Charlotte Zitrin, 95, founded Phobia Clinic at LIJ, dies

Charlotte Marker Zitrin, the founding director of the Charlotte Marker Zitrin, the founding director of the Phobia Clinic at Long Island Jewish Hillside Medical Center and a Great Neck doctor influential in treating panic attacks and phobias, has died. She was 95. Photo Credit: handout

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Charlotte Marker Zitrin, the founding director of the Phobia Clinic at Long Island Jewish Hillside Medical Center and a Great Neck doctor influential in treating panic attacks and phobias, has died. She was 95.

"What was really cool in my house was that she was a doctor," said her son, Richard Zitrin, 66, of San Francisco, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law.

"Every other mother in the neighborhood was a house mom. We didn't realize how big of a deal she was."

Born in Brooklyn in 1918, Zitrin moved her family of four to Great Neck in 1954, remaining there until she died of natural causes on Dec. 3, relatives said.

As founder of the Phobia Clinic at the medical center, she became a pioneer in treating anxiety disorders and panic attacks, her son said.

She found evidence that a combination of drug, desensitization and psychotherapy were successful in combating those conditions, relatives said.

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Zitrin entered medical school at New York University in 1939 and graduated, at a time when woman were just breaking into the profession, Richard Zitrin said.

Zitrin said he spoke with his mother on the phone the day before she died, and she sounded in good health.

"Just being able to talk to her and get her wisdom. And being able to make her laugh enough to make her cry" is what he'll miss most, he said.

But he promises to keep close her life advice.

She used to say "never look for perfect. Perfect you can't find," he said.

In 1994, Zitrin and her husband, Arthur, created the Charlotte M. Zitrin scholarship, through which three medical students are financially supported each year. To date, more than $1.3 million has been raised, family members said.

Another scholarship named after her benefits law students at Columbia University, where her brother, Harold Marker, attended before dying at age 22 in a "routine surgical operation in 1942 while under anesthesia," the family said.

"No matter what I told her, no matter how disturbing, her calm demeanor in her response would put myself to ease," said her granddaughter, Maya Zitrin, 27. "I'm going to miss her perfect advice for any situation. It was a remarkable trait."

Zitrin was buried on Dec. 6 in a family plot in Washington Cemetery near where she grew up in Coney Island in Brooklyn. Her parents, grandparents and brother are also laid to rest there.

Besides her son, she is also survived by her husband, Arthur, of Great Neck, and daughter, Elizabeth Zitrin, of San Francisco.

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