February 2013

Hamid Ghodse

 Professor Hamid Ghodse, CBE, passed away on 27 December 2012 after a short illness. He will be hugely missed having made an immeasurable contribution to psychiatry worldwide and his ideas and influence will be long-lasting. He was a valued friend and mentor to many psychiatrists and others who shared his passion to make a difference. His work was a very large part of his life.

Hamid was born in Iran and first came to the UK for the Scouting Jubilee in 1957. He resolved to return and did so after qualifying as a doctor. He studied psychiatry at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and then at the Institute of Psychiatry, where the late Professor Griffith Edwards encouraged his interest in addiction psychiatry. He was appointed to a Consultant post at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London in 1978 and developed a clinical, training and research unit, which at its peak employed nearly 200 staff, including 3 Professors, 2 Readers, and 8 Senior Lecturers.

Hamid was appointed Professor of Psychiatry and International Drug Policy in 1987, and Director of the International Centre for Drug Policy at St. George's University of London. He held many other positions including the Presidency of the European Collaborating Centres for Addiction Studies, a Council member of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, an advisor to the UK Health Ombudsman and Vice President of the Medical Council on Alcoholism amongst others. In an impressive academic career in the field of substance abuse, he authored and edited over 350 scientific books and papers on drug-related issues and addiction. Some of his most important research was for the Department of Health and included monitoring substance abuse deaths, introducing smoking cessation programmes for NHS staff, enabling English Medical Schools to revise their curricula on substance misuse. His authoritative book, “Drugs and Behaviour-A Guide to Treatment” published by CUP is in its 4th edition. 

Hamid contributed, at the highest levels, to the activity of a number of national and international organisations, including the WPA which recognized him with the Honorary Fellowship, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists where he had been Director of the Board of International Affairs, a member of Council and received a lifetime achievement award.

The website of the UN International Narcotics Control Board says that Professor Ghodse had made an “unparalleled contribution to promoting international drug control and protecting the health of people all over the world over more than twenty years of membership of the INCB”. He had been its President no less than 6 times. He worked with the United Nations to monitor the implementation of the UN drug conventions and to develop international cooperation in the area of illicit drug control.

Hamid’s committee style was masterful, always being so much better prepared than anyone else, and having thought through the implications of different courses of action. He usually achieved what he thought was needed through a combination of diplomacy, tenacity, and wisdom. At times this would infuriate others who were less well prepared or who wished he would be less dogged in reaching his goals. At times he was a hard task master. But he was a kindly, loyal and humble man and his determination and hard work was in the interest of his patients and his subject.

He touched the lives of so many people. I am sure that WPA members and societies will join me in expressing deepest sympathy to Professor Ghodse’s wife, members of his family and his close colleagues and innumerable friends.

Professor Baroness Hollins

House of Lords


Peter Berner

Professor Peter Berner [15th November 1924 Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic) – 17th November 2012, Vienna], former Secretary General of the World Psychiatric Association died at the age of 88.

Peter Berner was Secretary General in a difficult period of the Association, namely between the World Congress in Hawaii in 1977 and the World Congress in Vienna in 1983. The 1977 Congress approved the Hawaii Declaration, an instrument to confront the abuse of psychiatry for political reasons. The issue involved the former Soviet Union raising a lot of attention and finally, immediately before the General Assembly of Vienna, the All Union Society of Psychiatry voluntarily withdrew from the World Psychiatric Association, the Cuban Society of Psychiatry followed the Soviet Society. In spite of the fact that the alleged abuse of psychiatry had political connotations in the period of the Cold War, Prof. Peter Berner was able to maintain the day to day running of the Association with great efficiency. Peter Berner as Secretary General and Pierre Pichot as President formed a tandem of great effectiveness.

