Psychiatric Annals

Profiles of Famous American Psychiatrists

Francis J Braceland, MD

Abstract

Jerome D. Frank, M. D.

Those who have finished by making ail others think with them have usually been those who began by daring to think with themselves.

-Colton

The name Jerry Frank is one to be reckoned with in present day psychiatry. It conjures up the picture of a talented, -quiet, capable physician, knowledgeable in many aspects of the discipline he follows and highly regarded by his colleagues.

In addition to being expert in the various aspects of psychiatry, Dr. Frank is an educator, a particularly welltrained psychologist and a distinguished worker in various mental health fields to say nothing about his being an idealist and a humanitarian. His educational background is impeccable, an AB from Harvard College, summa cum laude in 1930, a PhD in psychology in 1934 and an M D cum laude in 1 939 (all from the same famous educational institution).

He had early determined to become a physician, a desire fostered, he thinks, by some childhood illnesses which he later suspected might have been triggered by emotional factors. His interest in the functioning of the body grew and he determined to study psychosomatic medicine. However, like this present biographer, he was not enamoured of college, physics or chemistry, but fortunately found it possible to meet requirements by specializing in psychology and taking a minimum of the courses mentioned. At the time of his graduation, due to a variety of factors, though he was still sentimentally inclined toward it, he was just not ready for medical school.

Fortunately for him, his tutor, a Boston Brahmin, a cultured, wise man as well as a superb teacher acquainted him with the writings of the psychologist, Kurt Lewin. "Here was a man," he says "who dared to devise psychological experiments that had direct relevance to human motivation." This was something he had not observed in psychology courses at Harvard. Frank, the young graduate, fell under Lewin's spell and Lewin in turn had a close relationship with his student. Frank even went to Berlin to study under him.

Two of Lewin's teachings particularly influenced Frank's thinking and he wrote his PhD thesis under him in 1934. The first of Lewin's concepts to attract him was that "behavior is determined by the interaction of the person with his current environment." The second influential concept was that of "Action research, namely that the best way to study a phenomenon was to try to change it." One wonders whether traces of these ideas will not reappear in Frank's later life. It is a safe bet that they will.

After five years of work in psychology the old urge to be a physician reasserted itself and he entered medical school in 1 935 still with an avowed interest in psychosomatic problems. After graduation from medical school (cum laude) in 1939 and a year's medical internship he obtained a residency Jn psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1940 to 1943 under the tutelage of the legendary Adolf Meyer and John Whitehorn, who succeeded Dr. Meyer. This was a satisfactory period for him for both professors were broad gauged and took into account the patients' present difficulties.

There was an interlude of 21 /2years from 1943 to 1946 when he served in the A. U. S. In 1945 while he was in Leyte in the Phillipines word came to his outfit that "atomic bombs" had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was bothered by this and sensed the necessity of abandoning war at the price of human survival. However, it was not until 1957 that he was ready to begin a period…

Jerome D. Frank, M. D.

Those who have finished by making ail others think with them have usually been those who began by daring to think with themselves.

-Colton

The name Jerry Frank is one to be reckoned with in present day psychiatry. It conjures up the picture of a talented, -quiet, capable physician, knowledgeable in many aspects of the discipline he follows and highly regarded by his colleagues.

In addition to being expert in the various aspects of psychiatry, Dr. Frank is an educator, a particularly welltrained psychologist and a distinguished worker in various mental health fields to say nothing about his being an idealist and a humanitarian. His educational background is impeccable, an AB from Harvard College, summa cum laude in 1930, a PhD in psychology in 1934 and an M D cum laude in 1 939 (all from the same famous educational institution).

He had early determined to become a physician, a desire fostered, he thinks, by some childhood illnesses which he later suspected might have been triggered by emotional factors. His interest in the functioning of the body grew and he determined to study psychosomatic medicine. However, like this present biographer, he was not enamoured of college, physics or chemistry, but fortunately found it possible to meet requirements by specializing in psychology and taking a minimum of the courses mentioned. At the time of his graduation, due to a variety of factors, though he was still sentimentally inclined toward it, he was just not ready for medical school.

Fortunately for him, his tutor, a Boston Brahmin, a cultured, wise man as well as a superb teacher acquainted him with the writings of the psychologist, Kurt Lewin. "Here was a man," he says "who dared to devise psychological experiments that had direct relevance to human motivation." This was something he had not observed in psychology courses at Harvard. Frank, the young graduate, fell under Lewin's spell and Lewin in turn had a close relationship with his student. Frank even went to Berlin to study under him.

Jerome D. Frank, M. D.

Jerome D. Frank, M. D.

Two of Lewin's teachings particularly influenced Frank's thinking and he wrote his PhD thesis under him in 1934. The first of Lewin's concepts to attract him was that "behavior is determined by the interaction of the person with his current environment." The second influential concept was that of "Action research, namely that the best way to study a phenomenon was to try to change it." One wonders whether traces of these ideas will not reappear in Frank's later life. It is a safe bet that they will.

After five years of work in psychology the old urge to be a physician reasserted itself and he entered medical school in 1 935 still with an avowed interest in psychosomatic problems. After graduation from medical school (cum laude) in 1939 and a year's medical internship he obtained a residency Jn psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1940 to 1943 under the tutelage of the legendary Adolf Meyer and John Whitehorn, who succeeded Dr. Meyer. This was a satisfactory period for him for both professors were broad gauged and took into account the patients' present difficulties.

There was an interlude of 21 /2years from 1943 to 1946 when he served in the A. U. S. In 1945 while he was in Leyte in the Phillipines word came to his outfit that "atomic bombs" had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was bothered by this and sensed the necessity of abandoning war at the price of human survival. However, it was not until 1957 that he was ready to begin a period of activity which was to become one of the driving motifs of his life - the campaign to halt the use of nuclear weapons.

