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News Obituaries

Dr. Ghislaine D. Godenne, psychiatrist

Dr. Ghislaine D. "Ghilly" Godenne, a psychiatrist and a Belgian baroness who was the founder of the Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital and later was director of Johns Hopkins University Counseling and Psychiatric Services, died Saturday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Roland Park Place. She was 89.

Ghislaine Andree Flore Dudley Godenne was born the fourth of seven children in Brussels, Belgium. She was the daughter of a Belgian orthopedic surgeon and a British Red Cross volunteer who met at a French hospital during World War I and married the day the war ended.

She was named Ghislaine, according to a Hopkins profile, for a patron saint said to protect children from convulsions.

The Germans were occupying Brussels when she graduated from high school and she was forced to work for them for one year before being allowed to enter medical school. She enrolled at the School of Social Work and later volunteered with a group that checked bombed homes for victims.

Dr. Godenne earned a bachelor's degree in 1948 and her medical degree in 1952 from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium.

From 1952 to 1957, she completed a pediatric internship and residency at Providence Hospital in Washington.

Dr. Godenne completed a pediatric fellowship from 1954 to 1957 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a pediatric residency from 1955 to 1962 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She was awarded a one-year psychiatry fellowship in 1962 at Hopkins Hospital. From 1972 to 1973, she completed psychoanalytic training at the Baltimore-Washington Institute for Psychoanalysis.

In 1962, Dr. Godenne became the first woman in the history of Hopkins Hospital to be appointed chief resident of the department of psychiatry in the hospital's Phipps Psychiatric Clinic.

Dr. Godenne established the Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic in 1964 and remained in that position as its head until 1973. She also was co-director of the Mental Health Counselor program, which trained young women to work with mentally ill clients.

"Twenty-five years ago, there were very few people specializing in adolescent psychiatry," Dr. Godenne told The Evening Sun in a 1982 interview. "In 1964, when I started and ran the adolescent psychiatry service at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, it was the only service for the adolescent between New York and Florida. Now there are many such centers in every town from here to Florida."

In 1973, she was appointed director of the Johns Hopkins University Counseling and Psychiatric Services at the Homewood campus, a position she held until retiring in 1995.

The counseling service was located in the Whitehouse, a former gardener's house, and at its peak provided counseling services for up to "a quarter of the student body," said the Johns Hopkins University profile.

In 1991, Dr. Godenne lamented that there was no national organization that dealt with the mental health issues faced by college students.

"College students today are more disturbed than college students 10 years ago," she told The Baltimore Sun. "And they are certainly more disturbed than they were 20 years ago. It's difficult to say why, but personally, I think the breakup of the family is the strongest reason."

She also pointed to the economy and sexual identity as factors in college students' mental health problems.

"Even if they get a Ph.D, they don't know if they'll end up a waiter," she said. "Females are always confronted by the conflict between career and family. And now that homosexuality is out in the open, more and more students are questioning their sexual identity."

In addition to her work with the counseling service, Dr. Godenne, who was a professor of psychology, psychiatry, pediatrics and hygiene, also presented a weekly course in adolescent psychiatry to the senior undergraduates at Hopkins.

Throughout her career, she was often asked to lecture on adolescence and presented many addresses both in the United States and internationally.

"Teenagers go through a period of changes — changes which bring about feelings of depression and anxiety," Dr. Godenne said in a 1980 interview in The Evening Sun.

"Adolescents cannot deal with the feeling inside themselves, so in order not to feel, they act out. That explains a lot of their behavior," she said, adding that it was perfectly normal.

Dr. Godenne said the enormous changes brought on by puberty account for the way teenagers act toward each other and toward their parents, for instance. She cautioned that "parents should not push somebody too quickly from one stage to the other when they are not ready," she said.

She was an advocate of parents setting limits "mainly because setting limits is helping the ego to master the drives. However, there should be very few limits. They should be enforceable limits, they should be consistent and they should be clearly discussed and agreed upon by the teenager," said Dr. Godenne.

Dr. Godenne also said that an atmosphere of serenity at home was important.

"Parents should overlook minor things. My rule of thumb is that if something is not going to make a difference in the adolescent's life 10 years from now, forget about it," she said. "Adolescents love to goad people, and if one does not respond to the goading, one takes the wind out of their sails and they just drop it."

She was also a consultant to numerous institutions that treated adolescents, such as Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, the University of Maryland department of psychiatry, Loyola University Maryland, Catholic Charities, the state Department of Social Services, and the House of the Good Shepherd.

Dr. Godenne was the first woman to serve as president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and had been an active member of the Maryland Psychiatric Society. She also was a prolific contributor to psychiatric journals and books.

In 1972, she received the Order of Leopold from King Baudouin I of Belgium for her medical and academic services to Belgians and to honor her for having made significant contributions in her field of medicine.

She received an additional honor in 1991, when the King of Belgium bestowed upon her the title of baroness. At the time, she was only the second Belgian living abroad to receive the title and only the seventh woman.

Although she had lived in the U.S. for more than 60 years, Dr. Godenne never relinquished her Belgian citizenship.

"I would have to abandon my allegiance to the King of Belgium for a president that would change every four or eight years," she told The Washington Post in 1991.

She had lived for more than 50 years in a home on Edgevale Road in Roland Park, which housed her collection of medieval and modern paintings, musical instruments, and other items from her trips abroad.

In addition to being a world traveler, Dr. Godenne was an accomplished sculptor who worked in wood, alabaster, copper, stone and plaster.

"She was a fantastic raconteur, keeping us spellbound, and then making us laugh so hard," said a niece, Claire McCrea of Emmaus, Pa. "Ghilly was someone who was brave and bigger than life, in many cases lifting others with her."

Plans for a memorial service to be held in the spring are incomplete.

In addition to her niece, Dr. Godenne is survived by a brother, Dr. Jacques Godenne of Brussels; two sisters, Elisabeth Godenne, of Brussels, and Dr. Mary McRea Curnen, of Groton, Mass; and many other nieces and nephews.

An earlier version misstated where Dr. Mary McRea Curnen lives. The Sun regrets the error.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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