Peter Berner was a psychiatrist of great stature becoming one of the leading psychiatrists in Europe. In 1971 he was appointed as Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the “Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie” (University Hospital of Psychiatry) in Vienna, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. He was able to reorganize the whole hospital, creating different units (psychiatry, neurology, children, depth psychology) in order to provide not only pharmacological treatments but also psychotherapy, occupational therapy and psychological interventions which at his time were not granted. Peter Berner was also a leading figure in research, especially in psychopathological research. His book on the paranoid syndrome, published in 1965, is a landmark on this topic. Perhaps more important is the effort to describe what he called the axis syndrome of affective schizophrenia and organic psychoses. Essentially this was an effort to clearly define the psychopathology of these disorders in order to develop operationalized diagnostic criteria. He clearly anticipated DSM and ICD-10 efforts but based on psychopathology and not only in clinical manifestations. His research in this field is worth to be recovered in order to clarify many of the limitations of present diagnostic approaches.

The General Assembly of the WPA in Vienna in 1983 was disappointing for many European psychiatrists who thought that the WPA was caught in a cold war scuffle and a group of French and German psychiatrists decided to found, in October 1983, the European Psychiatric Association. Peter Berner was one of its founding members.

Peter Berner received many honors in his life, he was appointed Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Honorary Member of the World Psychiatric Association, he received the “Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um die Befreiung Österreichs” and the appointment of officer to the French “Légion d’Honneur” in 1981.

Peter Berner was married to Claire who accompanied him in most of his travelling with the WPA and contributed in a very significant way as a host to make the World Congress of Psychiatry in Vienna in 1983 one of the most successful ones in the history of the WPA.

Juan J. López-Ibor

WPA Council Member


Antoine Besse

Antoine BESSE left us suddenly on Monday, 8th of October 2012, struck by a massive heart attack at the end of a French Federation of Psychiatry business meeting which he was participating in as the President of the Section on Therapeutics.

For more than 32 years he had been actively involved in one of the most important French Association Member of WPA: the French Association of Private Practice Psychiatrists. He was also an active member of the National Union of Private Psychiatrists closely linked to this Association. He rapidly became one of the pillars of both these organizations reflecting his deep commitment to the enhancement of ethics and creativity in mental health care delivery.

Elected President of these organizations after the death of the Founder President, he led the organizations with great efficiency during his term of three years and was then elected Honorary President to represent these bodies in various International organizations and particularly WPA where he was a keen advocate of humanistic approach of psychiatry giving all the necessary space to the person of the patient, his subjectivity, and to the singularity of the therapeutic relation, its inter-subjective dimension. Appointed a member of the WPA Nominations Committee during 2005-2008, Antoine was very active in the implementation of the electronic voting for the 2008 WPA General Assembly in Prague.

Actively involved in the attempt to unify French psychiatric representation in WPA, through the creation of the Association of the French Societies Members of WPA, he played also a crucial role in the Institutional Program of Person Centered Psychiatry and the organization of the Paris congress on this program in 2008. He was also one of the pillars of the extension of this movement into Person Centered Medicine through the annual Conferences on Person Centered Medicine held since 2008 in Geneva with the sponsorship of many important International Associations, and among them WHO, WMA, WONCA, etc.

In these tasks as in others he showed his hearty benevolence mixed with his rigorous dedication recognized by all. Psychoanalyst by training, he was also a student of Schneider in Lausanne. Thanks to the diversity of his training influences, he was always open to the various approaches in psychiatry and curious on every aspect in the field of psychiatry. With the same openness, he was deeply involved in the development of ALFAPSY (Federation of French speaking private psychiatrists he pushed to become a WPA affiliated association). Elected president of this international federation, he had just taken over the position from Paul Lacaze who founded it with his help nearly ten years ago. He had numerous projects for this association and was beginning to implement them with the quiet, friendly and active attitude that characterized him in everything.

For this and his many other talents, for his rare sense of friendship and loyalty, for his “panache” when needed, we miss him deeply. The best tribute we can pay to honor him is to carry on, in our practices as in our researches, the path he was tracing toward a creative psychiatry open to all dimensions involved in mental health, for what is after all our major stake: the constant attention to the patients and for him.

