A ‘Giant in Our Field’

A ‘Giant in Our Field’

‘He worked until he was 90 years old and, honestly, we think he loved every day of it.’

Sadly, James Strain, MD—described by the Academy’s president as a “giant in our field”—died at the beginning of August.


James Strain, MD
James Strain, MD

Jim, Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, and an international lecturer and well-published author (more than 500 publications and more than 750 national and international lectures), was a member of the Academy for more than 40 years. Among his lifetime achievements was to develop software for C-L Psychiatry used in Mexico, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, and Australia.

Dr. Strain began his career at Mount Sinai in 1979 and held positions as attending psychiatrist, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, and Director of the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Consultation Psychiatry.

He was considered an authority on the psychological care of the medically ill, and participated in studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Strain earned the Third Earl of Litchfield Award from Oxford University, UK, and was awarded ACLP’s Eleanor and Thomas P. Hackett Memorial Award in 2002.

At the age of 73, he published a book on psychosomatic medicine considered then as the vanguard of this new field.

ACLP president Maryland Pao, MD, FACLP, says: “We have lost a giant in our field. Jim was a fierce advocate for C-L Psychiatry, always trying to show our value over decades. He was also one of the strongest supporters of our collaborations with international colleagues.”  

Mary Ann Cohen, MD, FACLP, says: “Jim was always ahead of his time. I will miss him. In the early 1970s, when most of us had never even heard of computers, Jim designed a computerized program that could bring C-L Psychiatric consultations to underserved areas throughout the world.

“As one of the early leaders in the C-L field, Jim gathered other giants in the field, including Jimmie Holland, Frank Baudry, Sigurd Ackerman, and Myron Hofer and created a two-year C-L Fellowship Program at Montefiore Hospital, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, that trained seven Fellows every two years.

“Jim never stopped working and teaching and being a role model for his trainees. Since I was one of them and had a car, he asked me to help him during one snowy winter. Jim lived at the top of a steep hill. After he sustained a hip fracture while skiing, he insisted on going to work. However, he was unable get to his car or to drive with his unwieldy hip-to-heel cast. He asked me to pick him up each morning to take him to work. His young sons put him on a sled, carefully brought him on the sled down to my car, and got him into the back seat for the short drive to Montefiore.”

Dr. Cohen concludes: “Jim’s interests in bringing C-L Psychiatry to underserved areas and marginalized populations set the tone for his medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty and will benefit all of us, our patients, and our trainees.”

Joel Wallack, MD, DLFAPA, FACP, FACLP, chief emeritus, Division of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Professor of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says: “I spent many years with Jim, as his C-L fellow at Montefiore and when he assumed the position as director of C-L at Mount Sinai, he asked me to join him as the senior fellow in C-L at Mount Sinai for a second year.

“Jim was an extraordinary teacher and role model. His patient interviews were like no one else’s. His unique ability to uncover the dynamics of a patient’s illness behavior were remarkable. His interests and knowledge base were unlimited.

“Jim developed new methods of training non-psychiatrists in being able to recognize and manage the psychiatric aspects of illness. His teaching conferences held on medical and surgical units, ‘Ombudsman Rounds,’ became a model copied widely. He was a senior training analyst at NY Psychoanalytic Institute. His indefatigable energy and brilliant mind led him to research, publish, and present globally on such diverse topics such as hypochondriasis, cost-effectiveness of C-L, ECT, computerization of C-L data, etc. He was awarded well-deserved Master Educator status at Mount Sinai

“Jim’s devotion to his trainees was unlimited. After several years working at Sinai with Jim, he helped me to land the position of chief of C-L at Beth Israel in NYC and we continued to collaborate and co-author several papers.

“I can best describe his energy and abiding support and loyalty by sharing an experience I had as a new attending at Sinai. I was presenting a paper to a surgical meeting in Philadelphia at 9am on a Saturday. As I approached the podium, the doors in the rear of the auditorium swung open and there was Jim. He had jumped a very early two-hour train to be there for me. After my presentation he gave me a congratulatory hug and then ran off explaining he had to rush to get back home for his son’s soccer game.

“Jim was a pioneer and leader  whose contributions and commitment were instrumental in creating this specialty of C-L Psychiatry. He was a great man and will be missed by so many.”

Dr. Strain’s family have donated $5 million to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to provide scholarships to students attending the school. His family says: “In the days before his death, he expressed how extremely satisfied he was with his life, his experiences, and really felt as though he accomplished everything he had set out to do. He was an amazing man who helped out so many, gave of himself tirelessly, and was of amazing energy. He worked until he was 90 years old and, honestly, we think loved every day of it. He had the gift to see the best in everyone and support them in their endeavors. He will be incredibly missed…”


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