Amherst Magazine

Gary Roy Kirshbaum
Gary Roy Kirshbaum

Anne and I first met Gary when we entered Cheltenham High School in 1950. The initial connection was that Gary and I shared the same region of the alphabet and, therefore, the same homeroom. The lasting connection came from the fact that Cheltenham H.S. was fed by two junior high schools: Elkin's Park J.H.S. drew from a population that was predominately Jewish and Thomas Williams J.H.S. from a population that was predominately Christian. Gary and I, Anne, and others, soon organized an interfaith Club that brought us together in synagogues, churches, youth groups and one another's homes. And, of course, as we grew in understanding, we grew in friendship. Gary and I were roommates in Pratt and in the Phi Delt house, read Maimonides once a week with a rabbi in Northampton in 1954-55 and shared many chemistry and biology courses. Anne was a continuing part of our friendship and was the driving force in our interactions after Amherst. She cajoled Gary into returning for our 30th Reunion; it was his first return to Amherst. In each subsequent conversation and letter, he admitted how glad he was that she had talked him into the trip.

Gary majored in psychology at Amherst and studied medicine at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. He did his internship at Bryn Mawr Hospital and residency at the Philadelphia Psychiatric Center. Gary participated in ROTC at Amherst and the Berry Plan at Penn. In return for the guaranteed deferments, he served for two years in the Public Health Service at a federal prison in Oklahoma. He subsequently returned to Philadelphia and established a private practice; he was associated with the Fairmount Institute and was president of the medical staff there. Gary was a member of the staff at Hahnemann Univ. Hospital for the past 19 years, working in various capacities in teaching and patient care. Gary told me that teaching was becoming more and more important to him with each passing year. Since 1975, Gary was a member of the Division of Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine at Hahnemann, a group that provides psychiatric consultation and teaching for the entire hospital; he was Assistant Professor of Mental Health Sciences and Coordinator of Education for the Division. Gary's pupils included medical students, residents, family therapists, mental health technologists and psychologists. He was a psychiatric expert on patients with chronic renal failure and the problems associated with dialysis and renal transplants.

Gary was eager to try new ventures and brought a refreshing enthusiasm and boyish naivete to the experiences. As a child, he appeared as Gary K, a song and dance performer on the Horn and Hardart Children's Hour on radio and TV in Philadelphia. He startled me by buying skis and joining the ski team at Amherst. Gary visited us in 1982; he always rose early and we found him at 7:00 a.m. practicing hard to prepare for a return match of PACMAN with one of our children. He wrote recently to report on his new greenhouse and to say that he had been camping!

Gary's colleagues at Hahnemann spoke to me of his wonderful sense of humor, his ability to find original and creative solutions to the jobs that came his way and about his remarkable ability to be a gentle, sincere and loyal friend. They have established the Gary R. Kirshbaum Prize in Consultation Psychiatry in his honor and memory. The Prize will be awarded to the resident who best fulfills the requirements of liaison psychiatric medicine and personifies the skill, commitment, and concern that Gary Kirshbaum brought to his patients.

Gary never married, laughingly saying that he was waiting for Anne. He is survived by his sister, Carol Steinberg of Miami Beach. Gary was ill with gall bladder problems in Spring 1988 and was scheduled for surgery on July 11, but he died of heart failure at his home on July 9. He had been too sick to work on Friday, July 8. He was found in his home Saturday morning, fully dressed and probably on his way to Hahnemann to see the patients and students he missed on Friday.

 

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