Donald I. Meyers, M.D.

by Eric Marcus, M.D.

Dr. Meyers, known to us affectionately as Don, was born with one of those calm temperaments that the irritable majority of us can only deeply envy. He keeps his calm, his maturity of judgement, and his affability in the throws of political battles that would test the metal of King Solomon. Out of numerous difficult times, when we as an institution and as individuals, have turned to Don for guidance and leadership, he has never failed us. He takes the long view. He is what is known in the East as an Old Soul.

Don, a revered clinical psychoanalyst, has been the inspirational mentor for many. Those of us who have had the good fortune to be supervised by Don, learned from him the value of psychoanalytic technique, a purity of psychoanalytic vision, and an optimism about psychoanalytic treatment that is reflected in our work to this day. Through supervision and classroom teaching, Don has upheld the highest standards of clinical psychoanalysis and has given this to generation after generation of young analytic candidates at the Columbia Center. He enabled us to develop our psychoanalytic instrument and to use it as a healing craft. For this we will be always grateful.

These temperament, empathic, and self discipline skills enabled Don to learn from and traverse a life that was not always easy as it passed through the historical moments of the mid 20th century. Don spent some time at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, the famous and infamous military institute that has produced some of the leaders of the military by subjecting them to a crucible of fire at tender ages. Don rose to the position of bugler. A chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon visited one day and said Don was the best bugler he had ever heard. Don says he liked bugling because after playing reveille at 5:30 am, everyone else got up but he went back to bed. We are happy the Citadel did not change him and they are happy he did not change them. Don was only 17 at the time and at the age of 18, he joined the Navy B12 program at Franklin and Marshall College. Don went on to Jefferson Medical College for his M.D. degree, Mt. Sinai Hospital for his internship and his residency training at Bellevue Hospital. Those of us who trained at Bellevue Hospital know that we thought of ourselves as the Marines of medical care and so Don felt quite at home, once again surrounded by the military fantasy.

After graduating from our psychoanalytic Center, Don has been a faculty member since 1968 and has risen up through the ranks to clinical professor of psychiatry and supervising and training psychoanalyst. He was head of our child psychoanalytic program for many years. He has also been responsible for the advanced course in psychoanalytic process, the last case seminar we take as students. He has taught this course for many years.

Don was also the chairman of the Columbia-Emory Psychoanalytic Training Program Committee, establishing a training institute for psychoanalysis in Atlanta. In this way, he has nurtured the budding of our institute into an off-shoot that has been highly successful. Don’s teaching includes faculty. He has been the chairman of the Rado Advanced Psychoanalytic Seminar on the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders from 1972 until the present. That seminar has included many of our most famous and accomplished senior faculty.

Don has had a significant influence on American psychoanalysis through his many activities at the American Psychoanalytic Association where he was secretary of that organization. He has for many years been the representative from our Association. Don was active and effective in helping to open the American to a broader and more inclusive spectrum of ideas and has been involved in the external credentialling debates of the last five years. At the same time he has been a member of the certification committee of the Board of Professional Standards because, while seen as progressive, he has also been seen as our standard bearer.

Don’s academic work has been in child psychiatry and child analysis. He went from research psychiatrist to senior investigator to director of experimental psychiatry at the Henry Ittleson Center for Child Research. He contributed to the understanding of childhood psychoses and, thereby, also to child development. This led to Don’s interest in understanding of early pre and para verbal periods, how they may be represented in psychoanalytic process, and how they may be reconstructed. Don has applied these ideas to the understanding of erotization. His work thereby extends the work of Margaret Mahler and Phyllis Greenacre. His ability to expand these ideas, to apply them to clinical cases and to convey this understanding in teaching settings is Don’s great gift.

Don is on the editorial and advisory boards of a number of journals including the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. His publications include a book about his work with psychotic children and a book with Bob Glick called ‘‘Masochism: Current Psychoanalytic Perspectives,’’ in addition to numerous papers.

In closing, no mention of Don can be finished without acknowledging his wife Helen. This dynamic duo has been synonymous with psychoanalytic education at our Center for several generations.

For all this, we are grateful!