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Max Fink (born 1923) is an American psychiatrist best known for his work on ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).


Early life, marriage and qualifications

Fink was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1923.[1] His parents were a physician and a social worker.[1] The family left Austria for the US in 1924.[2]

Fink married in 1949.[2] He and wife Martha have 3 children: Jonathan, a professor of geology at Arizona State University and Rachel and Linda, professors of biology at Mt. Holyoke College and Sweet Briar College.[2]

Fink studied medicine at New York University College of Medicine, qualifying in 1945.[1] He spent two years as an army medical officer.[1] He was trained at Montefiore, Bellevue and Hillside Hospitals, each in New York. By 1954 he was board certified in psychiatry, neurology and psychoanalysis.[1]

Academic positions, research and awards

Fink was appointed research professor of psychiatry at Washington University in 1962, at New York Medical College in 1966 and professor of psychiatry and neurology at SUNY at Stony Brook in 1972.[1]

Early research included federal government funded research into the changes in brain waves (electroencephalogram) induced by electroshock, antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, opiates and narcotic antagonists, and cannabis and metabolites. .[2] For the past fifty years Fink's main interest has been first in electroshock and then in psychopathology. .[1] Over the years his ideas on ECT have evolved from an early suggestion that the biochemical basis of ECT is similar to that of craniocerebral trauma[3] through to statements that organic mental syndrome is seen in all patients following ECT but is usually transient[4] and finally to the position that ECT-induced memory loss is a hysterical symptom with parallels to the Camelford incident.[5]

His most recent interest is in the psychiatric syndromes of catatonia and of melancholia.

In 1985 Fink founded the journal Convulsive Therapy (now called the Journal of ECT).[2] He was a member of the American Psychiatric Association's task forces on ECT 1975-1978 and 1987-1990.[2]

Fink's awards include the Electroshock Research Association Award (1956), the Laszlo Meduna Prize of the Hungarian National Institute for Nervous and Mental Disease (1986), and Lifetime Achievement Awards of the Psychiatric Times (1995) and of the Society of Biological Psychiatry (1996).[1]


In 1997 Fink moved to the Long Island Jewish Hillside Hospital to organize a government supported 4-hospital collaborative program examining continuation treatments in patients with major depression after successful ECT. The study group under the acronym "CORE" -- Consortium on Research in ECT—has published on the merits of continuation ECT and continuation medication to sustain remission. [Kellner CH, Fink M, et al.: Continuation ECT versus pharmacotherapy for relapse prevention in major depression: a multi-site study from CORE. Archives General Psychiatry 2006; 63:1337-44]. With Michael Alan Taylor, he reviewed the status of ECT in "Electroconvulsive Therapy: Evidence and Challenges" in the Journal of the American Medical Association [2007; 298:330-332.]

He is professor emeritus of psychiatry and neurology at SUNY at Stony Brook and has been on the faculty at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the LIJ-Hillside Medical Center.[1] He spends much of his time writing; recent books include Electroshock: restoring the mind (1999, Oxford University Press); with Jan-Otto Ottosson, Ethics in electroconvulsive therapy (2004, Brunner Routledge); and with Michael Alan Taylor, "Catatonia: A Clinician's Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment" (2003, Cambridge University Press), and "Melancholia: The Diagnosis, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Depressive Illness" 2006, Cambridge University Press). Fink has funded[6] a book on the history of ECT by Edward Shorter and David Healy.[7]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i P Munk-Jorgensen 2005 Biography: Max Fink, MD. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 112: 325.
  2. ^ a b c d e f A Kaplan 2005 Through the Times with Max Fink, M.D. Psychiatric Times. 22, September.
  3. ^ M Fink 1958 Effect of anticholinergic agent, diethazine on EEG and behaviour: significance for theory of convulsive therapy. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 80: 380-387.
  4. ^ M Fink 1986 Convulsive therapy and epilepsy research. In MR Trimble and EH Reynolds (eds.) What is epilepsy? Churchill Livingstone, 217-228.
  5. ^ M Fink 2006 The Camelford Hysteria: a lesson for ECT? Psychiatric Times 23, October.
  6. ^ DFCM Research Program - research grants July 2002 to June 2005.
  7. ^ E Shorter and D Healy 2007 Shock Therapy: a history of electroconvulsive treatment in mental illness. Rutgers University Press.


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