About Dr. A

November 6th, 2012

For many people it’s been their teachers who had the greatest influence on them. It was no exception with me. I was born in Philadelphia, and was deeply affected by my teachers in the public schools: Bryant School, Sayre Junior High, and the esteemed Central High.

My professional education began at Muhlenberg College, a small Lutheran school in eastern Pennsylvania, which opened up in earnest the natural sciences to me.

From Muhlenberg I went to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, did research in physiological chemistry in the department of Albert Lehninger (again, one of the great teachers), earned my medical degree, and specialized in pediatrics as an intern in the Harriet Lane program.

I then served two years in the US Public Health Service as the medical officer of the National Medical Audiovisual Center at the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta.

From there I worked as a pediatrician at the University of Arizona, at the El Rio Santa Cruz Neighborhood Health Center.

Since then, for most of my professional life, I’ve written stuff half time, and practiced psychiatry the other half of the time. The result is that I am half-accomplished in each field. I’ve written in every genre but opera. The little notice the work has gotten (a local Emmy, two Peabodies, a few trade association awards) have been in large part because of the genius of others. The list is long. Appalled by the spread and growing risk from nuclear weapons, I and a small group of physicians began to speak out. In about 1978 I was drafted to help start a physicians’ antinuclear group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, which led to my co-authoring the constitution for a growing international confederation of physicians working to abolish nuclear weapons, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

This was clearly an example of mixing with a fast crowd. IPPNW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. In my international work, I did get to travel widely, argue and deliberate with my medical colleagues in the Hague, address the Parliaments in Australia and New Zealand, and sit with Prime Minister David Lange through a performance of Maori ceremonial dances. Being met at the airport by hundreds of painted men singing with spears gets your attention. I also got to go to Oslo, attend the Nobel ceremony, and walk on the steps that Martin Luther King walked down. (King had bigger feet than any of us. So did Mother Theresa. If she wasn’t worthy, the rest of us should have just jumped from the Vigeland Park bridge.)

My work in psychiatry was spread out as a faculty member in five medical schools over the years. I trained at the Harvard psychiatric program of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where I taught on and off for the last 33 years as a faculty member at the Harvard Medical School and Department of Psychiatry.

I developed an interest in drug abuse, did bench work, characterized a rare disorder caused by LSD, and wrote papers and text chapters, mostly in that field. For twelve years I served as the Director of Psychiatric Research at the St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston. For three years I served as a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, and directed the substance abuse program at the Tufts New England Medical Center. For another three I directed the Alcohol and Drug Treatment programs at the Butler Hospital, the principal psychiatric teaching program of the Brown University School of Medicine.

I believe the reason I was able to do all this was that my commitment to work has been nurtured by Carol, my partner of 39 years, and tempered by always having kids in our home. Peter, our oldest, is an international businessman based in Hong Kong. Jonathan is a med student in Boston, and Rosie is an artist, nanny, and aspiring nursing student.

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