Michel Botbol
Co-Chair, WPA Section on Psychoanalysis in Psychiatry

Michel Marchand
President of AFPE-SNPP


 Fini Schulsinger

(7 January 1923 to 20 October 2012)

Fini Schulsinger is one of the Danish psychiatrists who has made Denmark most visible at the psychiatric world map - both thanks to his groundbreaking research and to his international commitment.

Fini Schulsinger graduated as a medical doctor in 1948, a graduation that was delayed due to his one and a half years in exile in Sweden during World War II. In 1957, he finished his psychiatric training, and in 1960 he was appointed - as the youngest consultant hitherto – as consultant at the Psychiatric Department at the Copenhagen Municipal Hospital. He remained in that position until 1988 and was a very dynamic and innovative head of the department that played a key role among generations of Danish psychiatrists.

From 1962 onwards he was the principal investigator for the Danish-American prospective cohort study of schizophrenia in close collaboration with Seymour Kety and later his adoption studies that became groundbreaking in the international exploration of the interaction between genetic, and environmental factors and the development of psychopathology; and his dissertation from 1977 on the topic received international recognition.

It was during this period that he carried out extensive research related to this interaction for the development of psychiatric disorders, e.g., schizophrenia and alcoholism frequently in close collaboration with Sarnoff A. Mednick and they were honoured with The Stanley R. Dean Research Award for research on schizophrenia. This research milieu is still active, not least thanks to the contribution of Josef Parnas, University of Copenhagen.

Fini Schulsinger created the Psychological Institute at the Psychiatric department at the Copenhagen Municipal Hospital - from 1991 Institute for Preventive Medicine - that established close research collaboration connection with several international institutions.

Fini Schulsinger was asked to be responsible for the development of a new psychiatric university department at Hvidovre Hospital in 1988 and he remained its head until his retirement in 1993. Here it was characteristic how zealously he tried to integrate psychiatry in the large somatic university hospital, Hvidovre Hospital. Fini Schulsinger was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Copenhagen from 1971-1993.

Fini Schulsinger had all through his career an international outlook and engagement. Following competitive elections he was at the World Congress of Psychiatry in Vienna in 1983 elected as Secretary General and during the period 1983-1989 he had a close partnership with the WPA President Costas Stefanis. It was during those years that the debate on political abuse of psychiatry reached its climax not least in relation to WPA membership of the former Soviet Union. Fini Schulsinger was a significant voice in the critique of any political abuse of psychiatry towards political dissidents, and he played a key role in the international debate.

As Secretary General he created a very well-functioning WPA secretariat at the Municipal Hospital, Copenhagen under the effective leadership of the WPA administrator Vibeke Munk. The WPA Secretariat played a decisive role in the further organizational development of WPA. And the many lively discussions around Fini Schulsinger’s large white table contributed to that Denmark had a central position in a global psychiatric context.

One of Fini Schulsinger’s many strengths was his ability to delegate responsibilities to younger colleagues. I recall with great gratitude how he gave some of us quite responsible tasks to perform in relation to the planning of the WPA Congress in Copenhagen in 1986.

He was a generous, warm, innovative, and untraditional leader. He gave us, his juniors, possibilities to grow and flourish, and he had an ability to create an environment around him characterized by the same outlook.

But Fini Schulsinger was not just involved in psychiatry. He was an ardent participant in the general public debate and contributed with numerous articles in daily papers, letters to the editors, etc. He was deeply involved in issues such as the rights of marginalized and excluded minorities and played an active role in Amnesty International. It was also characteristic that he was frequently interviewed in the public media as he was willing to respond to journalists and courageously give quite sharp points of view in a language easy to understand for non-psychiatrists.

In his last years he completely withdrew from public appearance and passed away at 89 years old.

Marianne C. Kastrup
WPA Standing Committee on Planning




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