Charles E. “Charlie” Riordan, MD, a longtime clinical faculty member of the Yale Department of Psychiatry and retired chair of psychiatry at St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven, passed away on July 17, 2021. He was 83 years old.
Riordan was recruited to Yale by the late Dr. Herbert D. Kleber at the start of the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) Substance Abuse Treatment Unit, a pioneering program where patients were assessed and treated for abuse. alcohol and drugs.
Riordan became the unit’s medical director and, along with Kleber, Rosalyn Liss, and others, helped make it one of the largest drug addiction programs in the world.
Riordan has been described as the “clinical glue” of the program. He supervised and led community clinics and assessed patients as he taught young clinicians how to work with patients and their families. He was an addiction psychiatrist who pioneered methadone maintenance as a treatment for opioid dependence. At the clinic, he perfected the balance between keeping the atmosphere light while taking the important role of counseling and treating patients with severe addictions very seriously.
“He loved jokes, but he was rock hard,” said Richard Schottenfeld, MD, president of psychiatry and behavioral science at Howard University College of Medicine, trained under Riordan and his longtime colleague at Yale. “He was ready to play the role he needed. There was nothing rigid or formal about him. He made the job fun because he was excited and interested and because he cared about himself.
“What I remember most is his passion and tenacity when it comes to doing our best for people with substance abuse disorders,” said Robert Cole, MHSA, chief of the operation of CMHC. “He would do whatever he deemed necessary to advance the cause. ”
Riordan graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1963 and began working at Yale seven years later. He and his wife Pat, whom he had been married to for 59 years, moved to Madison, where they raised four children.
He was appointed president of the psychiatry department at the Hôpital de Saint-Raphaël in 1987 and a year later he was appointed chief physician. Over the next decade, he chaired “Fighting Back,” an initiative by Robert Wood Johnson to develop a strategy for drug prevention and treatment in the New Haven community.
Riordan has chaired the Council of Addiction Psychiatry and the Committee on Standards for the American Psychiatric Association and has been very active with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a member of the JCAHO Professional and Technical Advisory Committee. He was also a member of the executive committee of the Connecticut State Mental Health Board. He served on the Connecticut Hospital Association board of directors for a decade and culminated in his service as president.
He retired from St. Raphael’s in 2007, but continued to work in private practice and for Connecticut Hospice. His long and distinguished career serving the Connecticut healthcare community spans 50 years. He was the author of dozens of published clinical research articles, recognized as a national expert in addiction psychiatry, testified before Congress and consulted for Major League Baseball.
Known as Pop Pop by his 11 grandchildren, he cherished summer vacations with the family and enjoyed attending his grandchildren’s receptions, from basketball, lacrosse and soccer games to swimming meets and school activities. His favorite summer tradition over the holidays was to wake up early each morning to grab a large box of donuts so that when his grandchildren woke up they could sit at the table and talk with him. He played golf, was a member of St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church in Madison, and enjoyed Broadway plays and Boston Pops. He and Pat have traveled the world.
Of his obituary: “Charlie had a tremendous knowledge of the human condition. Educated in the Jesuit tradition, he has always been a man for others. Her unique gifts were her ability to connect with people and her ability to offer compassion and empathy, especially to those who needed it most. He had a quiet grace in his demeanor and an enthusiasm that made him endearing to people. When you spoke to Charlie you always had his undivided attention and he made it clear that you were important and that you meant to him.