Paul J. Fink, 81, psychiatrist

Paul J. Fink
Paul J. Fink
Posted: June 17, 2014

Services are set for Monday, June 16, for Paul J. Fink, 81, a gifted psychiatrist, educator, national leader in his field, and physician who emphasized the need to help troubled young people, especially witnesses to violent crime.

Dr. Fink, of Merion and later Center City, died Wednesday, June 4, of complications from a stroke at Hahnemann University Hospital.

He had been chairman of psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University from 1976 to 1984, and later at Albert Einstein Medical Center and the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment

Dr. Fink began his teaching career at Hahnemann and continued it at various hospitals for 60 years, said his son David, also a Philadelphia psychiatrist.

Dr. Fink was professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Temple University's School of Medicine, where he trained in the 1950s.

Disturbed that some children were not being helped to develop into nonviolent adults, Dr. Fink created a "parental recipe" for emotionally healthy kids. He prodded parents to guide children with warmth and love, and to help the youngsters feel proud of their achievements.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Fink also developed a response team of mental-health professionals and community volunteers who would hurry to crime scenes to counsel children who had seen violence. The team referred the youngsters to agencies if needed.

He was appalled when a 7-year-old witnessed the murder of his two sisters in West Philadelphia but never got counseling. He warned that if children's emotional needs went unmet, they would end up in jail or the morgue.

Another interest of Dr. Fink's was those serving life terms behind bars. He spent time listening to the lifers at Graterford prison and came to respect them.

"They laugh, joke with, and appreciate one another, and are filled with a desire to do good in their community," he wrote in a psychiatry journal in 2009. "Some of them work with others in the prison population, teaching them to read, instructing them on behavior when they are released, and trying to build a different community of men at reentry."

He urged his colleagues to get to know these men and the details of their lives in order to earn their trust.

Dr. Fink served as president of the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Psychiatrists, and other professional groups.

He played a key role in Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia as the organization shifted its focus from nuclear weapons and nuclear power to preventing violence in families and communities. A number of programs begun during his period of influence on the board continue.

His son described Dr. Fink as "a charismatic figure - energetic, warm, inclusive - who took great joy in bringing people of all sorts together to work on shared projects or ideas."

In addition to his son David, Dr. Fink is survived by his wife, Phyllis; two other sons, Mark and Gary; and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Shirley Fink, died in 1985.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, June 16, at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22d St., Philadelphia. Burial was private.


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