Herbert Fox

Profile Updated: December 23, 2013
Residing In: New York, NY USA
Spouse/Partner: Janie Fox
Occupation: psychiatrist
Children: Jeff Fox, born 1981

It was a hot, humid, Indian summer September day and my first day of varsity football practice. Up from junior high to the big time. Some guys were conking out in the heat. Somewhere mid-way through practice Mr. Totura blew his whistle and we all lined up. He said “Boys, if anyone gets too warm, I want you to take off your helmet and go sit in the shade against the fence. When you’ve cooled off, I want you to go back to the field house, and on your way out of the gate, I want you to pick up a T.S. (tough shit) Slip and take it home to your mommy.” WHAM!!! It went through me like a thunderbolt. Not just an epiphany, but maybe the most powerful of my life. Boys to men. Boys to men. The sheer irony. I had listened comprehendingly to the first part of Mr. Totura’s speech, and it had all made sense. And then, suddenly, POW!! If it’s too hot, get out of the kitchen. I loved Mr. Totura and would’ve done and died for him. Many years later a colleague observed that he had admired how I had weathered major surgery. I said, “what the hell. I played high school football.”
Once, late in sophomore year, Mr. Totura, who was the Head of the Athletic Department as well as head football coach, said, “Fox, I’d like to make you a quarterback, you have the brains. Too bad you can’t run or throw,” I loved the guy. Late in my senior year I asked him one day: “Coach, I’m not sure whether to go out for football next year in college. What with all the school work and part-time job…” He replied, “Herb, the older we get the less we can do. So my advice is, as long as you can, do it.” I loved the guy.
I think it was the Farmingdale game. It was an hour’s drive from Great Neck. It was pouring rain. When we arrived Mr. Totura got off the bus to confer with the Farmingdale coach to determine if the game would be played or cancelled. Mr. Totura came back on the bus and said “ok boys, we didn’t come for the ride.” YAY!!, YEAH!! YEAH!! we all screamed as we piled off the bus into the rain. By the end of the day we were soaked and mud-splattered , we won, it was a great day.
One rainy Friday afternoon in sophomore year we had an indoor practice. After practice Mr. Levy, our JV coach, asked my classmate Dave Kushner to tell Mike Bernstein to dress for the JV game Saturday morning. This message was the kiss of death, because anyone dressing for the JV game didn’t get to dress (and hopefully to play) in the varsity game on Saturday afternoon. Dave found Mike in the locker room and conveyed Coach Levy’s message. Mike said “tell Levy to go fuck himself!” Shortly thereafter, Mr. Levy encountered Dave and asked if he had given Mike the message. Dave replied in the affirmative. Mr. Levy asked what Mike had said. Dave replied, “He said tell Mr. Levy to go fuck himself.” Let us close the curtain on this sorry scene.
It was my first varsity game. I was a sophomore scrub. Late in the fourth quarter, with the other team fourth and goal on our 3 yard line, Mr. Totura sent me in at defensive tackle. My first experience of varsity combat. I was about 175 pounds. The other team came up to the line and these two huge guys were across from me. One guy said to the other: “look at the skinny kid with the clean uniform. Let’s kill him.” “oh shit!” I said to myself. I submarined when the ball was snapped. Were my eyes open? I’m not sure. A ton of muscle collapsed on me. I didn’t tackle anyone. They scored. We lost.
It was the last game of the season of sophomore year. Only two of us sophomores – Joel and Kenny – had accumulated enough quarters of play to earn a varsity letter (they both played a lot). I needed four more quarters of being on the field to earn a coveted letter. There was no way, no way, that that was going to happen. Except that Tony, our senior center, injured his ankle during warm-ups. Mr. Totura put me in Tony’s spot on the kick-off and receiving teams. I was in for the kick-off to start the game. We scored in the second quarter and kicked off, and received the kick-off to start the third quarter. I was on the field for those plays. I got into the game for five minutes or so in the fourth quarter. I got a letter. One of the great days.
Truth to tell, high school football was one of the greatest, most wonderful experiences of my life. Playing together with my best friends, who were like my brothers; the blood, sweat and tears of practices; the pleasure of soaking in the showers after tough practices and then throwing baby powder at each other afterwards ; the thrill of combat; the sheer, unadulterated joy of winning (we lost 1 game in each of the freshman, junior and senior years that us guys were the starters); the shared agony of defeat; the camaraderie of those tea and crumpet game-day morning meals at the Bernsteins', and on Saturday nights after the games; the anxiety on those bus rides to away games; the Monday morning soreness; the passion of our dedication to our coach Mr. Totura and to the school...
My greatest and most memorable and most important teacher was Gary Price. I had the privilege and pleasure of having Mr. Price in sophomore year and again in senior year.
Mr. Price taught me, and encouraged me, to think. He got us reading the New York Times News of the Week in Review. He introduced us to psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and progressive ideas. He stimulated thought, reflection and discussion, sympathetic understanding of different ideas and cultures, and love of learning. He told us repeatedly some variation of "kids, you have four years ahead of you in which you will have an opportunity - which you will never have again in your lives - to have no responsibility except to learn." Thanks to Mr. Price I went off to college with a "hold me back!" appetite to learn as much about as many things as I could, to be true to Mr. Price's injunction to take full advantage of those 4 years.
When I was trying to decide whether to go to Cornell or to Harvard, and leaning strongly towards the former (where my sister Margot was a senior), I asked Mr. Price for his advice. He said "Herb, if you to Cornell over Harvard, you'll have to shoot me first." I had no idea what lay behind that advice, but since Mr. Price felt so strongly about it, there was no longer any question.
We had a reunion of our social studies class the following Thanksgiving vacation. I had the pleasure of driving Mr. Price to the train station. I had gotten a C on my first freshman english paper. I commented to Mr. Price that it wasn't easy to get used to getting C's (which I expected would be my lot in college). Mr. Price said, "Yes, but don't get too used to it!" Again, I didn't know exactly what he meant, but it proved to be prophetic. I did good in college.
There was an essay competition late in freshman year for high school teacher of the year. I wrote about Mr. Price, hoping to repay in some small measure my deep gratitude for all he had done for me- for his profound influence on me. Unfortunately, somebody wrote a better - but not more heartfelt - essay than I.
But all of the above notwithstanding, the most important person in my life in high school was Nancy Copland, my first love, my queen of the senior prom.

