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University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90007

As early as the 1970s, David McWhirter (March 29, 1932 - July 28, 2006) was redefining attitudes toward the study of human sexuality.

"He helped demythologize sexual problems, making them legitimate issues in psychiatry," said Dr. Igor Grant, director of the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center at the UCSD School of Medicine.

McWhirter taught human sexuality to students in psychiatric residency programs at the University of California San Diego.

He also did research on the dynamics of homosexual relationships in the pre-AIDS era. The research, in collaboration with his life partner, Andrew Mattison, spawned a 1984 book, "The Male Couple," a groundbreaking reference on issues of fidelity, monogamy and emotional attachment.

"No one had done the research before," McWhirter told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "We became authorities on couples, invited to speak all over the world."

McWhirter had years of experience in the psychiatric and academic fields before launching his book project with Mattison, a medical psychologist, psychotherapist and educator.

Mattison and McWhirter devoted five years of research to their book, which was translated into German and French. Videotapes of interviews they conducted with gay couples were used as teaching tools in medical school settings, and copies were sent to the Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana.

In 1987, McWhirter was appointed medical director of the County Mental Health hospital in Hillcrest. It was a troubled time for the psychiatric hospital, which a month earlier had lost its certification for Medicare payments after an investigation uncovered inadequate care.

Under McWhirter's leadership, the facility moved in 1989 from an old building that contained 60 beds to a 109-bed building in the Midway District. It reopened under the name San Diego County Psychiatric Hospital.

McWhirter served on Kinsey's Science Advisory Board and was president in 1986 and 1987 of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex. He was appointed to two statewide AIDS task forces and was named a fellow in 1985 of the American Psychiatric Association.

"David was very well-connected in both the psychiatric and gay communities," Grant said. "He was very interested in AIDS prevention and in supporting the (HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center). He was helpful in getting our message to the community and in preventing the town/gown tensions that sometimes occur with research of this type."

McWhirter, who moved from a downtown San Diego condominium to Rancho Mirage in 2006, was born March 29, 1932, in San Jose.

He earned a bachelor's degree in biology at Loyola University in Los Angeles and earned his medical degree at the University of Southern California.

In 1970, he moved to San Diego from Los Angeles, where he had been assistant director of adult inpatient services at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. He became an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSD in 1976 and opened a private psychiatric practice in 1983.

A marriage in early adulthood produced two children. He married Louise M. Schlangen on July 9, 1955 in Los Angeles; divorced in March 1976.

David found a life partner in Mattison, who died in December 2005 at age 57. David and Drew were life partners for more that 34 years.

"David is best remembered for his kindness, his public service and his gentleness," said longtime friend Naved Khan. "He was considered a leader in the gay and lesbian community."

McWhirter enjoyed entertaining and preparing meals for guests. "He was a great cook, anything from Chinese food to Italian," Kahn said.

McWhirter, a psychiatrist who maintained a private practice in San Diego until 2003, died July 28, 2006, at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. He was 74. The cause of death was a stroke, Grant said. Survivors include a daughter, Monica Van Haupt of San Marcos and a son, Dr. Paul McWhirter of Lafayette.

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  1. Obituary By Jack Williams STAFF WRITER, Union-Tribune, San Diego: