Erikson community remembers Dr. T. Berry Brazelton

The influence of Dr. Brazelton, an Erikson life trustee, can be felt in the work of the institute’s faculty and staff.

When T. Berry Brazelton, MD, passed away on March 13 at age 99, the field of early childhood lost a trailblazing figure whose influence is evident in the work of many professionals today, including the faculty and staff of Erikson Institute.

Recognizing Dr. Brazelton’s contributions to the fields of developmental pediatrics and infancy, Erikson awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 2012 and named him a life trustee in 1996. He also served as a consultant to Erikson in 1983 and as an Erikson advisory board member from 1988 to 1995.

“Dr. Brazelton was a great supporter and frequent guest at Erikson,” said Barbara Bowman, one of Erikson’s founders. “He was one of the first pediatricians to recognize the importance of healthy development as well as pathology. He influenced a generation of parents and doctors about both social-emotional and physical development.”

Dr. Brazelton’s expertise and insights about children’s well-being combined with his empathy, charisma, and easy-going nature endeared him to the general public, who knew him both from his Boston-area practice and the many books he wrote about parenting.

To Erikson faculty member Linda Gilkerson, PhD, Dr. Brazelton was an inspiration for her own career focused on the well-being of infants and new parents. Prior to joining Erikson, Dr. Gilkerson moved to Boston to work with Dr. Brazelton and said she considered him a mentor and friend even long after she left Massachusetts.

“My life changed the day he returned my call in 1977 and invited me to come to the Child Development Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital,” Dr. Gilkerson said. “He didn’t know me at all yet generously opened the door for me to a career in infancy. His influence is with me every day, including last Sunday when I called to share the happy news that my son was getting married. ‘That’s fabulous!’ he said. ‘And grandchildren may be next!’

“He believed in what Erikson does. He spent the later years of his career reaching early childhood educators, and he always admired Barbara Bowman as a leader and cared for her as a dear friend. Erikson can be so proud to have had him as a board member and early supporter. He was surely proud of us.”

His work, Dr. Gilkerson said, influenced her in developing the Facilitating Attuned Interactions approach to building relationships with parents (referred to as FAN), which has become a model used by doctors across the United States and abroad. Erikson’s Fussy Baby Network®, which Dr. Gilkerson founded and is rooted in FAN, is also modeled after Dr. Brazelton’s approach of deeply respecting parents and their vulnerabilities.

“The entire Erikson community mourns the loss of Dr. Brazelton, and we remain committed to helping achieve his vision of a world that cares deeply for babies and toddlers,” said Geoffrey A. Nagle, PhD, Erikson’s president and chief executive officer.