McHugh trained at Harvard, at the University of London, and at Walter Reed before launching his academic career at Cornell. He became clinical director and residency director at New York Hospital Westchester Division, then chairman of psychiatry at University of Oregon. Then he, along with a coterie of young psychiatric pragmatists who had worked with him at Cornell and Oregon, moved on to Hopkins, where McHugh was chair for a quarter century.
“Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins is the man who rescued modern psychiatry from a coven of flaming nut cases with medical degrees who actually believed in such lunatic notions as 'recovered memory,' 'sexual reassignment,' 'multiple personality disorder,' 'physician-assisted suicide,' 'Vietnam-specific post traumatic stress syndrome' ...”
(Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff ; review of The Mind Has Mountains)
"You know, I have the best chair in American psychiatry…So if you've got this position, you're supposed to talk. Especially if you think the field is going awry, you're supposed to speak up. I don't want somebody 30 years from now to write about our history and say, 'Gosh, there were all these horrible things going on like lobotomies and sex-change operations and this guy McHugh, he had a most important job but he was silent, he was doing his own thing while patients were being hurt and the reputation of psychiatry was being destroyed. I would much rather have them say he took a number of positions about fads and fashions, and his batting average was such-and-such. That's what I'd like them to say—‘He was out there swinging.' That's why Johns Hopkins hired me, and that's what I've done. … I want to be engaged in an active, progressive discipline so we're all smarter a year from now than we are this year. Smarter. Fewer mistakes. Driving error out. That's what everybody in my department is trying to do."
Quotes from: Gary Dorsey, Master of the Mind Field. The Gazette 28 (13), 1998
- Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Stars
- Mental Ilness: Comprehensive Evaluation or Checklist? | Commentary by Paul McHugh and Phillip Slavney | NEJM | December 2012
- A Structure for Psychiatry at Century's Turn - The View from Johns Hopkins | by Paul McHugh | Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine \ 1992
- Faculty Profile | JH Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
- The Last Word? | Hopkins Medicine Magazine | Fall 2012
- Master of the Mind Field | Johns Hopkins Gazette | 1998