When he returned from military service he became principal assistant for a research project in group therapy for the Veterans Administration. This form of treatment he notes highlights the importance of a person 's current perceptions and behavior in determining his adjustments to life.

Psychoanalysis in graduate school left him unconvinced as to the validity of the theory underlying it, but he decided to try it again so he became a candidate at the Washington Baltimore Institute of Psychoanalysis then broadly influenced by Harry Stack Sullivan who defined psychiatry as the study of interpersonal relations. Suffice it to say the influence of Lewin, Meyer, Whitehorn and Sullivan strengthened his reserve about orthodox analytic theory as well as psychoanalysis as a form of therapy.

He notes in his preface to an Overview of Psychiatry that a character trait that underlies his various papers, but which is obscured by the variety of their contents, is a reluctance to become committed to any group, reflected at the intellectual level by distrust of group ideologies. This characteristic he says goes back to high school and since then as a member of quite a few professional and peace organizations he has often been found in the role of loyal opposition. He seeks no office and has stayed aloof from power struggles of professional societies.

I became better acquainted with his work in 1956 when I read a comment which he had made and which made an impression upon me. "In a democratic society we cannot permit anyone, no matter how insignificant and unimportant he or she may seem, to be unnecessarily frustrated or denied, to be stunted, warped, injured, humiliated, neglected or mistreated." I made a snippet of that observation and I have thought of it often, not only the humanism of it but also the universality of it.

Upon his return to Johns Hopkins he was made an Associate Professor of Psychiatry (1949) and in 1959 became a full Professor. In 1974 he became Emeritus Professor. From his background and early interests in academic psychiatry and his experience in research on group psychotherapy it is obvious that his research interest would be in psychotherapy, group and then individua!. His findings and those of his colleagues seemed comparable with the view that "features shared by all schools of psychotherapy in the US accounted for much of their effectiveness." This led to a search for similar features of healing ceremonies in other cultures in. which his interest was stimulated by fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

From this exposure to cultural anthropologists he learned that healing ceremonies throughout the world are based on a view of humans as integrated open systems interacting with their environment at both psychological and biological levels. Disease is evidence that the person has fallen out of harmony within himself and with his environment. Healing seeks to restore this harmony. "Prepared with this orientation and coupled with an observation during military service that delayed convalescence from a tropical disease (schistosomiasis) a relationship existed to noxious psychological forces in the hospital ward." Thus his interest in mind-body relationships was revived.

Along with these observations it becomes apparent that ethical and social concerns were manifest from Frank's early age. Social justice and comparable ideals early on stimulated him in the foundation of the Baltimore Ethical Society and he was a moving spirit in it for many years. He was the ideal example of Emerson's dictum that "Talent for talent's sake is a bauble and a show. Talent working with joy in the causes of universal truth lifts the possessor to new power as a benefactor."

Thus the good doctor was marked with the mark of a humanist and stamped with the stamp of one who cared about people; it was inevitable that his path would lead him to national organizations such as Sane, membership on the Board of the Council for a Livable World, The National Board of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Chairmanship of the Federation of American Scientists, the Advisory Board of US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, etc. Thus he was an early and constant opponent of the use of nuclear arms.

Dr. Frank was a member of several NlMH Advisory Boards for five terms. Frank served as a consultant to the Veterans Administration Central Office for four years and the office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress. He also spent a year as a Fellow in the Center for Advanced Study in The Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California from 1958 to 1959 and received a special research fellowship, NIMH-sponsored, from the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California.

In like manner colleagues abroad recognized him and he was afforded honor lectureships in too many countries to list here. The H. B. Williams traveling fellowship in 1971 took him to Australia and New Zealand.

It is probably fair to note at this point that Frank is not ecstatic about psychiatry's further dependence upon psychoactive drugs, not only for the patient's sake but also if it goes far enough he says the internal medicine men will take it over as they did the treatment of pellegra,

His writings are smooth and unadorned, he knows whereof he speaks. I would like to quote from his commencement address delivered to the graduating class at Johns Hopkins in 1975 entitled. The Faith That Heals, as I would like to quote from his Spuron English lecture Psychiatry, The Imaginary Invalid but space is at a premium and I dare not risk editorial ire.

What about Jerry Frank as a man? He is quiet, softspoken, gentle and learned. He has arrived at his beliefs by long and patient study. Though some of us may not agree with some of his beliefs we do agree with others.

No picture of him would be complete without mentioning his family. His wife, Elizabeth, is a mental health counselor and they have three daughters and a son. One daughter is a pediatrician, one a psychiatrist and one an assistant dean at a college. His son is a teacher of English in a New England prep school; certainly a family to be proud of as they must be proud of their father.

Jerry has no hobbies, but he does enjoy hiking, canoeing and sailing- his main pleasure is gotten by practicing teaching, and making known his thoughts about nuclear missiles.

It is a shame to have to truncate this review. Jerry has so much to offer and has accomplished so much that the biographer is tempted to go further than the thumbnail sketch offered here but circumstances to do so are not propitious. He is a virprobum and a colleague one is proud to have. He has extracted the essences of his readings, observations and hours of deep thought. The learned man devotes himself to many teachings and he must extract their essences as the bee does from the flowers without harm to either. Jerry Frank does that.

The author of this biographical sketch has leaned heavily upon Dr. Frank's writings, his CV, his report of an interview in the APA Monitor and some material from the preface of his latest bookthe author is grateful for this help.

10.3928/0048-5713-19830801-08

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