School Story:

So I went off to college. In my freshman year I took Social Relations 10. I read Freud, Erikson and Sullivan and poof, I knew what I wanted to do in life. One day during freshman reading period, chatting in the dining room with a friend, I said “I just read the most fantastic book, called Childhood and Society, by some guy named Erik Erikson. He said, “Erikson is here!” I rushed to audit Erikson’s course sophomore year, took his junior tutorial, and had him for a thesis advisor senior year (but only for 4 months because he went off to India to research his Ghandi book). One day I asked his advice about a romantic dilemma. He said, “I can’t discuss it with you professionally because I don’t know the girl, but I will talk to you as if you were my son.” Whew! Once I asked his advice about whether to become a psychologist or a psychiatrist. He recommended psychiatry and after some mild denigration of some in the field , he said “but you will be a good one because you have a Harvard education and a personality.” Whew!
I went out for freshman football (thanks to Mr. Totura). I was 190 lbs. I felt small for the first time in my life. I was up against fellow tackles who were 225, 235, and 245 pound, high school All- Americans. They were way bigger than I, and better athletes. They kicked my butt. I was 5th string. (me, a high school football star). I didn’t know any of the guys. The coach was cold and removed. It was every man for himself. College football was no fun. It sucked.
For the next 3 years I played intramural tackle football for Kirkland House. We had coaches and equipment and uniforms, everybody had played in high school, and had dropped off the freshman or JV teams. I loved it. I joined the football band, and went to every varsity game. Imagine my chagrin embracing Joel Feldman on the field after the Harvard-Dartmouth game sophomore year. He in his muddy football uniform, me in my band uniform.
I had a great education. I took intro courses in art history, music, English literature, each with great professors. I took four pre-med courses (which I hated, except for George Wald’s Nat Sci 5, which was great). I loved my Soc Rel courses ( interdisciplinary sociology, anthropology and psychology) (thanks to Mr. Price). I had a group of good friends, though not as super tight as my best guys in high school or in medical school and residency. My romantic life left much to be desired, for the most part.
I was rejected at Harvard Medical School (I had a weak science record). I went to Albert Einstein. My first year was torture. I hated it. Four years of learning to think creatively, and then memorizing bones. I was in the lower half of the class for 2 years. By the third year, in clinical rotations, I began to enjoy it and did better.
I did my internship at French Hospital in San Francisco. Every fourth night and fourth weekend. It was relatively easy and fun. One day, an elderly lady for whom I had ordered an enema the day before, said “Oh doctor, I feel so much better, thank you!!!” To my tremendous surprise, I experienced a deep feeling of pleasure. “What?” I asked myself, “ an academically-oriented, psychoanalyst-to-be, feeling such pleasure from giving an old lady an enema? What gives?” One morning, when I learned that an elderly man I had been taking care of for weeks had died, I cried.
I did two months of obstetrics. Our Chief of Ob had written a book on natural child birth. Many flower children from around SF came to our hospital to deliver their babies. It was joyful. I loved it. I considered deferring my psychiatric residency at Einstein and moving up to Mendocino County and delivering babies at home for a year. But I realized that if and when obstetrical complications arose I’d be in deep trouble, so good sense prevailed, and I stuck to original plans.
I came back to New York and, after a mostly enjoyable year in San Francisco, I was glad to be home. My psychiatric residency was good. Smart and challenging colleagues and mostly good teachers, stimulating readings and seminars, very good friends, interesting patients, good and rewarding work.
The atmosphere was warm and collegial. We played touch football in Central Park on Saturday mornings in the fall throughout residency and for some years beyond, followed by greasy spoon breakfasts. We took several whitewater canoe trips together. One year my friend Dave Moltz and I were in joint supervision with an old lady child analyst. Each week everything I said was shit, and everything Dave said was golden. Finally I complained. She said “THAT’S NOT TRUE! , is it David?” He said “Yes, it is.” Dave Moltz occupies a warm corner of my heart.
After residency I started my own analysis, which went on forever. It was very valuable to me. I took a staff job at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, an Albert Einstein affiliate in the South Bronx, and I started a part-time private practice. I was so anxious during my first session with my first private patient that I didn’t hear a word he said. The next year Bronx-Lebanon started a psychiatric residency training program and I became the director of residency training. For the next three years I was a full-time teacher of medical students and residents. I discovered my love of teaching.
In August, 1976, I met Janie at Asparagus Beach in Amagansett. Who picked up whom is a matter of dispute. In any event, we dated, fell in love and got married in February, 1978. On the first morning of our honeymoon, while eating scrambled eggs and flying fish on the porch of our hotel in Barbados, a woman came up to us and said, “I can see you two are very much in love. May you always stay this way.” This was excellent advice. However life being what it is, not every day is a honeymoon!
Jeffrey was born on March 13, 1981. I had no preference for the sex of our baby. It was only when I called my in-laws and shouted “It’s a boy!!” that I realized how thrilled I was to have a son.
At Janie’s 6 months post-partum check-up, a pelvic tumor was discovered. We endured weeks of agony until Janie’s rare tumor was diagnosed and removed. Because of the possibility of recurrence with a subsequent pregnancy, we couldn’t/wouldn’t risk anymore child-bearing.
Jeffrey is a source of great joy. For five years after graduating from Tufts he worked in PR, found it okay but not really satisfying, wasn’t sure what to do. We encouraged him, gently, to consider some kind – any kind – of graduate school, and assured him we’d have his back. One day he said “maybe I’ll try law school.” We were thrilled. So he started at Cardozo last year and discovered that he is interested in law and enjoys it. In July, Jeff and Lindsay – who is as sweet and lovely a person as we could have hoped for – were married. They live four blocks away and have dinner with us on Sunday nights. We’re lucky.
Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, it wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to support a wife and family in Manhattan from my sub-basement office in the South Bronx. So in 1978 I got a job at Gracie Square Hospital, a small private psychiatric hospital in Manhattan. The next year the only two, full-time psychiatrists senior to me left Gracie Square, and I became the clinical director of the hospital. I did that for the next 12 years – until the hospital was sold to New York Hospital – and I then became a full-time private practitioner.
Here’s what I do. I ‘m an old-fashioned general psychiatrist. I do all the things that psychiatrists do. I do analytically –oriented psychotherapy. I prescribe psychotropic medications. I treat a small number of hospitalized patients, and I treat outpatients. I teach and supervise medical students and residents. I am an ECT maven.

