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In the mid-1980s, Sheldon Berrol, MD, and Mitchell Rosenthal, PhD, two visionary pioneers of our field, sensed the need and importance of establishing a journal for practicing clinicians for the then nascent field of traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation. Together, they founded the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation (JHTR) and, in 2005, when JHTR celebrated its 20th anniversary year, it honored the memory and humanism of Dr Berrol, whose unexpected death occurred during JHTR's fifth year of publication. At the time, it fell to Mitch to announce Shelly's death in the journal but, dear readers, I never expected it would fall to me to write similar words about Mitch. It grieves me terribly to inform you of the death of Mitchell Rosenthal, PhD, ABPP, on May 31, 2007, at the age of 58 due to complications after cardiac surgery.
Death is certain, the time of death uncertain but we know that we lost Mitch much too soon, much before the grim reaper had any right to take him. As I came to know and admire Mitch, he had an outwardly soft-spoken, calming, and comfortable manner that draped an inner set of passionate beliefs, loves, and drives. He was passionately devoted to his family, loving and revering Peggy, admiring her for her magnificent teaching skills, and proud of the young adults Michelle and David had become. He was passionately concerned about the care of persons and families with head injury, and his research interests were particularly focused on understanding factors that predicted long-term outcome. He was passionately committed to his role as Editor of JHTR, always striving to deliver to JHTR's readers scholarly articles that portrayed current best practices and promising future developments, energetically committed to the important work he was doing at Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research and Education Corporation, and, passionately committed to the many professional organizations on whose behalf he had unselfishly given so many precious hours of solid leadership. As a national leader, he had clear vision regarding the long-term needs of the field of TBI rehabilitation and he understood how to motivate and link with others to help materialize seminal national and international TBI rehabilitation conferences, a TBI rehabilitation journal, a comprehensive TBI rehabilitation textbook, national and state consumer-driven brain injury associations, a federally funded model system of TBI care, and many different kinds of professional organizations. Mitch also had a talent for mentoring, and he mentored and inspired many developing professionals in brain injury rehabilitation, for their good and the good of the field. And, in his "spare" time, he was a dyed in the wool devotee of college basketball, especially fond of tracking his Cincinatti Bearcats, overdosing with passionate enjoyment every March as he watched the NCAA basketball tournament, in his special lair, on a large-screen TV.
Mitch was a giant in our field professionally, and he was a mensch personally. Editor's work was only a part of our regular telephone meetings. He was a great personal support for me, offering warm words and sage advice, funny stories, and hearty laughter. I miss him very much and I truly appreciate the gift of having been able to work together with Mitch, Bruce Caplan, and the whole editorial board, on the journal Mitch founded with Shelly and loved so much. May the memory of all his passions and accomplishments, his strength and energy of spirit, embrace and console his family, friends, and professional colleagues in the months and years ahead.
Nathaniel H. Mayer, MD
Mitch Rosenthal, known to readers of this journal as Founding Coeditor and guiding spirit through its first 22 years, was a multifaceted man with myriad talents. Rehabilitation professionals knew him as the organizer of the Williamsburg Brain Injury Conference, the first and most durable multidisciplinary meeting devoted to TBI; senior editor of the first text concerned exclusively with rehabilitation of individuals with head injury; visionary and workhorse of JHTR; president (at various times) of Division 22 of the American Psychological Association, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the American Board of Rehabilitation Psychology (of which he was a founding member); first keeper of the database of the TBI Model Systems-the list goes on of organizations, activities, boards, meetings, publications, etc., of which he was originator, shaper, perpetuator, and (occasionally) hidden force. But this is only part of his story.
Mitch was the center of a nexus of research and clinical activity in head injury rehabilitation that flourished in the last 2 decades and is enjoying (?) even greater public recognition now as a tragic consequence of hostilities half a world away. Throughout his career, he and his colleagues at 5 of the premier rehabilitation centers in the world helped transform a silent epidemic into a highly visible public health problem in need of urgent attention. Furthermore, Rosenthal et al labored to identify the most effective systems of care for persons with head trauma and make them widely known, if not universally available. But this, too, is just a portion of the story, a part of who Mitch was.
