Libby A. Tanner, the clinical social worker/sex therapist who helped establish the nations first family medicine department at the University of Miami medical school in the 1960s died of cancer at her Miami Beach home on Aug. 2.
From 1975 to 1981, Tanner headed the medical schools undergraduate medical education department. Among the courses she created and taught: Human Sexuality and Medical Interviewing.
One of the aims of this course...is to help doctors become more comfortable with their own sexual attitudes and help them deal more comfortably with other peoples sexual concerns, she told The Miami Herald in 1976. This whole area of sexuality should be taken more seriously because many people have problems which can affect their marriages as well as their general health.
A 1980 follow-up story described how Tanner taught professional manners to medical students.
They learn to make eye contact with a patient, not to fiddle with pens and papers and look bored while the patient talks, not to put up barriers, such as an office desk, between themselves and a patient.
Tanner told students it was all right for patients and doctors to use each others first name, even though some doctors might be offended.
The day of the consumer is here, she said.
A social progressive, Tanner worked closely with Dr. Lynn Carmichael, the Family Medicine Departments first dean, considered the father of family medicine, and shared his commitment to social justice in healthcare delivery. She counseled Cuban refugee children who arrived in the early Castro regime years, children in foster care, and Broward families through the old Jewish Family Service of Hollywood.
Tanner was on the cutting edge of her specialty, and controversial, said Dr. Bernard Fogel, dean emeritus of whats now called UMs Miller School of Medicine.
There were even individuals in medicine at the time who felt that [teaching sexuality to medical students] was crossing the line. They raised eyebrows.
But Tanner understood early that sexual dysfunction contributed to a variety of mental and physical illnesses, Fogel said, now an accepted premise
She was a remarkable woman.
She blew the minds of naive students when she brought openly gay and transvestite friends to address her classes, daughter Lauri Tanner said.
Born Libby Arkin in Cincinnati on Dec. 25, 1926, Tanner spent her early years in Kingsport, Tenn., to which her family fled after her father, a Socialist labor organizer, was nearly killed in Ohio, said her sister, Tillie Salter.
The family came to South Florida in 1943, yet Libby never lost her love for the mountains, Lauri said.
Even after learning last year that she had advanced cancer, she insisted on hiking Yosemite National Park to celebrate her daughters law school graduation.
Tanner, who held a doctorate from Californias Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, was 85, widowed since the 2008 death of her husband, Dr. Robert I. Tanner, longtime staff optometrist for the UM athletic department.
They met in Miami Beach and were married for 58 years, most of them spent in Pinecrest. They became part of a liberal conclave of whites active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when parts of Miami-Dade remained segregated.