Jeree Pawl Ph.D. a pioneer in the field of Infant Mental health died on November 19, 2021 at the age of 91. In 1979 Dr. Pawl was invited to the UCSF Department of Psychiatry as one of a team led by Selma Fraiberg. Their mission was to form an infant parent program to serve young children and families in San Francisco and train new mental health professionals in this
emerging field. In 1981 after the unexpected death of Selma Fraiberg Dr. Pawl became the director of the Infant Parent Program at UCSF serving for almost two decades. During that period, she expanded the program opening up new venues for infant mental health work such as services to childcare settings and consultations with child welfare organizations. She consulted to multiple programs in the Bay Area and beyond training and influencing hundreds
of professionals who went on to build careers in this field. In addition to being sought out by multiple systems and organizations, Dr. Pawl was also involved in helping these individuals she had trained as they nurtured and developed new services in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond.
In addition to her work in the Bay Area Dr. Pawl was a revered and beloved national leader serving on the Zero to Three board, traveling widely to teach and support this growing field, and authoring numerous articles and chapters that broadly influenced the work. In 2019 she was awarded Zero to Three’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Pawl approached her work with compassion, humor, and a gift for getting to the heart of the matter. She had a capacity to connect with others, to believe in the value of this often-difficult work, and to inspire others to do so as well. She was warm and witty, caring, and paid attention to the details of clinical work in ways that opened meaning and possibility. She embodied kindness and a caring about others that conveyed a belief in their ability to grow and change. There is no way to sum up the wisdom, intelligence, and generosity of Dr. Pawl, but a quote from her work that offers some insight into her way of being in the world is known as the platinum rule or “Do unto others as you would others do unto others”. The title of one of her well-known works co-authored with Maria St. John entitled How you are is as Important as What you Do gives a second insight into her beliefs and work.
In 2017 when the hard tasks of building the structure of CalAIMH was at a point where the organization could be officially launched, Barbara Stroud and Mary Claire Heffron approached Dr. Pawl and asked her if she would be present at the official reception planned to take place at the Zero to Three National Conference in San Diego. She agreed, and her presence, her enthusiasm for the mission, and her blessings on this developing program were both an exuberant and meaningful sendoff for CalAIMH and a tribute to Dr. Pawl who had devoted much of her career to building the next generation of infant mental health providers and leaders.
– Mary Claire Heffron