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DR. IRVIN ALAN (IRV) KRAFT

Obituary Condolences

DR. IRVIN ALAN (IRV) KRAFT, passed away on May 30, 2010 in Houston, Texas surrounded by his loving family after a long battle with an autoimmune disease. Dr. Kraft was the first Child Psychiatrist for the Houston Independent School District and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.Born in Huntington, West Virginia on November 20, 1921, Irv attended Johns Hopkins University. He joined the Army and qualified for the ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program); later he volunteered to become a doctor. In order to participate, Irv had to complete two years of pre-med courses in nine months. His unit studied medicine at the NYU College of Medicine, completing his residency training in psychiatry at the Kingsbridge VA Hospital in New York City. He joined the Air Force for his second tour of duty, and afterwards received a fellowship in child psychiatry at Tulane University, in New Orleans, in 1954.Irv moved to Houston in 1957, initiating a formal program of child psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. His clinical practice incorporated family therapy as well as child and adolescent groups, a novel approach at that time, culminating in the establishment of the Southwest Group Psychotherapy Society and Houston Group Psychotherapy Society. He took a unique approach to clinical medicine, using family, group, art, and dance therapy. He mixed academia with his clinical private practice, serving as a role model and leader, offering his services in training medical students and residents.At that time, Houston did not have enough trained therapists. In order to fill the gap, he started a unique training program for lay volunteers; many of whom went on to earn graduate degrees in social work, psychology, and medicine. Irv was instrumental in the establishment of the Texas Institute of Child Psychiatry (TICP) in 1963, focusing on a therapeutic day school for severely disturbed children, the first of its kind in the southwest U.S. TICP then became the Texas Institute for Family Psychiatry (TIFP).Irv later joined the UT School of Public Health as a Clinical Professor of Mental Health. He inspired in all of those he met an intrinsic desire to learn and to better themselves. Combining the skills of psychologists and social workers in a family practice approach to psychiatry, he created a private practice, reaching many patients, often treating the most difficult and unusual cases. Irv worked with Dr. Denton Cooley's newly formed heart transplant service at the Texas Heart Institute in 1968; as the psychiatric consultant, he pioneered unique research that lead to a fuller understanding of the psychological and physiological ramifications of heart transplants.Irv was a great adventurer; his supreme sense of curiosity in all things nature and science led him to travel to all the continents and both polar ice caps, taking pictures wherever he went. His voracious love of reading and learning led him to author over a hundred articles and books.Dr Kraft is survived by his wife Sherry, of over 50 years; his beloved children and their spouses, Karen and Strode Pennebaker, Chana Rochel Katz, Elizabeth (Cissy) and Robin Schmachtenberger, and Mark and Ildiko Kraft; and his brother, Donald Kraft and his eleven grandchildren: Reid, Menachem, Perl, Madeline, Enya, Lee, Benjamin, Sholom, Harrison, Devorah Leah, and Avia.A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Bo's Place or The Holocaust Museum.
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Published in Houston Chronicle on June 6, 2010
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