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Frank Dornfest
Emeritus Councilor
2012 - present
I completed my formal academic medical training at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, in 1965, at age 23. It was there, in the last lectures my class received on psychology/psychiatry, that a Jungian analyst introduced the class to Michael Balint’s book. At that time, it became clear to me that I was really unprepared to meet the psychological needs of my future patients. My ongoing private, general practice of medicine continued to reinforce my need for greater psychological insight both of my patients and myself.

In 1972, I co-authored the first South African textbook of General Practice underlining for me the need to establish Balint training for myself and my colleagues. From 1972 to 1974, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to initiate what I believe to be Africa’s first Balint group in Cape Town. I advocated nationally for Balint training and the need for a certification process for General Practice. The specialty degree, finally established in 1973, was identified as Member of the Faculty of General Practice of the College of Medicine of South Africa (MFGP SA). A South African Balint Society was formed in 1979, with myself elected as secretary/treasurer. The MFGP SA degree was conferred upon me that same year.

In 1981, I emigrated with dispatch to the first American university that would take me away from what was almost certain incarceration for my underground anti-apartheid political activities in South Africa. I was accepted by the University of Mississippi as a faculty member without a portfolio and became an Associate Professor the next year. In the following year, I took over as Residency Director and one of the medical directors of the department’s two clinical practices. My strategic move, in the service of the American Balint Movement, was to insist I would only accept the job if hired to provide required Balint training for residents. This was an innovation, being the earliest required medical university-based Balint programs. In 1982, I succeeded in introducing a required faculty Balint group to focus in alternate weeks on doctor–patient relationships and faculty–resident relationships.

Following 46 years in General/Family Practice in various parts of the country, I retired to Loveland, Colorado. During retirement, so far I have been lucky to volunteer part time for 4 years as Faculty at Colorado State University Veterinary School in the nation’s first Veterinary Healer’s Art Course which I had myself led at OHSU for 8 years. I now also enjoy volunteering as a “Sage” at an avant-garde Green House Skilled Nursing Facility within the retirement community in which I live with Carol my wife of 53 years.

For a narrative of Dr. Dornfest's work with the ABS, consult his Emeritus Nomination.

 "Restoring the Core of Clinical Practice: What is a Balint group and how does it help?" by Laurel Milberg, PhD and Katherine Knowlton, PhD. Available in paperback or ebook. 

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The American Balint Society
, is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the therapeutic relationships between healing professionals and their clients/patients. The American Balint  Society is a member society of the International Balint Federation