Dr. Alcides Pinto Retired But Not Soon Forgotten
For nearly four decades, as Chief of Psychology Services at Crownville Hospital Center, Dr. Alcides Pinto of Annapolis helped care for the area’s mental health patients. He retired in 2001, the hospital closed in 2004, but neither will soon be forgotten.
Dr. Pinto has received many awards, both local and national. He was given the Outstanding Citizen Award of 2003 by the Kiwanis Club of the Severn. More recently, he was honored by his fellow psychologists for training more than 300 young psychologists from America and abroad in continuing his research-driven, compassionate patient care.
At the annual convention of the Maryland Psychological Association in October, Dr. Pinto was presented with the 2006 Outstanding Contributions to the Education and Training of Psychologists Award. The award recognizes a psychologist who has “demonstrated dedication, commitment, and teaching excellence in psychology at the graduate or internship level.”
In a letter to Dr.Pinto informing him of the award, the association leadership stated,
“You not only ensured the highest standards in training, but your personal caring and mentorship meant that each intern could be assured of reaching his or her highest potential – this benefited not only psychology in Maryland but the citizens of this state as well.” Although the internship program at Crownsville hospital was one of the oldest in the country and existed long before Dr. Pinto joined the staff, he is credited with fostering the program by helping to get it accredited. Once accredited, the program’s reputation grew to such an extent that it drew young doctors from countries around the world, including Spain, Turkey, China and Ireland. “The program gained international attention and therefore attracted international students,” he says.
Dr. Pinto considers his recent recognition “the best news of the year,” because it makes his family proud. “That was the best recognition – from my family,” he says. “My wife, my daughters, and my granddaughters are so proud of me.”
Dr. Pinto grew up in a family of nine children on the small island of Chiloe, just south of mainland Chile. When his father was in the Navy, he helped navigate ships into port.
“The island was famous for its beauty and is now very much a tourist attraction,” he says.
After completing a bachelor of arts degree in bio-psychology and education in Chile, he earned a scholarship to get his master of arts in psychology at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. He remained to earn his doctorate of philosophy in clinical psychology and complete his training. Then he attended the National Institute for Children with Learning and Adjustment Problems, also located in Madrid, where he completed a post-doctoral fellowship. Despite the many degrees and hours of training, his nose wasn’t completed buried in his books. He lifted his head long enough to notice a Columbian girl named Ines who was studying in America, but spending a semester abroad in Madrid. She stole his heart, they married, and after he completed his schooling, Ines convinced him to visit America and consider continuing his work there. The couple came to America by boat on Nov. 12, 1963.
“One of the number one things I wanted to do was see President John F. Kennedy speak,” he says. Sadly, 10 days later, on Nov. 22, the president was assassinated. “I was very upset,” he recalls. “I had a great deal of respect for the president. He was a great supporter of helping the poor and his picture was everywhere to the point where he became almost like a religious figure to me.” A year later, the young doctor was hired as a research psychologist at Crownsville Hospital Center.
“There were 2,600 patients there at the time,” he says. “It was very overcrowded and the conditions were horrible.” Fortunately, Dr. Pinto joined the hospital staff just as things were starting to turn for the better.
In 1964, the first Black superintendent was appointed, and he established several new programs for the patients and for the doctors, including training programs in psychiatry, psychology, social work, dance therapy and pastoral counseling. He also trained Spanish- speaking therapists, such as Dr. Pinto, to be available when that need arose.
The Crownsville hospital staff was well known for their outspoken resistance to the pressures to place patients in public shelters, on the streets, or in the jails. Improvements in psychiatric treatment, rigid admission policies, and better funding of outpatient treatment and residential services gradually reduced the number of patients at the hospital to a mere 200 by the year 2000. Dr. Pinto, who served as director of the hospital’s research efforts, played a large role in this change, especially when it came to the improvement of psychiatric treatment.
“We did a lot of research regarding treatment,” he says. “We studied the affects of anti-depressants and tranquilizers in an effort to improve the quality of life of our patients. I feel very proud of my time at Crownsville.” Crownsville is closed and Dr. Pinto is retired, but that hasn’t diminished his desire to help people, especially the Spanish-speaking community, who hold a special place in his heart. “I like to offer counseling and advice to the members of the Latino community as well as to help them in their efforts to further their education -- but now every thing I do is pro bono,” he says with a smile.
When he is not counseling patients or offering advice, Dr. Pinto is at home with his family, enjoying time with his wife, four daughters, and two granddaughters.
“I’m basically letting the women run my life,” he says, again with a smile.