McLean Hospital Pays Tribute to Former Chief Shervert Frazier

March 6, 2015

Shervert H. Frazier, Jr., MD, psychiatrist in chief for McLean Hospital from 1972 to 1989 and a luminary and a force for change in the field of psychiatry, passed away on Tuesday. He was 93.

“Dr. Frazier’s impact at McLean and across the country in psychiatry was unsurpassed during the span of his career, that included leading McLean as well as the National Institute of Mental Health,” said Scott L. Rauch, MD, president and psychiatrist in chief. “Nothing was more important to him than the patients and families to whom he provided compassionate care, and the countless colleagues to whom he offered warm and wise mentorship. His presence here will be greatly missed.”

Shervert Frazier, MD, left, speaks with former First Lady Rosalyn Carter
Shervert Frazier, MD, left, speaks with former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, circa 1978, when she visited McLean to celebrate the opening of the Mailman Research Center.

“Dr. Frazier was a distinguished psychiatrist and visionary leader who made innumerable contributions to quality mental health care. As part of his commitment, he recognized that improvement could only come with new knowledge and he acted as a vigorous and effective proponent of research,” said Bruce Cohen, MD, PhD, McLean president and psychiatrist in chief emeritus.

Under Frazier’s leadership, McLean experienced a larger expansion of research programs and facilities than at any previous point in hospital history. He also played a central role in the evolution of the hospital’s extensive clinical and training programs. During his tenure, McLean developed new clinical services and special services for children and the elderly.

Known for his commanding presence, big heart and deep empathy for patients and families, Frazier was revered throughout the field.

“Dr. Frazier had a remarkable sense of humor and treated everyone with dignity and respect,” said Philip Levendusky, PhD, director of Psychology for McLean Hospital, whom Dr. Frazier hired in 1974. “He was a remarkable and kind-hearted person. He was also a fantastic clinician, a generative mentor and an outstanding leader who had an enormously positive impact on McLean Hospital.”

Frazier’s influence was not limited to McLean. During his tenure as director of the National Institute of Mental Health in the mid-1980s, he advocated for expanded research on underserved psychiatric illnesses, specifically schizophrenia. His leadership resulted in the national plan for schizophrenia research, the first significant concentration of public research funds dedicated to better understanding this illness.

Credited with having a hand in the development of organized medicine and psychiatry on a local, national and international level, Frazier held leadership positions in the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Board of Family Practice, the American College of Psychiatrists and the World Psychiatric Association. Under his direction, the American Psychiatric Press was founded.

Frazier joined the McLean community in 1972, when he was recruited to become psychiatrist in chief of McLean Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He served as the first head of the McLean Hospital Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“The impact of Sherv’s arrival at McLean was profound and during his tenure McLean experienced tremendous expansion in all areas,” said Francis de Marneffe, MD, who served as McLean’s General Director from 1962 to 1987. “Sherv and I were very proud of what our leadership partnership was able to accomplish for McLean and its vitality.”

Frazier left McLean briefly between 1984 and 1986 to serve as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, but resumed the duties of psychiatrist in chief upon his return to the hospital in 1987. He continued in this role for two more years before stepping down. Frazier remained on the hospital’s staff and continued to be a mentor to many young psychiatrists until 2008, when he was appointed an honorary member of the professional staff.

Dr. Frazier’s family has requested that memorial gifts be directed to the Shervert H. Frazier Research Institute at McLean. Checks should be made payable to McLean Hospital and sent c/o Development Office, Mail Stop 126, Belmont, MA 02478. Gifts may also be made online by visiting our Online Giving Form.

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