Who or what influenced your life's direction?

(continued from "School Story")
When I came to Gracie Square in 1978 I met Lothar Kalinowski who, in 1938, had been a junior assistant to Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini – the Italian psychiatrists who invented ECT– and who had become one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject. I was drawn to Kalinowsky, a remarkable man and a remarkable doctor, and I became impressed by the remarkable effectiveness of ECT. I do a lot of it. ECT is the surgery of psychiatry.
Aside from work, Janie and I love to travel. We spend summer vacations, and some winter vacations, in Europe, mostly in Italy. We have recently begun to try other continents. We spend summer weekends when not traveling in a bed- and- breakfast in the Hamptons. We spend a lot of weekend time in museums and galleries. The Met (not the Mets) is my favorite thing in New York. I mostly love the early Renaissance. I go to several college football games a year wearing my band uniform and playing my saxophone. It’s fun. Sunday afternoons September through January I am glued to the tube watching NY Giants football games. Janie goes to the movies.
I plan to keep working, at least as long as my work remains interesting and enjoyable. Maybe cut down some day. There is a lot to be said for three day weekends…

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Herbert Fox has a birthday today.
May 18, 2018 at 4:33 AM
Herbert Fox has a birthday today.
May 18, 2017 at 4:33 AM
May 18, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Happy Birthday and many many happy returns of the day!!!!!!! I hope you are doing whatever makes you feel good and stimulated and that you are feeling well. HUGS, JUNE

Herbert Fox has a birthday today. New comment added.
May 18, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Posted on: May 18, 2016 at 4:33 AM

Herbert Fox has a birthday today.
May 18, 2015 at 4:34 AM
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Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 1:07 AM
Janie and Herb in Montepulciano, 8/10
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 1:07 AM
Lindsay and Jeff, July 31, 2010