Search engines giant Google on Tuesday remembers Dr Herbert Kleber with a doodle for his pioneering in addiction research treatment. He was a renowned American psychiatrist and substance abuse researcher.
Dr Herbert Kleber was born on June 19, 1934. He was the founder and head of the Drug Dependence Unit at Yale University, where he was Professor of Psychiatry. He then served for 2.5 years as the Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the White House.
Volunteering for the United States Public Health Service in 1964, Dr. Kleber was assigned to a prison hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where thousands of inmates were being treated for addiction. Noticing that the vast majority of patients would relapse shortly after release, he began to develop a new approach.
Describing his method as “evidence-based treatment,” Dr. Kleber viewed addiction as a medical condition as opposed to a moral failure. Rather than punishing or shaming patients, as many of his predecessors in the field had done, Dr. Kleber stressed the importance of research, helping to keep many patients on the road to recovery and avoid relapse through the careful use of medication and therapeutic communities.
Dr. Kleber’s success attracted the attention of President George H.W. Bush, who appointed him Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. As co-founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Dr. Kleber was a leader in reframing the field of substance abuse research and treatment as a medical discipline.
At the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he and his then-wife Dr. Marian W. Fischman established America’s leading research program on substance abuse. During his 50-year career, Dr. Kleber authored hundreds of articles, wrote important books, and mentored numerous other medical professionals in the field of addiction treatment. A self-described “perpetual optimist,” Dr. Kleber changed the landscape of addiction treatment, allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated rather than shamed—and saving countless lives in the process.
Dr. Herbert David Kleber, M.D. was a pioneer in the field of addiction research and treatment. As a physician working at the federal prison hospital in Lexington, Kentucky—also known as the “Narcotic Farm”—Herb saw addiction not as a moral failing, but as a medical problem he wanted to solve through science. Helping addicts to overcome addiction through research and treatment became Herb’s lifelong passion. He wanted first-hand knowledge about the effectiveness of treatments. His passionate desire to help addicts overcome their addiction led him to have a small number of individual patients throughout his entire career, sometimes treating for free those who could not pay.
Problem Solver: One way I see Herb’s visionary brilliance is through his ability for problem-solving, whether domestically or professionally. When everyone else was looking in one direction, Herb would (metaphorically) turn his head and his thinking to somewhere completely different—and come up with original, viable solutions.
Master Negotiator: His skill at negotiations served him well in his efforts to navigate the tangled bureaucracy one must go through to secure funding for academic projects.
Humor: Herb also had a quick and delightful sense of humor, which he often used to de-escalate thorny or tense situations.
Not Self-Aggrandizing: He was often self-deprecating when others praised him for his work. One of Herb’s self-referential statements he quoted often is “I’m just a world-famous, humble country doctor.”
Fearless: Professionally and in his personal life, he championed his beliefs about victims of addiction—no matter another’s professional or social prominence (or lack thereof).
Ethical practice: Herb was a physician of the highest professional ethical standards. An example: he refused to accept gifts when offered by some of his very famous and wealthy patients, nor would he socialize with them when invited.
Generosity: One of Herb’s greatest characteristics was his generosity. Herb mentored a great number of the leading academic researchers in the country. Beyond academics, he championed many people’s professional and personal lives. While going through his papers after his death. I came across letter after letter thanking him for his support. Whether it was for a letter he wrote, a phone call he made, a meeting he attended, or simply when he listened, he always freely shared his experience and support.
Dartmouth: He was devoted to Dartmouth, attending reunions and maintaining close life-long friendships with fellow classmates.
Father: Herb cherished his family. He was loving and devoted to the welfare and happiness of our family. Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Passover were always joyous gatherings. Our trips with the family to Mohonk, Bonaire, and the Florida Keys, among other family trips, are joyous memories.
Dog Lover: Herb adored our little 8.5-pound Maltipoo, Sparky.
My Love: I loved Herb for the reasons listed above and so many more. Even though we were very different as individuals, I being a photographer and he being a scientist, he gave me absolute support in all my endeavors. His confidence in me and loving support of my work helped me grow as an artist and as a person. I miss marvelous Herb beyond words.