Dr. Joseph T. English, M.D. Peace Corps Shrink

One of the famous Mad Men of the Peace Corps in the early years of the Peace Corps was the stoic Doctor Joseph English, a young MD and research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1961 when Shriver was putting together the Staff for the new agency, he came across a paper written about a student mental health center that English had established at his alma mater, Saint Joseph’s College.

Doctor Joseph T. English

Doctor Joseph T. English

Sarge at the time was looking for a psychiatrist to evaluate new PCVs. As Joe recalls in a recent profile in The Chironian, a publication of the New York Medical College, where Dr. English is the Sidney E. Frank Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, he was in his office at the NIMH reading an article in the New York Times how JFK’s call for a New Frontier was exciting young people all over the country and he thought, “What am I doing here?”

Then Shriver called out of the blue to see if Joe wanted to work at the Peace Corps. The rest is history.

From 1962 to 1966, Dr. English directed the mental side of Peace Corps Selecting. (More than a few of us will remember “High Risk/Low Gain.”) Besides selecting Volunteers, English also helped to recruit and train more than 100 Peace Corps in-country doctors. Of his time at the agency, Joe now says with full candor, “I really had no preparation for what I was doing!” He was just like all the other Mad Men of the Peace Corps in the early years, a young guy caught up in a great idea.

Sarge & Joe Downriver Somewhere

Sarge & Joe Downriver Somewhere

In 1966, English moved over to OEO and became Director for Health Affairs in the Executive Office of the President. This new job meant developing the community Health Center program, as well as the health programs of Head Start, the Job Corps, and VISTA.

The Peace Corps and OEO were just the first two stops on his long and illustrious career.

Read all about Doctor English: https://issuu.com/newyorkmedicalcollege/docs/chironian_2017_final/24









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  • In fall of 67 or spring of 68 I was the gofer for a conference for PC psychologists who would work in training programs. Forget the name of the dollar a year psychiatrist who organized it, but he was quite a man–took in the hardest cases of Volunteers returning early. But what I remember most is him telling all the psychs that they had NOT been trained to deal with basically healthy people, so needed to make a big mental leap to be useful in the Peace Corps.

  • I remember meeting Joe English, a great guy. Also Gene Gordon, another Psychiatrist for Peace Corps who came to Addis Ababa where my husband, Henry Scott, was serving on the incountry Staff under Harris Wofford and Don Wilson. One of our incountry Peace Corps doctors was E. Fuller Torrey, who also served at NMIH
    Lots of great memories of time in Ethopia and afterwards at PC Washington.

  • My summer 1963 training at UCLA involved a mock psychological testing that we were told would not be used against us. We sat in groups and virtually told each other what we didn’t like about them and tears flowed. I had a one-on-one with a psychologist (?) who specifically asked pointed questions about a particular male volunteer. Fifty four years later, I am not certain if I was the one whose personal qualities were being scrutinized. I recall putting the guy’s personal quirks in a positive light but It sounds scary if future trainees had power to deny others a Peace Corps experience.

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