Top 100 - 2011

Garrett O’Connor

Dr. Garrett O’Connor is an internationally renowned psychiatrist, recognized for his expertise in the clinical assessment of fitness-for-duty in safety sensitive personnel, as well as for his extensive clinical experience in corporate risk and workplace addiction liability.

Dr. O’Connor was born in Dublin and graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1960. He studied psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Currently, Dr. O’Connor is the President and first Chief Executive Officer of the Betty Ford Institute (BFI) and serves on the Board of Directors of the Betty Ford Clinic. Prior to his appointment as President of BFI, he served as Medical Director of the Betty Ford Center’s Licensed Professionals Treatment Program and Chief Psychiatrist of the Betty Ford Center. Dr. O’Connor also founded and guided the Clinical Diagnostic Evaluation Program at the Center. He has taught in the Departments of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and UCLA. A main focus of Dr. O’Connor’s work for the past 20 years has been the malignant shame that can stem from cultural or familial trauma, and how it can carry on to future generations.

Married to actress Fionnula Flanagan since 1972, Dr. O’Connor and his wife have lived in California for over 30 years. This past December, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Dublin. In April, Dr. O’Connor gave the keynote address at Glucksman Ireland House NYU University Day, the theme of which was “Who Do We Think We Are? The Irish Family.” He spoke of the role of colonial occupation and oppression in the development of what he terms “malignant shame” and its role, in turn, in the disease of alcohol addiction in Irish and Irish-American families. Many of the audience were moved to tears by O’Connor’s presentation, delivered with a mix of wry humor and personal revelations, including his own struggle with alcohol. As Aine Carrol, one of the attendees remarked, “Dr. O’Connor totally blew me away with his raw honesty and humility. To me, that is the real meaning of humble, to admit you have been wrong, but yet to try to learn from that and help others from it.”