Herman S. Belmont, 93, child mental-health advocate

Herman S. Belmont
Herman S. Belmont
Posted: April 26, 2013

Herman S. Belmont, 93, a Philadelphia psychiatrist in the forefront of child mental-health advocacy, died Saturday, April 20, of heart failure at the Quadrangle in Haverford. Before moving to the Quadrangle in 2003, he lived with his family in Elkins Park.

During a 45-year career, Dr. Belmont worked on behalf of children here and across the country, his family said.

He developed ways of designing services and providing treatment to youngsters outside a hospital setting. From those efforts emerged some of Philadelphia's first community mental-health programs for children and youth.

Dr. Belmont was active in mental-health committees and working groups; trained medical students and child-psychiatry residents and graduate students; was involved in community mental-health programs; and treated patients in his private practice.

Along with Dr. Jules C. Abrams, he fostered a learning-disability institute within Hahnemann Medical College.

In the early 1960s, Abrams said, he went to Dr. Belmont with his Institute for Learning, a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and other disorders that can affect the young.

"He was very supportive to bringing the institute into Hahnemann," Abrams said.

The institute evolved into a full-day remedial school at Hahnemann for youngsters with learning and emotional problems, and was spun off as the Parkway Day School in 1964, Abrams said.

Dr. Belmont was instrumental in creating an integrated program for providing comprehensive psychiatric and mental-health services to pediatric patients.

He cofounded the Department of Mental Health Sciences at Hahnemann Medical College, now the Department of Psychiatry at the Drexel University College of Medicine.

Perhaps most important, his children said, Dr. Belmont mentored thousands of students and fellow practitioners.

He was "a modest, self-effacing individual, but very receptive to new ideas," Abrams said.

Dr. Belmont once said that the purpose of life was to love others, and he did that. His children said he would treat restaurant wait staff no differently than a university president.

He and two siblings were raised in Hunting Park in an apartment above their father's shoemaker shop. Dr. Belmont graduated first in his class from Northeast High School at 16 years old.

That allowed him to attend the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship. After his graduation in 1939 at age 19, he attended medical school at Penn.

His psychiatry studies were interrupted by World War II in which he served as a captain in the Army, both stateside and on a hospital ship in the Pacific.

After the war, he completed his training and became the first professor of child psychiatry and director of child psychiatry at Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital. He retired in the late 1980s.

In 1946, Dr. Belmont saw a photo of the former Lorraine Sobel at the home of a friend. They were introduced and wed that year. She died in 2007, and he never recovered from the loss, his family said.

The two enjoyed tennis, walking, visiting friends, and traveling among homes in Elkins Park, Jensen Beach, Fla., and Martha's Vineyard. He loved racing the sailboat Triumph, which he shared with friends.

Surviving are a son, Donald; daughters Eileen and Janet Conn; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Funeral services were Tuesday, April 23.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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