I was born and raised in South Africa, of first-generation French ancestry and became a Canadian citizen in 1977. Until recently I worked as Medical Advisor to the Government of Canada and remain an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Queen's University, Kingston. From 1988 until 1999 I was Director of Psychiatry at the Ottawa General Hospital and am a Fellow of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and a professional member of the Canadian Author’s Association.
I attended Grey High School, Port Elizabeth, South Africa and matriculated there in 1950 with first-class honours. During my youth I was a competitive swimmer, I was gold-medallist in the South African 100 yard junior backstroke championship in 1950 and bronze-medalist in the Redhouse River Mile competition in 1952.
I earned my medical degree in 1956 at the University of Cape Town, and was awarded a swimming “Blue” in each of my undergraduate years. After graduation I completed a three-year psychiatric residency in England, and was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This included a 12-month residency with Dr. William Sargant – at that time the leading world authority on physical methods of treatment in psychiatry.
I then undertook a three-year medical residency in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. This was followed by a 12-month fellowship in liaison psychiatry in Rochester, New York, with Dr. George Engel, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, internist, and founder of the concept of the biopsychosocial approach in medicine. I completed my Doctorate in Medicine (by thesis) in the University of Adelaide, Australia, in 1971.
My areas of sub-speciality include psychosomatic medicine; psychological aspects of infertility; psychological aspects of heart transplantation; hysteria; Briquet’s syndrome and somatization disorder, and various aspects of the history of medicine.
Since 1966 I have published 115 articles, the majority in peer reviewed medical journals. These include high-citation publications such as the American, British and Canadian Journals of Psychiatry, the Archives of General Psychiatry, the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Psychosomatic Research and Psychosomatic Medicine.
I am author of a monograph entitled Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven (McGill/Queen's University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0 7735-3190-1). The book has been favourably reviewed in the Literary Review of Canada, the Montreal Gazette, Quill and Quire, The New England Journal of Medicine, The American, British and Canadian Journals of Psychiatry, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Reviews are available on request. My novel Father, Unknown was published by Austin Macauley in London, England in 2017. It is a work of historical fiction set in 18th-19th century France and describes an illegitimate boy’s life-long search for his father. A sub-plot invokes the ties between France and Canada after the conquest of 1759.
My latest book, With Hope in My Heart: Musings of a Spirited Psychiatrist was published by FriesenPress in 2022. It contains my memoires, and explores how and why I ventured into psychiatry, the lure of academia, and my professional triumphs and troubles along the way.
As a competent amateur musician, I perform on the keyboard and was organist/pianist at St. Stephen’s Church in Chelsea, Québec from 1995 until 2007. During that time I produced two CDs of classical and jazz music that were used to raise funds for the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.
I have been married for 58 years to Sarie Mai (née Roelofse) and we have four adult sons and 10 grandchildren.
I am fluent in English and French and have a working knowledge of Afrikaans.