Dr. Susan Thomson Strahan, a retired psychiatrist and mental health advocate who served on the state’s Board of Physician Quality Assurance, died of heart disease Dec. 28 at her Tuscany-Canterbury home. She was 72.
Born in Baltimore and raised in New Northwood and Guilford, she was the daughter of Dr. John F. Strahan, a dermatologist and Jean Eickelberg, a homemaker.
She was a 1968 graduate of Roland Park Country School, which was partially co-ed at the time.
“My sister had a lifelong interest in athletics,” Dr. Nancy V. Strahan said. “At school recess the boys and girls would usually divide to play gender-appropriate activities. Susan was the only girl in the class who was allowed to join the boys in playing ball.“
She went on to be awarded Roland Park Country School’s white blazer while a junior for playing varsity field hockey, basketball and tennis.
“It was a testament to her great hand-eye coordination and agility that despite her relatively short stature for basketball she was a treasured teammate throughout high school,” her sister said.
Dr. Strahan earned a bachelor’s degree at what is now Hollins University in Virginia. She received a master’s degree at the George Washington University and was a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
She was a psychiatric resident at the University of Maryland Medical System and then had a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry, also at Maryland in the early 1980s.
She became a clinical assistant professor at Maryland and taught in its psychiatry department. As a teacher, she was a mentor to medical students and residents and often guided them into state health service.
“She wanted to help patients in the state mental system by recruiting top people,” said a colleague, Dr. Brian Hepburn. “Susan was somebody who was dedicated to her work and at the same time she brought a big enthusiasm to sports. She could talk sports and talk like a professor in psychiatry at the same time.
“She was a role model for younger psychiatrists.”
Then-Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening appointed her to the Board of Physician Quality Assurance.
“She served as a volunteer in a position requiring many hours of record reviews and meetings,” her sister said.
Dr. Strahan was a past director for psychiatric training and education for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
She served as a staff psychiatrist at the Baltimore Veterans Medical Center and had an adult and adolescent private psychiatry practice on Kenilworth Drive.
She was a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a professional honor.
Dr. Strahan retained her interest in sports after developing asthma while in college and played golf and tennis for many years.
Her sister said Dr. Strahan dabbled in ice skating, bowling, archery, swimming, racket sports, kayaking, horseback riding, water skiing and snow skiing. She also tried to juggle.
“She and my sister Sally were able to score tickets to the Masters practice rounds in Augusta, Georgia. They enjoyed walking the course and watching the world’s best golfers,” her sister Nancy said. “She had season tickets to the Ravens until recently and then transitioned to a home spectator.”
As a student she traveled throughout Europe via rail and with her sisters organized trips to the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
The Morning Sun
“She would insist we all rent mopeds and would lead us on adventures,” her sister Nancy said. “We looked like ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ And without much boating experience, she rented a small boat and fearlessly took off around the islands she had no knowledge of.”
Friends said she was generous and often remembered their birthdays with a trip to The Prime Rib, Vito’s or The Milton Inn, her favorite restaurants. She sent gifts specific to a recipient’s tastes — a wheel of Stilton cheese or a Scotch salmon.
“Her career was more than a career. She was so thoroughly devoted to her patients. She was an effective and much-loved psychiatrist,” said a friend, Evelyn Ragland Zink. “She was one of the most kind, helpful and generous friends I ever knew. She had a deep interest in the lives of her friends and their children.”
Ms. Zink also said: “Her charity was private. She would read that a family’s house had burned down and would quietly respond with a contribution.”
Dr. Strahan was a loyal Roland Park Country School alumna and served on its board of trustees and was a past development committee chair.
Survivors include her two sisters, Dr. Nancy V. Strahan of Baltimore and Sally S. Matthews of Atlanta; four nieces; and a great-niece.
Plans for a memorial gathering in March are pending.