A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

The Fighter



Fritz always wanted to be a doctor, though he never anticipated the path he took. “I didn’t know anything about psychiatry,” the Schenectady, NY, native says. “I’m sure my father thought I’d be a surgeon.” His dad was an engineer; his mother, a pathologist who earned her PhD when Fritz was in sixth grade, was a “frustrated doctor,” who had been told women don’t go to medical school.

At Brown Fritz fulfilled his premed requirements while majoring in American literature. The future editor of the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, a nationally respected newsletter, continues to draw on that intensive writing experience, but his love of people’s stories tied into his choice of specialty. Still, he insists it was chance that led him to psychiatry.

Medical schools of that era—Fritz went to Tufts—“were eight hours a day of memorization and droning lectures,” he says. “We had no patient contact.” But for a first-year elective, he went to the office of a psychiatrist, who would interview a patient on the ward as the students observed, and then they’d discuss the case. “It was so interesting because it was a live human being,” Fritz says. “It could have been anything. It could have been urology.”

Fritz completed his residency, in child psychiatry, at Stanford, along with a fellowship in psychiatric research. He stayed eight more years in Palo Alto, providing psychiatric consultations at the Children’s Hospital and studying childhood cancer survivors. “Always clinically and in my research I’ve been at the boundary of psychiatry and medicine,” he says. “I’m fascinated by how the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind.”

He and his wife, Nancy Fritz AM’95, a Maine native, had their three children in California. “We were very happy out there,” he says, though “it always seemed odd to go to the beach on Christmas.” Then Stanford’s director of child psychiatry, Thomas Anders, MD, came to Brown in 1984; he recruited Fritz a year later to build the pediatric psychiatry service at Rhode Island Hospital (Hasbro Children’s Hospital opened in 1994). It was a new idea in medicine; most child psychiatrists worked as consultants, as Fritz had at Stanford. “I never looked back,” he says.

The child and adolescent psychiatry division at Brown has grown rapidly during Fritz’s tenure, from about 25 faculty in 1985 to 90 today. Child mental health researchers were consolidated in 2002 under one umbrella, the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center, of which he is director. The center brings in millions of dollars of federal funding annually.

The treatment offerings at Bradley have expanded as well, including a nationally respected autism center, partial programs addressing numerous disorders that draw teens from around the country and the world, and schools for kids with special needs. Recounting how Fritz confronted stiff opposition from insurance companies and other red tape to create some of the programs, Sachs says, “Greg gets a ton of credit for that spectrum of care.”

At Brown, Fritz switched his research focus to pediatric asthma, a chronic illness with a major psychosomatic component. As he studied symptom perception in his patients, he found cultural differences as well as disparities: minorities had higher rates of asthma diagnoses, emergency room visits, and death compared to white children. In 2002 he partnered with the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine to investigate those disparities in Puerto Rican kids, who have the highest rates of asthma among Latinos.

“That collaboration really allowed our lab to evolve into doing very relevant research in asthma disparities,” says Elizabeth McQuaid, PhD, who came to Brown to work with Fritz as a postdoctoral research fellow in 1994 and is now a professor of psychiatry and human behavior (research). “It was a tremendous period of growth and productivity. … We all look back at that as a major turning point.”

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