Eulogies for Psychiatrists Who Inspired: July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014

September 23, 2014

To me, the following psychiatrists were spectacular in their life work: they often ended it in a blaze of glory-- like the fall leaves -- before they fell silent on the earth.

Some recent events reminded me that is is time to do another annual eulogy of psychiatrists who inspired me, but have died over the past year as primarily reported by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). 

The past event was the 13th anniversary of 9/11/01, with the reminders of all the poignant losses. 

An upcoming one is the Jewish High Holy Days, when it is taught that one is put into the "book of life" for next year-- or not.

Weather-wise, we are just technically starting autumn. In climates like mine in Milwaukee, leaves begin to die and fall off the trees. Sometimes they turn spectacular colors before they fall off. To me, the following psychiatrists were spectacular in their life work: they often ended it in a blaze of glory before they fell silent on the earth.

Paul Fink, MD

What more can I possibly add to the tributes of this intellectual maverick with passionate devotion to social justice? He was a colorful character in the most beautiful sense of that term. Often leading us to where we needed to go, he was President of the APA from 1988-1989 and the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) from 2005-2007. 

Dear to my own heart and experience was his involvement in prisons. He found ways for the "lifers" in prison to help break the cycle of delinquency in youth outside of prison. Like this example, he always emphasized prevention. 

It is always difficult to say anything critical about someone in a eulogy, but I'm confident, knowing him, that Paul would not have minded being reminded that he was late to agree with the need for informed consent for psychotherapy. Even our best can't be right all the time.

Robert Gibson, MD

Another President of the APA who died recently was Dr Gibson. That was from 1976-1977, right at the beginning of my career and my own involvement with the APA. He established Sheppard and Pratt Hospital uniquely as a fulcrum for a continuum of the services so often missing in the age of deinstitutionalization. He was the first to establish a community mental health center sponsored by a private psychiatric hospital.

One of the leadership tasks that successful leaders can have trouble with, due to narcissism, is successfully passing on the torch to their successor. Dr. Gibson did that so very well in mentoring his successor, Steven Sharfstein, MD.

Ernest Hartman, MD

This Dr Hartman was the illustrious brother of another illustrious psychiatrist, Lawrence Hartman, MD. As close to a first family in psychiatry as there is, both were sons of the psychoanalyst Heinz Hartmann, a favorite colleague of Freud. 

Ernest Hartman was a pioneer in the research of sleep and dreaming, culminating in his last book, The Nature and Functions of Dreams. Trained as a psychoanalyst, like his father, he extended the work of Freud on dreams by using modern technology to investigate what dreams and nightmares reveal about the mind. A humanist, he published his own poetry. Perhaps poetry, in its condensation of meaning, paralleled the meaning that could be found in dreams.

Robert T.M. Phillips, MD

Dr. Phillips was an alumni of my medical school, Yale. He became a national leader in forensic psychiatry, eventually becoming a President of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. He also was deeply concerned about minority mental health and served as a Director of the Office of Minority and National Affairs of the APA.

Jim Shore, MD

Over his career, Jim assumed one leadership position after another at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, culminating in serving as chancellor. You don't do that, especially coming from a stigmatized specialty like psychiatry, without being a thoughtful and insightful leader. Some called him "Gentleman Jim."

Dear to my heart, Dr Shore's special interest in psychiatry was to improve mental health services for Native Americans.

You may not have recognized him in the 10 seconds he was on, but Dr Shore played one of the psychiatrists evaluating the character played by Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a film that we presented at this year's APA meeting and the subject of a recent blog for Psychiatric Times.

J.K. Trivedi, MD

Any international group of psychiatric leaders in recent years had to include Professor J.K. Trivedi, a Past President of the Indian Psychiatric Society. His last leadership position was President-Elect of the Indian Association for Social Psychiatry, so we both shared a strong desire to highlight the social part of our bio-psycho-social model of understanding people.

Of course, these choices are completely subjective, subject to who dies and dependent on my own career. For example, no women were highlighted in this group. Its completion and appropriate honoring of all inspirational psychiatrists depends on our readers' adding to the list or to what I said in your comments.

Please do so? Thanks.