A l u m n u s  P r o f i l e
  Frank J. Ayd., '45
By W. Thomas Carey

Delivering Ayd to the Mentally Ill

A world renowned
Dr. Ayd pioneered psychopharmacology
and received the first
permit from the
Food and Drug
to use Thorazine to
treat schizophrenia.
The rigors of medical training for Frank J. Ayd Jr., ’45, began at home. As a young boy, Dr. Ayd delivered medicine on his bicycle to neighbors, dispensed by his grandfather, a family physician, who ran a pharmacy from his house in Baltimore. Dr. Ayd’s father, Frank, a pediatrician, let his teenage son straighten medical files in his office, and drive him to visit patients at their homes.

Dr. Ayd also met his family’s professional friends. One physician made a deep impression. He was Louis A. M. Krause, ’17, a gregarious, well-traveled internist who was on the faculty at Maryland. “I learned a lot from him about what the attitude of a doctor should be,” says Dr. Ayd, 82. “Physicians are servants of the sick.”

Dr. Ayd has taken those words to heart and has served the sick for some 60 years. His accomplishments have been vast. A world renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Ayd pioneered psychopharmacology and received the first permit from the Food and Drug Administration to use Thorazine to treat schizophrenia. He started the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Nashville, Tenn.; participated in the founding of the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum; has written extensively, including the Ayd’s Lexicon of Psychiatry, Neurology and the Neurosciences, and has been such a force in the field that a hospital library bears his name. Last year, he was named Pioneer in Psychopharmacology by the Congress of the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum, and was received into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, an ecclesiastical order of knighthood.

Dr. Ayd, who graduated in 1945, will receive the medical school’s Honor Award & Gold Key, presented to graduates for outstanding contributions to medicine and distinguished service to mankind. “I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the medical school,” Dr. Ayd says.

It was bodies, not minds, that Dr. Ayd was most interested in treating when he entered medical school in 1942. He applied for a residency in pediatrics and was accepted, but halfway through his residency, the U.S. Navy called him to report for active duty. Dr. Ayd was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, and a week later he was transferred to the U.S. Veterans Hospital in Perry Point to become part of the psychiatric hospital staff.

“These patients may have disturbed minds, but they also have bodies,” Dr. Ayd’s father advised him. “Do what you can to keep them in good physical health, if nothing else.”

It didn’t take Dr. Ayd long to rethink his career path. “I must confess, it was so fascinating to see what I saw there, and I immediately decided that this would be my career,” Dr. Ayd says. He treated an array of patients: some violent, others heard voices, still others appeared not to be able to distinguish hot from cold. Once a patient stuffed his clothes full of newspaper and set himself on fire. “He was still talking to the voice, not complaining of any pain,” Dr. Ayd recalls. “He had burns of at least 20 percent of his body. It fascinated me that he had no real sense of pain.”

Dr. Ayd immersed himself in psychiatry, reading as many books as he could. Unlike other physicians, he experimented with drugs as treatment. By 1952, he administered Thorazine to many patients who had delusions. The patients had not responded to psychological treatment or physical therapy, and some were candidates for lobotomy. The drug not only calmed them, but it muted the delusions. The results were “so dramatic it was unbelievable what could be done with that medicine,” Dr. Ayd says.

The success of Thorazine convinced Dr. Ayd that it could work for other patients. He studied different drugs and combinations of drugs, too. “I was sort of looked upon as a renegade,” Dr. Ayd recalls. “I was fresh out of medical school and working in a community dominated by psychoanalysis.”

By 1955, Dr. Ayd was chief of psychiatry at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore. Two years later, he began lecturing on psychopharmacotherapy in Europe. From 1962–1965, he hosted a show on Vatican Radio entitled “Religion and Science.” In 1963, he was the first American layman appointed to the faculty of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

After the stint in Rome, Dr. Ayd returned to Baltimore with his family and resumed his practice. “I never went anywhere without the children,” says Dr. Ayd, who with wife Rita has 12 children, 22 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

He continues to lecture, and to write and edit the International Drug Therapy Newsletter which he started. He is also on the editorial board of Psychiatric Times and writes a monthly column.“ I am busy,” Dr. Ayd says. “I don’t see patients anymore. At my age, it’s too difficult to handle night calls.”

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