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Remembrance: Kurt Glaser, M.D.

Author: Dina Sokal, M.D.
Publication Year: 2010
Edition Winter 2010
Type of resource: Newsletter

 

Dr. Kurt Glaser, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist, known for his sense of humor and love of children, died on 11-13-09 from pancreatic cancer at his home in the Fairhaven retirement community.

 
At his funeral service, one of his sons spoke about Kurt’s life passions – family, his love for children and his support for Israel. Despite the difficulties of his early life in Vienna (his father was away in the military and then was killed by the Nazis), before he was forced to leave for Switzerland in 1938, Kurt was able to devote his life to his passions. He began by completing his medical education in Switzerland at the University of Lausanne in l939. Then, he left for the United States when a family with his last name, but of no relation to him, sponsored him. After a treacherous journey, where his ship faced hurricane winds and huge waves, Kurt made it to Philadelphia, where the Glaser family graciously took him into its home. He was then able to pursue his love for children by completing a residency in pediatrics at the Jewish hospital in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942. He was chief resident in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee and then was an instructor in pediatrics at the University of Illinois from 1945 to 1950.
 
By this time, Kurt had met and married Susanne and they started their family, moving them to Israel for four years. He worked there as an assistant chief physician in pediatrics at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. On returning to the U.S., he settled in Baltimore and was appointed assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of Maryland, where he was also an instructor in psychiatry. He held a variety of positions during his career, including being clinical director of the Rosewood Center from 1961 to 1972, and then director of adolescent services at Springfield Hospital Center. In addition, he had a private practice in his home. His sons remember being sent upstairs while parents waited in his living room for their children. He used his sense of humor to establish rapport with the children and to help diagnose depression if the child was not responsive to his jokes. In fact, he was one of the first psychiatrists to recognize depression in children. He also recognized the value of a more cognitive approach to therapy, which is now a mainstay of treatment.   He published a book on learning disorders, as well as writing numerous articles for books and journals. 
 
When he retired from psychiatry, he devoted his time to his wife and to their four sons, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He and his wife traveled extensively in Switzerland and elsewhere before her death in 2002. One of his grandchildren wrote about Kurt’s love for them and about the fall ritual of raking leaves that he shared with her and her children. During his last month, he told one of his sons that one of his happiest moments was a Friday evening Sabbath dinner together with most of his children, grandchildren, and great-grand children. 
I knew Kurt as a close family friend, as my parents were involved with the Glasers in supporting Israel. He was the doctor at a Jewish summer camp promoting knowledge of Israel to teens. His daughter-in-law later became business manager for this camp. When I was a little girl, he knew how to help me feel comfortable in his home with his jokes and his warmth. I was lucky to later work with him when he was the director of adolescent services at the Muncie Center at Springfield. He was a man of compassion and commitment to others and he will be missed by all of his family, friends, colleagues and patients.

 

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