A Guest Post in Memory of Dr. Simon Budman
by Dr. Steven Passik.
I only saw Simon Budman – or Si as everyone knew him – really angry and indignant one time. With all he’d been through in his life, he had every right to be chronically embittered. Instead, I always knew him to be empathic, erudite and brilliant and a guy that never wavered from wanting to do good and be fair and humane to others, especially people with pain, drug addiction and other mental health difficulties. He suffered a major cardiac event as a young man and had complications of it to contend with from then on. He was lucky to have survived and we have been lucky to have him as long as we did, until he passed away way too soon last week.
You see, Si’s beloved wife Susan suffered with Parkinson’s disease which began when she too was way too young – something else Si could have been chronically embittered about – watching the pain and suffering of his beloved partner. And it was in this context when I saw Si angry and indignant. I was sitting next to him at a conference and the panel discussion and lectures were portraying the doctor patient relationship in opioid therapy as us against them, the providers worried about protecting themselves over the duty they had to their patients. The conversation was going from bad to worse, taking on a cynical and even more negative tone. Si turned beet red. He rose, turned and walked out. Susan had been a pain patient and Si couldn’t stand to listen to patients being denigrated in the fashion that was coming from the stage.
This is what I loved so much about Si – his passion. Of course, I admired and was inspired by his intellect, the novelty of his thought, his academic accomplishments and “cred”, his partnership and productivity with the also extremely brilliant Steve Butler, all of it. I only said 100 times when looking at their work – wow I wish I had thought of that. But Si’s commitment to patients is what anchored everything he did and so his work never became unmoored nor could it ever become purely academic mumbo jumbo. Inflexxion and Budman/Butler’s work was always as practical as it was brilliant, as useful as it was novel, as elegantly entrepreneurial as it was ingenuous.
Si was a superstar in the psychotherapy world before I ever knew him as a pain colleague. His book and teachings on brief psychotherapy were required reading in my training. This was classic Si – egalitarian, practical, patient-focused and entrepreneurial (he traveled the world teaching the principles of brief therapy).
I just spoke to Si a week ago. Looking back over the text string I had actually said to him, “Si, your guys’ work inspires me.” I don’t recall what moved me to say it then, but I am glad I did.
In these times of conflict over the availability of pain therapy, we have lost one of our smartest, fairest, most reliable, credible and unique voices. I miss you already Si. We will all try to carry the torch but it will be less brilliant without you.
This guest blog post is written by Steven D. Passik, PhD.
Dr. Steve Passik has a 25 year academic clinical and research career principally at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC and has over 200 publications to his credit. Dr. Passik has contributed here previously and we are grateful to welcome him back for this a heartwarming tribute to one of our esteemed colleagues in the pain space. Thank you Steve!
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