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UM School of Medicine Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Former Psychiatry Chair, John A. Talbott, MD

December 08, 2023

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the news of the passing of internationally renowned psychiatrist John A. Talbott, MD, former Chair of Psychiatry and Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM).

Obituary in The New York Times

Dr. Talbott was memorialized in The New York Times as a "champion of care for the mentally ill." He raised awareness of the dire condition of those with mental illness who were left homeless after mass closures of state mental hospitals during the 1970s. During his presidency of the American Psychiatric Association, the organization released its first major study in 1984 of those experiencing mental illness and homelessness. The report estimated that 50 percent of homeless people had chronic mental illness.

Read the full obituary here.

Hailed as a leader's leader, Dr. Talbott served as the beloved chairman of the UMSOM Department of Psychiatry for 15 years. His focus on chronic mental illness not only positioned the school as a leading institution in the specialty, but revolutionized healthcare for populations with the most persistent and severe mental illnesses.

Dr. Talbott joined UMSOM in 1985 after serving as an attending psychiatrist at New York Hospital and as President of the American Psychiatric Association. Prior to that, he served as a Captain of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, where he received a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. Through his military service, he became heavily involved in advancing veterans’ mental health and the treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms.

He graduated with a BA degree from Harvard College (1957), an MD degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (1961), and completed his residency training at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital/New York State Psychiatric Institute (1965) and the Columbia University Psychoanalytic Center (1971).

John A. Talbott, MDThroughout Dr. Talbott’s tenure, he was highly regarded for his thought leadership authoring 20 books and 200 publications while also leading national psychiatry organizations. His prestigious appointments include Editor-Emeritus of Psychiatric Services, former President of the American Association of Chairmen of Departments of Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association and former Vice President of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

He is remembered as an tireless advocate for change in mental health services, public policy and often regarded as early champion, decades ago, for the deinstitutionalization of “asylums”. 

Dr. Talbott continues to have a permanent foundational impact on medical education at UMSOM through the HELPERS-Pro Professionalism Project. As a founding director of the program, he was committed to promoting ideals of professionalism and compassion in faculty and house staff throughout the medical school experience.

Outside of his career in medicine, he enjoyed French cuisine and became a published food critic. His reviews were featured in Chowhound, eGullet and his own blog “John Talbott’s Paris, which showcased lunchtime meals and young chefs on the rise. Dr. Talbott is survived by his wife Susan Talbott, a psychiatric and public health nurse, two daughters, sister and six grandchildren.

Both the Capital Gazette and the Baltimore Sun featured obituaries honoring his legacy.


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