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Dr. Saleem A. Shah, leading psychologist


Dr. Saleem A. Shah, an expert on the law and mental health who died Nov. 25, was described yesterday as having helped establish forensic psychiatry as a specialty.

Though himself a psychologist, the 60-year-old Catonsville resident had helped to establish the specialty and was instrumental in organizing the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law through a fellowship program he administered at the National Institute of Mental Health. At the time of his death, he was a senior scientist there.

Dr. Jonas R. Rappeport, chief medical officer emeritus of the Circuit Court for Baltimore who had a similar post in Baltimore County and was a founder of the academy, described Dr. Shah as a champion of patients' rights.

"He was a leader, the conscience in the field of ethics, patients' rights and the psychiatric care of prisoners," Dr. Rappeport said, adding that he first met the psychologist when he was a clinical psychology intern at Spring Grove State Hospital in 1955-1956.

Dr. Shah was injured in an accident Nov. 19 on Route 108, just north of the Howard-Montgomery County line. He died six days later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

From 1956 until 1959, he served as a consulting psychologist at the Allegany County Mental Health Clinic in Cumberland. Until 1966, he served on the staff of the Legal Psychiatric Services Division of the District of Columbia Health Department, much of the time as chief psychologist.

After joining the National Institute of Mental Health, he became -- director of a multidisciplinary research program on anti-social and violent behavior. He stepped down as director of that project in 1987 to concentrate on research, writing and other work.

At various times, he lectured at American University, first in psychology and later at its Washington College of Law.

He also had been a visiting scholar at the University of Maryland Law School.

His honors included the Amicus Award of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law and the Isaac Ray Award of the American Psychiatric Association. He also had awards from the American Psychology-Law Society, the American Association of Correctional Psychologists and the American Psychological Association, as well as several from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

He had worked on a U.S.-Soviet psychiatry project for the government and was an adviser to the World Health Organization and other groups.

He also had served on the executive committee of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health.

He also was a member of other professional groups, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the American Psychology-Law Society, the American Society of Criminology and the District of Columbia Psychological Association.

A native of India, where he graduated in 1952 from the Allahabad University, he came to this country in 1953, doing graduate work at Princeton University and then earning a master's degree and a doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University.

He is survived by his wife, the former Theresa A. Lennon; six daughters, Nancy Shaw, Nargis Comiskey and Melissa Shah, all of Catonsville, Susan Shah-Blake of Reisterstown, Lisa Beck of Ellicott City and Clare Fisher of Manchester; and six grandchildren.

Services for Dr. Shah were conducted Dec. 1 at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Catonsville.

The family suggested memorial contributions could be made to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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