(Part two of a two-part series) Psychiatrist Deborah Peel has become an outspoken advocate for patient privacy rights, founding the Austin, Texas-based not-for-profit Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, and working to develop an effective coalition of organizations across the political spectrum to lobby Congress, but hers was not a direct path to advocacy.
Peel was born in 1951 in Pittsburgh to Kathryn and Abraham Charnes. A noted mathematics professor, Peel’s father taught at what was then the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He would move the family as he switched academic posts to West Lafayette, Ind., and Purdue University and, by the time Deborah started kindergarten at age 4, to Evanston, Ill., where he served on the faculty of Northwestern University. Charnes moved again in 1968 to Austin to take a position with the University of Texas, where, in 1975, he was named as a finalist for the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
Peel says she acquired a passion for reading early in life and has what she calls “the testing gene.” She left Evanston Township High School after her junior year, having tested, at age 16, into the University of Texas, then tested out of the last two years of college to enter medical school—at age 18—at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
In 1974, the 22-year-old finished her basic medical training and began her residency in psychiatry at Galveston. In 1977, her residency completed, she entered into solo private practice. She concluded her training in psychoanalysis from the Dallas Psychoanalytic Institute in 1999. It included undergoing psychoanalysis herself for 6? years. Peel served as chief of psychiatry at 365-bed Brackenridge Hospital in Austin from 1979 to 1990, when she was asked to help the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians with lobbying the Texas Legislature.