the appointment of Dr. Lewis as Chief of the Division of Behavioral Development, was an offer that was readily accepted. In December of 1981, Dr. Lewis resigned from the Educational Testing Service and was appointed Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical School .
The charge to Dr. Lewis in this appointment was to develop a research institute, and this charge was recognized by the Board of Trustees in early 1983. The Institute for the Study of Child Development was born. The Institute’s charge included research, clinical, and education activities for the study of normal and dysfunctional development. For the last twenty years, this charge has been the focus of our activities. In order to carry out the mission of the Institute, we have expanded our operation from the main site in New Brunswick to Capital Health System at Mercer in Trenton , Drexel University in Philadelphia , UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark , and Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside. The collaboration started between Drs. Lewis and Taft has been continued through the collaboration with the subsequent Chairperson of the Department of Pediatrics.