Those who came to know Mitch on a personal level often got to do so quickly, a testament to his accessibility, openness, and generous spirit. People of his level of accomplishment are not often so willing to give so freely of their time, attention, wisdom, and guidance to anyone who might approach. In the immediate aftermath of Mitch's death, a remarkable outpouring of postings appeared on various listservs, many from people whose professional lives had been influenced by knowing, hearing, and learning from Mitch. I am certainly one of those whose career would have turned out very differently without Mitch's early and continuing impact, and for that, I can only hope I was vocal enough in my thanks.
Mitch was a scholar, teacher, researcher, clinician, administrator, sports fan, comedian, raconteur, sounding board, and great friend. His professional reputation is based on the first half of that list, and his consequent influence and impact will be an enduring legacy. But, again, the "academic Mitch" was only part of the man. For the qualities and characteristics of the "personal Mitch" surfaced during work hours-and certainly afterward. Conversations were never only about TBI, forthcoming issues of JHTR, or the next professional meeting; they were always punctuated by jokes, stories, or questions about spouses and "the kids," vacations, birthday plans, favorite Seinfeld episodes, or point spreads for the upcoming weekend (a painful reminder to me of the many "steak dinner wagers" I lost by naively putting my faith in Philadelphia teams against northern New Jersey powerhouses). These are the things I remember best about Mitch-they were the best of Mitch-and they are what I will miss most.
Rehabilitation has lost a first-rate mind, a fierce and tireless advocate, an incandescent spirit, a cheerleader, networker, and "do-er" par excellence. His life was truly too short, but in the time he had, he created a legacy that will inspire and sustain those who remain. His spirit, wisdom, and influence survive his passing. We will see to that.
Bruce Caplan, PhD, ABPP
In so many ways, Mitchell Rosenthal was like my son. Although he was only 9 years younger than I, we had a bond that went well beyond that of a teacher to a student, and this bond evolved across the years into one of colleague and friend. In September 1973, Mitchell came to us at the University of Cincinnati Department of Rehabilitation Medicine for his clinical psychology internship, and I had the delight and privilege of teaching him what I knew about how we can serve those with severe physical disability as a psychologist.
Mitch was such a treat to work with. He revealed a professional maturity and wisdom that vastly exceeded his age while displaying a sensitivity, intelligence, and compassion for people with disabilities and illnesses that just cannot be taught. He was fun to work with and, of course, charming and funny. When any of us gets a student like that, the world lights up and there seems to be no end to what we want to share.
Mitch served part of his clinical psychology internship with us in rehabilitation medicine and part with the Department of Psychiatry, Child Psychiatry Division and he performed excellently in both areas. However, Mitch was so capable and so popular that a subtle contest developed between us in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and some in the Department of Psychiatry, both hoping that Mitch would pursue a career in our respective fields. However, rehabilitation won out and it is no surprise to me that Mitch became a leader in brain injury rehabilitation.
Ernest R. Griffith, MD, physiatrist, left the department in Cincinnati to assume the chairmanship of rehabilitation medicine at the Medical College of Virginia and he invited Mitch to join him and head up the rehabilitation psychology division. That was the beginning of a beautiful partnership and friendship as they both became pioneers and leaders in rehabilitation of head trauma patients. The Williamsburg Head Injury Conference was initiated by them, and chaired by Mitch, the first of many "firsts" in head injury that Mitch pioneered.
Mitch displayed an extraordinary talent to get along with and communicate with a large variety of people, representing many points of view. His sense of humor and charm along with a sweeping vision and dedication to brain injury rehabilitation uniquely positioned him to become a leader at the local, national, and international levels in the field. Most importantly, he never lost his sense of humanity, never became pompous and self-important, and thus, was always approachable by patients, families, students, colleagues, and strangers.
Perhaps the greatest success of all, however, is not the number of pages on one's curriculum vitae but rather the number of lives we have touched. So many people are saddened, devastated, and shocked by Mitch's early passing; so many have really loved and cared for him; so many have enjoyed working with him on professional projects; and so many people with disabilities have benefitted from his efforts. And I, among many, will miss him dearly and am so grateful that he was a part of my life.
Roberta B. Trieschmann, PhD
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