Jerome D. Frank, 95, psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins

March 15, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. Jerome D. Frank, a retired John Hopkins professor of psychiatry who was widely known as an early and outspoken critic of nuclear weapons, died yesterday of complications from dementia at Roland Park Place, his home for the past nine years. He was 95.

A New York City native educated at Harvard University and its medical school, Dr. Frank came to the Hopkins in 1940 as a junior assistant resident to study under Dr. Adolf Meyer, founder of its department of psychiatry.

After several years, he became an Army psychiatrist and served with Hopkins physicians in the Pacific -- an experience that gave him insight into the psychological effects of war on the health and well-being of soldiers. While stationed in the Philippines, he received early news of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima.

By the 1950s, Dr. Frank was speaking out on nuclear arms. In 1959, he told a Baltimore audience that in their attitudes toward the nuclear arms race, the world's big nations were like alcoholics who say, "I know the stuff is killing me, but I can't stop."

"He was probably the first physician to take such a stand, to oppose the idea of a nuclear war in such a public way," Rear Adm. Gene LaRoque said in a 1985 Sun profile of Dr. Frank, who was being honored for years of anti-nuclear activity by the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"One of them [a nuclear device] is going to go off," Dr. Frank told The Sun. "And whether that will trigger a holocaust or bring people to their senses, I don't know. It could do either one."

In his field, Dr. Frank was author of the 1961 book Persuasion and Healing, a Comparative Study of Psychotherapy, a work now in its third edition and translated into many languages.

"His book revolutionized the way we thought about psychotherapy," said Dr. Glenn Treisman, a Hopkins associate professor of psychiatry and medicine who considered Dr. Frank among the "greatest psychiatrists of the 20th century."

Dr. Frank examined the dozens of competing approaches to psychotherapy to find common ground among them and "to see how they worked," Dr. Treisman said of the book, which he said was "a luminary -- it challenged all of us who read it."

Dr. Frank was named professor of psychiatry at the Hopkins School of Medicine in 1959 and professor emeritus in 1974.

"He made the teaching of psychotherapy much more coherent -- and much less doctrinaire," said Dr. Paul McHugh, psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1975 to 2001. "He opened the idea for psychotherapists that each patient is unique in the causes of his problems, even though they might be similar in the expression of it."

Dr. Frank was also active in the civil rights movement. In the early 1970s, he worked to improve race relations at Hopkins' East Baltimore complex. He moderated a 1971 panel, "Racism of the Unprejudiced."

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, the former Elizabeth Kleeman, a mental health counselor; a son, David W. Frank of Boston; three daughters, Dr. Deborah A. Frank of Boston, professor of pediatrics at Boston University, Dr. Julia B. Frank of Silver Spring, associate professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, and Emily F. Frank of Baltimore, associate dean for student affairs at Peabody Conservatory; and six grandchildren.

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