Introduction to 100 Years of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins

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The Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital opened its doors in April of 1913. The Johns Hopkins University, the first American “research” university, and its School of Medicine had already established the tripartite mission of patient care, teaching, and research. Johns Hopkins was widely acknowledged as the leader in medical education and improving patient care. Specific improvements were driven by research, and patient care and education were embedded in a culture of research. It was this context into which this psychiatry department was opened, creating a level of interest that might be hard to imagine today. A thousand guests from around the world came for the 3-day celebration of its opening. Both Kraepelin and Osler were invited to speak and accepted the invitation. Scheduling conflicts meant only one could actually attend. It was Sir William Osler, then the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, who had called for the opening of a Department of Psychiatry in 1905 when he left Johns Hopkins. It was one of his benefactors, Henry Phipps, who provided the funds to build and open this department and established an endowed professorship for its director, Adolf Meyer.
The level of interest in the opening of the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in 1913, with an audience arriving in Baltimore by ship and rail, would be hard to imagine today at the opening of any new academic department. Why such a turnout and interest? Suffice it to say that it was a more generally optimistic time for psychiatry, encouraged by the early community of psychologists, general physicians, surgeons, deans, and trustees. So it was a different time and a happy time for Hopkins that we are happy to celebrate.
This series of articles is intended to look at where the early leaders of Hopkins' psychiatry were trying to go and whether there are lessons for us today in their ideas and practices. The articles cover Adolf Meyer's path to becoming the head of Hopkins' psychiatry and the department he built. There is a focus on the behavioral sciences and how they progressed at Hopkins, covering the relationship between Meyer and Curt Richter and the revival of behavioral sciences under Joe Brady. Jerome Frank's contribution to understanding the essential aspects of psychotherapy and the role they play in current practice. Finally, an article providing a view for how these ideas that defined the practice of psychiatry and behavioral sciences are relevant to today's world and the place of psychiatry in medical practice. Adolf Meyer's lecture 25 years after the inauguration of the Phipps Clinic opened with his reflection that “it is hard to ever make a history about history… as we are always seeing today's goals for ourselves and the field in most attempts at history.” However, we feel that these retrospectives provide important insights into where the field may go in the future. Let the reader find some historic old ideas and some very familiar dilemmas side by side in this series and see what it might say, for better and worse, about where we are today.
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