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Renowned Shreveport physician is still writing the book on genetic disorders

Kate Archer Kent

A Shreveport pediatrician who wrote the reference book on genetic disorders will turn 80 this summer. Dr. Harold Chen can barely carry his 2,200-page "Atlas of Genetic Diagnosis and Counseling." The second edition was published last year, divided into three volumes. Chen drops it on a desk with a thud.

Chen has pared back his work some as a pediatrics professor at LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport and the go-to geneticist at Shriners Hospital for Children for more than 30 years. He’s still adding chapters to the atlas, and he hopes his publisher is on board with expanding it in the next edition. Flipping through it, the pages are covered with color photos – several thousand in all. He said a wealth of content came from cases he’s seen at Shriners over the years.

"Each chapter I have a basic defect, genetics and then about their features, and about how to make a diagnosis," Chen said, between seeing patients at Shriners.

Chen swoops into Shriners on a regular basis for day-long clinical rounds. He sees about 200 children a year, and he loves it. Shriners CEO Kim Green said families travel great distances to be seen by him.

"Because of Dr. Chen’s breadth of experience and knowledge, a lot of times questions that parents come in here with get answers, and that isn’t available at very many places in the world," Green said.

Chen lives part of the year in San Diego and works four months in Shreveport at the medical school and Shriners. If he’s slowing down, it’s hard to tell. In San Diego, he fields regular queries from medical school residents who want his opinion because invariably he knows.

"Sometimes just looking at it I can tell what the diagnosis is, right there. So most people call me, and say, Have Chen look at it, he’ll tell you. But that’s not always the case. It's a little exaggerated," Chen said with a laugh.

Chen plans to keep working as long as he feels he's making a contribution. He’ll finish up a month-long stint in Shreveport on Saturday. He wishes his atlas was more moderately priced, but he gives chapters to families when making a diagnosis. He said, they can learn from it, too.