Psychiatric Eulogies for Psychiatrists Who Inspired


R.I.P. Rest Inspiring Psychiatrists. I am grateful for having known you.

It must be my age. . . or retirement. . . or my Rabbi son attending so many funerals. Because I paid especially close attention to the “In Memoriam” list in the August 3, 2012 issue of Psychiatric News-the APA’s official news publication.

The subtitle was “APA honors the following members whose deaths were reported April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012.” I wondered what was meant by “honors,” given that only the names of the deceased were listed. Though hard copy space is increasingly hard to come by these days, it still seems fitting to include something brief and positive about the career of the deceased. You know. . .  a short tribute to their labors and lasting contributions . . . a miniature psychiatric eulogy.

As I read the names, I realized I knew-in one way or another-quite a few of those listed. Maybe you do, too? In the brief comments that follow, in alphabetical order, here is how I would honor their lives as psychiatrists. If you’d like to add your comments to mine, you are welcome to do so in the comment box below. 

Doris A. Berlin, MD (aka Dr Doris Berlin-Acker)
When I began my medical career 40 years ago, psychiatry, particularly the psychoanalytic field, was about the only medical specialty in which women were prominent. Dr Berlin was one of those early women psychiatrist pioneers, especially in my beloved area of community psychiatry.

Paul E. Chodoff, MD
Dr Chodoff was an unseen mentor to me of sorts. His important work on the psychological effects of the Holocaust, psychiatric ethics, and the need to support psychiatrist political dissenters, were early areas of concern for me. I learned much from his writings.

Alfred M. Freedman, MD
Dr Freedman became President of the APA during my psychiatric residency years and led the landmark movement to declare that homosexuality was not a mental illness. He was also a strong proponent of community and social psychiatry; he created a program for addicts in East Harlem in 1959, where such programs did not exist. His broader expertise was apparent as co-editor for the long time standard and monumental text, Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry.

Jack E. Geist, MD
Not nearly as well known nationally as Drs Berlin, Chodoff, and Freedman, Dr Geist was nevertheless a giant in the private practice of psychiatry in Milwaukee for 50 years. He was winding down when I moved to that city, but I thought that if most psychiatrists in the area were as gentle, warm, and kind as he, that I would love being here.

Leston L. Havens, MD
Most psychiatrists know of the unique and influential ideas that Dr Havens presented on the psychotherapeutic process, including with psychotic patients. On death itself, he once wrote:
 “Death is like great beauty, fame, or money in the self-consciousness it pulls from the observer.”

Stuart Keill, MD
Although he was well-known for his administrative expertise, making a major contribution to the landmark "Textbook of Administrative Psychiatry," what I remember most fondly were his presentations on "Madness in Opera" at the annual APA meetings in the 1980s. He even had at least 2 records on the subject. He died on Sunday, March 25, 2012, so might have just missed the APA deadline for last year. On that day, my wife and I saw Aida at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In retrospect, I'll dedicate that performance to Stu.

Ari Kiev, MD
It is hard to believe that one psychiatrist could make all the contributions to the field that Dr Kiev did. He was a master at investigating and understanding all varieties of culture-from ethnic groups to athletes to Wall Street traders. His book Magic, Faith and Healing was a well-worn and underlined guidepost for me in my early fascination with cross-cultural psychiatry. His thirst for knowledge even led him to earn a law degree in 1988-a path I too briefly considered, but dropped.

Sheldon Miller, MD
Dr Miller was the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Northwestern for many years, after being a leader in the establishment of the subspecialty of addiction psychiatry.

Melvin Sabshin, MD
Anyone even remotely knowledgeable about the APA as an organization is, of course, familiar with Dr Sabshin, the long-term Medical Director, who successfully led the expansion of American psychiatry.

Herbert S. Sacks, MD
Another former President of the APA, Dr Sacks turned out to be a (usually) friendly debater with me on the merits (my view) and demerits (his view) of managed care. Although I don’t have any idea if this accounts for the differences in our opinions, he was the son of a Rabbi, and I am the father of a Rabbi.

Herbert Spiegel, MD
The prominent father of the prominent psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, Spiegel senior was an early advocate for the scientific use of hypnosis.

Thomas T. Tourlentes, MD
Dr Tourlentes became a leader in community psychiatry not only nationally, but in his local community of Galesburg, Illinois. Reflecting his national and local interests, he was a President of the American Association of Psychiatrist Administrators, as well as of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony. He must have been exactly what President Kennedy had in mind to lead the development of community mental health.

In passing, I noticed the ages of the psychiatrists I knew. Half were in their 90s and the average age in the upper 80s. Is this just by chance or is there something about being a psychiatrist that
helps us to live longer? I hope it’s the latter.

R.I.P. Rest Inspiring Psychiatrists. I am grateful for having known you.

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