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Remembering His Commitment to Education and Advocacy

Driven by his passion to promote psychiatric education and awareness of mental health issues, Jerry M. Wiener, M.D., held many titles during his medical career at the George Washington University (GW). Arguably, his most important role was that of professor, advisor, and mentor to countless medical students and psychiatry residents. GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences remembered the remarkable career of Wiener by rededicating the Jerry M. Wiener Memorial Conference Room, a little more than a decade after his passing, during a ceremony in December 2012. Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, G.M.E. ’85, vice president for health affairs and dean of SMHS, welcomed Wiener’s family and colleagues who gathered to celebrate his 21 years at GW as both an educator and an advocate. Akman remembered Weiner, first and foremost, as a family man who was devoted to his wife Louise and their four sons. “Jerry was my mentor, advisor, and supporter throughout my medical career,” said Akman.

For Louise, this ceremony meant a great deal to her and her family. “Jerry was extremely dedicated to teaching and practice,” she said. Best known for his advocacy work, Weiner was committed to ensuring that resources and quality care were available to mentally disabled children and adolescents. “It was a passion that became a study that became something to teach, and that guided him all of his life,” recalled Louise. “It was profoundly important to him.”

For the Weiner’s son, Ross, this celebration was extra special because his two daughters, Jessie and Alyssa, got an opportunity to witness the impact their grandfather made on his students, colleagues, and the GW medical community. “My dad was very dedicated to both psychiatry and GW,” said Ross. “My older daughter Jessie is named after her Grandpa Jerry, who she never got a chance to meet, but she knows that her grandpa was someone who was very committed to helping other people.”

Wiener joined GW’s faculty in 1976 as a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Children’s National Medical Center. The following year he was appointed chair of the GW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, a position he held until 1997.

Today, Wiener’s work lives on through his family and the Fund for Psychiatric Education, Research, and Mental Health Policy. Established by SMHS’ Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences following Wiener’s retirement in 1997, the fund supports psychiatric education, as well as mental health policy and advocacy. “We feel a very strong commitment to helping the University build the kind of fund that will carry on, particularly the advocacy part of my husband’s legacy,” said Louise. The fund expands on Weiner’s commitment to psychiatric education and his advocacy work for mentally disabled children and adolescents.

 “Jerry was an advocate and a fighter. He fought for fair resources and programs for the mentally ill,” said James Griffith, M.D., professor of psychiatry and neurology and interim chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the GW Medical Faculty Associates. “I learned from Jerry that it’s not just about being right, it’s about being effective.”