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Marcio Pinheiro

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Dr. Marcio Vasconcellos Pinheiro, a pioneering psychiatrist who practiced in Baltimore and Sykesville for a total of 30 years, died on August 15, 2015, in his native Brazil at the age of 82. He was a staunch advocate of "talk therapy" and practiced a compassionate form of psychodynamic psychiatry in which mental patients are helped to become healthy through a structured process of relearning their past. He is remembered for his immense respect for his patients and for human beings in general. He knew better than anyone how to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of others. Upon graduation from medical school in Brazil at the University of Minas Gerais, Marcio came to the United States that same year to do his internship at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. From there he took up his residency in psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center. During his years in Maryland he was also associated with the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, North Charles General Hospital, and Springfield State Hospital. He had a private practice as well. Marcio was passionate about the causes he believed in and used many forums to challenge the status quo. He was not afraid to stand up to health insurance companies and won important benefits for mental health patients. His outspoken opposition to the "treating and streeting" revolution in mental health care-in other words, the cost-saving policy of treating seriously ill patients with drugs and releasing them from institutions-landed him on the front page of the Baltimore Sun Sunday Magazine on May 13, 1990, with an in-depth article on the two sides of the debate. His ground-breaking work was recognized by the Governor of Maryland in 2001, when he won an award for outstanding service to the community. He became an American citizen. He learned to fly light aircraft and sail his boat on the Chesapeake Bay. A voracious reader, he kept himself up to date on science, computer science, humanities, aviation, music, cinema, and politics. Eager to teach and practice an approach to psychiatry that had been instilled in him during his long education in Maryland schools and hospitals, he returned to Brazil in 1975, where he established a private psychiatric hospital, a psychiatric day hospital, two clinics, and a school of mental health. He recruited and trained a team of hard-working and devoted residents in a new kind of psychiatry, one that focused on the patient from a dynamic and social point of view. His unique legacy has been handed down through several generations of psychiatrists since the 1980s. He was honored a special award by the Psychiatric Association of Minas Gerais in recognition of his teaching. In 1987, an offer to return to Maryland to work at the Springfield State Hospital in Sykesville, brought him back to the United States. He was shocked to find that medicalization of patients had taken over in his absence. He saw that the tradition of "talk therapy" had become, in his own words, "irrelevant, inefficient, and ultimately wasteful." But he was not about to give up: he became intensely engaged in the struggle to preserve and restore it. He published dozens of articles in English and Portuguese, one of them, which appeared in February 1992 in the journal Hospital and Community Psychiatry, was ruefully titled "The Selling of Clinical Psychiatry in America." After 13 more years in Maryland, in 2001 he finally decided to return to Brazil for good. But not to retire. He continued to write, maintain a private practice, and participate actively in many professional organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, in which he was a Distinguished Life Fellow. He saw patients up to the end, at the age of 82. Marcio will be remembered as a generous and dedicated individual who was passionate about changing the world and helping people. He is survived by his wife Erika of 45 years, of Belo Horizonte; his three children Vanessa, Marcos, and Alessandra, and two grandchildren, of California.
Published in Baltimore Sun on Aug. 28, 2016
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