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Psychiatry Newsletter - The Power of Perspective

Hopkins BrainWise Fall 2009

The Power of Perspective

By: Marjorie Centofanti
Date: November 2, 2009

leon eisenberg
Eisenberg was fond of asking at facutly<br/>gatherings, “Have you used your tenure to<br/>go up against the system?”

The Power of Perspective

Leon Eisenberg was often a voice crying in the wilderness. As a child psychiatrist at Hopkins in the 1950s and 1960s, his insistence on scientific rigor made him stand tall against that era’s almost religious belief in Freudian psychoanalysis. Yet he equally bucked one-size-fits-all trends in biology-based therapy for the children he saw.

            When he came to Hopkins in 1952, Eisenberg worked with Leo Kanner, dubbed “the father of autism” for defining the disease. Under Kanner, he completed the first long-term study of children with autism, work that’s helped a generation of clinicians predict its severity.

Eisenberg’s exacting study of fathers of autistic children was ammunition for later genetic studies of the disease, though at the time it only diluted the popular “refrigerator mother” idea of autism’s cause.

Ahead of his time in evidence-based care, he carried out the first randomized, controlled trials in child psychiatry. His studies of Ritalin, for example, brought a sea change in treatment for ADD, even though he was later deeply unsettled by its widespread prescribing.

Eisenberg did seminal work on school phobia. And when Kanner retired, Eisenberg became chief of Child Psychiatry, holding the post almost a decade. The witty, kindly man died this fall.

Articles in this Issue

Psychiatry in the Real World

Schizophrenia Update

The Bench. The Bedside.