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Helen Flanders Dunbar - Pioneer in Psychosomatic Medicine

Helen Flanders Dunbar - "the mother of holistic medicine" (Stevens & Gardner, 1982, p. 93)


Dunbar, Helen Flanders (14 May 1902-21 Aug. 1959), psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and pioneer in psychosomatic medicine, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Francis William Dunbar, a mathematician and patent attorney, and Edith Vaughan Flanders, a genealogist. She attended a series of private, largely experimental schools, graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 1923.

Dunbar received four graduate degrees in the next seven years. At one point, she was studying in three programs at three different institutions simultaneously. Columbia University awarded her a master of arts degree in philosophy in 1924 and a doctor of philosophy degree in 1929. Her doctoral dissertation on Dante, "Symbolism in Medieval Thought and Its Consummation in the Divine Comedy," was published in the same year.

Meanwhile, she had enrolled at Union Theological Seminary, receiving her bachelor of divinity degree in 1927, and at Yale University School of Medicine in 1926. She finished her studies for the doctor of medicine degree in 1930.

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