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Pioneer In Modern Psychiatry Dies At Age 99

   Portland, Ore.

George Saslow, M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry, Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine and one of the founders of modern psychiatry, died Sept. 16, 2006, in Portland, Ore. He was 99.

Saslow was born Dec. 5, 1906, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the eldest of four sons in a secular Ukrainian immigrant family. His passion for teaching began early in life. When he was at Boys' High School, a teacher who noticed his patched clothing offered him work tutoring other students in math. At age 15, while tutoring his very first student, he experienced the exhilaration and gratification of being able to "teach somebody something." Teaching remained his lifelong calling.

With the encouragement of his high school senior English teacher and the help of a wealthy New York philanthropist, Saslow embarked on an extensive, educational path leading to his Bachelor's, doctorate and medic degrees over 14 years.  In 1928 he married Julia Amy Ipcar after dropping out of medical school (he was later allowed to finish) in defiance of a rule prohibiting students from marrying.

Saslow's professional career spanned 76 years. He began as a biology instructor (Washington Square College, NYU) then did research in pharmacology, physiology and public health. In 1943 he became a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo.

Following a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School, he became the first chairman of the Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health & Science University) Department of Psychiatry. In 1974 he became chief of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences Education at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in Sepulveda, Calif., as well as professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, Neuropsychiatric Institute. Returning to Oregon in 1979, he continued to teach, practice and serve as professor of psychiatry (emeritus) at OHSU and was a member of the state's innovative Psychiatric Security Review Board for the criminally insane.

During the 1940s, Saslow served as psychiatric consultant for the staff of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, N.M. During the 1960s, he was chairman of the Behavioral Science Panel of the President's Office of Science & Technology as well as chairman of the subcommittee on medical, ethical, psychological and economic implications of cardiac replacement for the National Heart Institute. He traveled to the USSR and Eastern Europe to observe mental health practices. In the 1970s, he was a member of the task force on nomenclature and statistics for the American Psychiatric Association's third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM III).

Saslow mentored generations of health care professionals from many disciplines. In the words of a former student, he practiced a "maverick psychiatry" that was rooted in careful observation and interpersonal communication, which later became one of the foundations of modern psychiatric practice. He was a pioneer in providing inpatient milieu therapy (including families, aides and custodians as significant contributors to the mental health of the community), use of group therapy with students and colleagues as well as with clients, and started one of the nation's first mental health inpatient crisis units. He maintained an open-door policy and was available to clients, students and colleagues continuously and had numerous pro bono patients. He was active in many professional organizations and wrote or contributed to more than 120 research publications.

In his later years, Saslow maintained his voracious interest in current events, history, the arts, science and human behavior. His constant and enthusiastic love of reading inspired the formation of a book group in his last years. The group was to have met on the day he died to discuss his last selection, "Collapse," by Jared Diamond.

Saslow eschewed fame and wealth, living a quiet if not humble life. He was a generous supporter of education, science, the arts and an enormous range of progressive and environmental causes.

His spouse, Julia Saslow, Ph.D., died in 2001. He is survived by their children: Michael G. Saslow (Carol A.), Rondi Saslow (Charley Ware), Steven Saslow (Annie Cannon) and Marguerite Saslow; granddaughters: Sarah S. Brown & Robin S. Brown; sisters-in-law: Melvene Ipcar Dyer-Bennet and Dahlov Zorach Ipcar, nieces and nephews.

A memorial gathering will be held Saturday, Nov. 18, 2006, at 3 p.m. in the OHSU Auditorium (Old Library) at the Oregon Health & Science University Marquam Hill Campus in Portland, Ore. For further information and directions, please see the following links: for directions for the OHSU campus map (the Old Library is Building No. 1 on the map).

Remembrances to: The George Saslow endowment Fund (Account No. 16888), OHSU Foundation, 1121 S.W. Salmon St., Suite 200, Portland, OR 97205


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