We mourn these psychiatrist leaders…
In my regular weekday columns, I have been focusing recently on the need for the synthesis of dialectal differences. In that spirit, life and death can be considered dialectical, with the possibility of making a synthesis in review of someone’s career. It now strikes me that these periodic eulogies of psychiatrists have tried to do just that: reflect back on a psychiatrist’s life to convey and retain a legacy in death.
As of this writing, we are about to start the annual American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting. Soon after comes our country’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers. What could be a better time to celebrate some of our fallen psychiatrists?
This also turns out to be catch-up time for our eulogies of psychiatrists who have passed away during 2022-2023. For one reason or another, we belatedly heard about those who died in 2022, even though I knew them during my career. In a certain way, they all were our warriors in the fight against mental illness.
Warachal Eileen Faison, MD: “If God is not a Tar Heel, then why is the sky Carolina Blue”?
Dr Faison died on March 19, 2022, at the age of 54. I knew her through the American Association of Community Psychiatrists, where she and I were board members. However, that was only one of her many extra commitments to psychiatry and society.
She went to North Carolina Central University on a full scholarship, and graduated Summa Cum Lauda in 1989. She followed that with another full scholarship at the University of North Caroline (“Tar Heels”) School of Medicine, the source of her quote above.
She went from being the clinical director of Alzheimer disease programs at the Medical University of South Carolina, to working at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals with a special focus on minority recruitment into clinical trials.
Over time, she received numerous awards and served on numerous boards. One could wonder how that left time for her numerous other interests, including family, sports, and stamp collecting of all things related to the African diaspora.
She apparently remembered every birthday of her colleagues. Let us not forget hers and what she did during her lifetime.
Michael Fauman, MD: “Died after sunset of 31 May 2022.”
So stated his funeral notice, held at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I knew Michael’s wife Bonnie better than Michael as she and I were 1 year apart during psychiatric residency training at the University of Chicago. Yet, as accomplished as Bonnie was and as acclaimed as she became, it was impossible not to also hear of Michael’s important work.
Michael actually wrote for Psychiatric Times for a decade, from 1997-2006. Topics included early discussion in the use of computers in psychiatry, and then on the complexities of expert practice guidelines.
Many years back, I wrote a very popular eulogy in Psychiatric Times for the brilliant actor Robin Williams. As time went on, we found out that part of his suffering, and perhaps the stimulus to his suicide, was the loss of his mental agility from Lewy body dementia. Mike suffered from the same disease. What a terribly paradoxical disease for such a brilliant psychiatrist to suffer.
Albert C. Gaw, MD, DLFAPA: “Tuloy Po Kayo”
Tuloy Po Kayo is a tenet of Philippino psychology that conveys welcoming. For their own “In Memoriam,” the Philippino Psychiatrists in America, Dr Gaw was welcomed.
He passed away on February 1, 2023. He was one of the earliest and most prominent Asian American psychiatrists. That was clearly confirmed in a new exhibition at the APA library that explores the history and impact of Asian American psychiatrists. Dr Gaw is one of those featured. He was a former Assembly Speaker.
Dr Gaw also played a key role for the Philippine Psychiatrists in America, where he was past president from 1984-1985. His special interests and expertise were on cross-cultural psychiatry and spirituality. Reflecting those interests, Culture, Ethnicity, and Mental Illness was published in 1993 and the The Eyes of the Heart in 2007.
Another of his special accomplishments was as cochair of the APA’s Caucus of VA Psychiatrists. From that, he testified in 2000 about the inadequate funding of medical services in the VA and, worst of all, inadequate funding for research for psychiatric disorders. He also testified about alcohol abuse and the need for appropriate services.
In our era of diversity, equity, and inclusion, these 3 prominent psychiatrists represent all the best of cultural diversity. They were African American, Jewish American, and Filipino American, respectively. Beyond that, they made unique contributions to a variety of psychiatric needs: Alzheimer disease, expert guidelines, and adequate mental health care funding for our veterans, among them. May their lives and deaths pave the way for more such multicultural contributions.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.