Dr. Thomas Lynch
Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst was acting head of the old Seton Institute and a Johns Hopkins associate professor
Dr. Thomas Lynch, a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who taught at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, died Tuesday of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his Charlesbrook home. He was 94.
Born in Ireland in County Cavan, he spent his childhood on a family farm overlooking Lough Sheelin in the town of Carrick. The son of Philip Lynch and Mary Catherine Jones, he was the oldest boy of 11 children.
An uncle who was a Roman Catholic canon in Leitrim paid his way to attend St. Patrick’s School, where he boxed and achieved local fame playing Gaelic football.
He earned a degree at University College Dublin, then declined to enter the priesthood — as his family had hoped — to pursue the study of medicine.
“There is a family story that his mother took him to buy a suit,” said a son, Brendan Lynch of Sparks. “When he picked out a blue one, and not the black one for the priesthood, she burst into tears.”
In a family memoir, Dr. Lynch recalled that after his graduation from medical school in Dublin, he trained in psychotherapy at the Holloway Sanitarium, a private psychiatric hospital near Staines in Surrey, England.
He later contacted Dr. Leo Bartemeier, a fellow psychiatrist who had worked at Johns Hopkins under Dr. Adolf Meyer.
Dr. Lynch sailed on the SS Liberte to the United States and took a position at the Haven Sanitarium in Rochester, Mich. Then in 1954, when Dr. Bartemeier became medical director at the old Seton Institute in Northwest Baltimore, Dr. Lynch followed and became the institute’s assistant clinical director.
By the time Seton Institute closed in 1973, he was its acting director.
“When I came down to Baltimore, it was much more like being in England or Ireland. It had that kind of feel about it,” Dr. Lynch said in his memoir. “Michigan was much more open, the people were more open, more friendly. There was more of a social class system [in Maryland] and obviously a caste system in terms of the bluebloods and the Baltimore society. It was more again like England. And I didn’t care for it at first.”
In his memoir, he described what he encountered at the Seton Institute: “There were different wards, different units for chronic, prolonged patients, and then for the acute patients,” he said. “I would give electroshock treatment, insulin coma therapy. ... These were all the usual treatments at that time. Medication first came in around in the 1950s for Thorazine.
“Psychiatry was changing at that time,” he wrote. “Managed care was coming in. ... The patients were now kept in the community longer and were treated in the community. ... Seton just folded.”
He said he regretted that some of his patients ended up in prisons rather than being treated at hospitals.
He later became an associate professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
“Tom was a splendid teacher of our students and could bring them close to patients in a way that others couldn’t,” said Dr. Paul R. McHugh, former psychiatristin-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “He had a human touch and was willing to take on any project I asked. He will be missed.”
Dr. Lynch also worked at Sinai Hospital, where he developed its inpatient psychiatric services, and had been on the staff at Union Memorial Hospital.
“Tom was cheerful, helpful and he listened to people,” said Dr. Lex B. Smith, a fellow psychiatrist. “He worked closely with the residents.”
Dr. Lynch maintained a private practice on Wyndhurst Avenue in Roland Park for many years.
He enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren, reading, and playing tennis and golf. He also enjoyed attending performances of the Baltimore Opera Company and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
He was a past president of the Maryland Psychiatric Society and was awarded its Lifetime Service Award last year.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 2 p.m. today at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles Street, where he was a parishioner.
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 38 years, Jennifer Leven, a retired Johns Hopkins social worker; two other sons, Kevin Lynch of Baltimore and Philip Lynch of Tarrytown, N.Y.; a daughter, Mona Lynch of Laguna Beach, Calif.; brothers Patrick Lynch and Hugh Lynch and sisters Joan O’Connell and Pauline Olwill, all of Ireland; and six grandchildren.
An earlier marriage to Anne Wehrle ended in divorce. Dr. Thomas Lynch was awarded the Maryland Psychiatric Society’s Lifetime Service Award last year.