Robert Garber, M.D., a former APA president and speaker of the Assembly,
died on December 5, 2005, at age 93.
Although he is known to many for his leadership roles in APA, Garber was
also responsible for challenging its leadership to offer members real choices
in who would lead the organization.
"He was part of the group that sought to break up the old boys
network in which APA elections weren't even contested," said Robert
Gibson, M.D., another former APA president.
Before challenging the established traditions of APA, Garber served as
assistant medical director of Trenton State Hospital, as a lieutenant colonel
during World War II, and as medical director of the Carrier Clinic in New
Garber was known for mentoring many young physicians, including Gibson, who
worked at Trenton State Hospital. Garber's leadership at the unusually
well-run and effective state hospital convinced Gibson to pursue psychiatry
instead of surgery.
After Garber provided mental health services for nearly four years in the
military, he was named superintendent of New Jersey's first neuropsychiatric
In 1958 he became medical director of the Carrier Clinic, a private
psychiatric hospital in Belle Mead, N.J. During a time when many psychiatric
institutions were privatizing to capitalize on availability of greater
government funding for such care, Garber convinced the Carrier Clinic's owners
to reorganize it as a nonprofit institution. The change was needed, Gibson
commented, to remove the temptation to overdiagnose illnesses and engage in
other excesses of private clinics at that time.
Garber pushed for the psychiatric education of general practitioners while
at Carrier, a movement that has gained considerable attention in recent years.
His classes at the clinic provided free continuing education that coincided
with psychotropic drugs becoming widely available to general practitioners,
who often had little formal education in psychiatric diagnoses.
In the 1960s Garber became active in the leadership of APA when he helped
start the Assembly of District Branches. He was selected as the Assembly's
second speaker in 1963.
Garber's popularity among APA's membership led to his role among a slate of
young psychiatrists who challenged the practice of holding uncontested
elections. In 1963 he was named APA secretary, and in 1970 he was elected APA
Even while challenging what was seen as the "old guard" of the
time, Garber's signature modesty and friendly approach prevented divisive
enmity that threatened to sully the image of APA, Gibson said.
"There was a lot of animosity, and Bob had a remarkable ability to
deal with situations like that," Gibson said. "He got situations
calmed down and people talking in a rational way."
Garber taught at Temple University Medical School from 1964 to 1977 and was
a visiting professor at Rutgers Medical School.
Garber rose to become president of the Carrier Clinic and served there
until 1981. As a former APA president, Garber continued to participate in the
Association's meetings up to and including the October 12, 2003, Board of
Trustees meeting in Tampa, Fla. ▪