Monday, September 04, 2006

Mourning the loss of Dr. Wayne Fenton

We mourn the crushing loss of Dr. Wayne Fenton. Dr. Fenton was truly one of the good ones – a rare breed of psychiatrists who devote their careers to the most severely mentally ill. Motivated not by political correctness, but by a mission to understand and treat the most devastating symptoms of schizophrenia.

His research was pure – probably in part because he served some of the most difficult patients in his private practice and therefore witnessed the terrible toll of psychosis on patients and their families. He was more concerned about helping the most severely ill than worrying about where his next research dollar was coming from.

The director of the National Institute of Mental Health,where Dr. Fenton was an associate director, called his killing particularly tragic.

"He was without question one of the nation's experts in schizophrenia," Insel said.

He said that Fenton concerned himself particularly with research aimed at making it possible for people with severe psychiatric illnesses to become functioning members of the community.

In addition to his administrative and research work, Insel said Fenton was "a very accomplished clinician" who continued to see patients one-on-one evenings and weekends.

In private practice, Insel said, Fenton worked with people "who would be categorized as psychotic" and therefore subject to a disorder that could make them dangerous if not properly treated.

Dealing with such patients is "a risk one takes" in psychiatry, Insel said.

Fenton was "absolutely committed" to helping people with the most severe psychoses, Insel said.

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