Erik Gann


Dr. Erik Gann

Dr. Erik Gann, 76, passed away at home in San Francisco among his loved ones on July 19, 2023 after a battle with cancer.

Dr. Gann was born on October 27, 1946, in Brooklyn, NYC, to Mitzi-Ann Haim Gann and Lee Gann. He attended PS 187, Horace Mann School in Bronx, NY, graduated from Yale University in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and earned his M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1971. He completed a medical internship at French Hospital and a residency in psychiatry at Mt Zion Hospital. He received his psychoanalytic training at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, now the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. He served as medical director of adult mental health services and director of training at Menninger San Francisco Bay Area. For nearly five decades he maintained a busy psychiatry and psychoanalysis private practice, first in New York City, and then in San Francisco.

Dr. Gann was passionate about Psychoanalysis. He served as a leader and educator in numerous psychoanalytic communities. He was instrumental in the restructuring of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis (SFCP) into its present form. He served as President of SFCP and was active on the Board of Trustees. He was also a leader and active member in the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsA), where he was an architect of APsA’s Department of Psychoanalytic Education and was critical in its evolution to its present form. He loved the challenge of applying ideas from other fields to psychoanalytic thought and theory. Months before the onset of his illness and death, he was in the process of planning for the next Psychoanalytic Scholarship Forum, bringing neuroscientists, physicists, and psychoanalysts together on the topic of artificial intelligence to wrestle with what they each envision for the future. He intended to lead them into a discussion of how the development of artificial intelligence, perhaps sentient, will affect our view of consciousness and ultimately the enterprise of psychoanalysis. He was a beloved teacher, Freudian scholar, and Training – Supervising Analyst at SFCP, PINC (Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California), and at the Oregon Psychoanalytic Institute. He was a sought-after consultant for trainees as well as colleagues across the country. Dr. Gann also served as a Principal in the Boswell Group for Psychodynamic Management Consulting.

Dr. Gann was a man of many talents and had an uncommon love of life. He enjoyed deeply the pleasures of the world. He had a unique ability to help others appreciate and feel grateful for beauty in themselves and their lives.

He loved tennis, singing, playing the piano and the guitar and was accomplished at them all. He loved to make and appreciate art and to witness the feats of great athletes. Fluent in French and Italian, he loved to travel and to learn other languages and about other cultures, both ancient and modern. He loved to wear three-piece suits with French-cuffed shirts and cuff links. He loved fountain pens and watches. He loved Scotch whiskey, martinis, fine wine, India pale ale, and rare steak. He loved conversation, whether to explore simple or complex ideas with family, friends or colleagues, or to learn about other people, whom he made feel seen, heard, understood, and appreciated – and often amused. No one felt lonely in his company. His intelligence, wit and generosity were enjoyed by many.

He adored spending time with his family and playing with his young grandchildren. Like Ulysses (or perhaps Auntie Mame) he “drank life to the lees.”

Dr. Gann is survived by his family Dr. Phyllis J. Cath, Elliot G. Gann, Alexander (Sasha) G. Gann, Cory Gann (Sharon), Evan Konecky, Laura Cath Rubenstein (Erik Olson), Andrew Cath Rubenstein (Lucy Wells), Rose Cath Olson, Claire Rubenstein Olson, and Henry August Wells Rubenstein.


Erik Gann died July 19, 2023 after a valiant battle against cancer. His brothers in the Whiffenpoofs wrote this about him: “He was a psychoanalyst of skill and compassion. He practiced successfully, first in San Francisco, next in New York City and then back in San Francisco again. Late in July he lost his valiant battle with cancer and passed away, quietly and peacefully. He leaves his lovely wife, Dr. Phyllis Cath, and his children Eliot, Laura, Alexander and Andrew.

“Erik was a musician. He was a talented pianist and singer. At Yale, he sang with the Augmented Seven and the Russian Chorus. At Columbia Medical School he was Sky Masterson in a student production of “Guys and Dolls.” In 2016 he was inducted into the Whiffenpoofs of 1967 and performed with us at our 50th Reunion.

“Erik will be sorely missed, by his family, by his patients, by his classmates, and certainly by his fellow Whiffs. He made the world go round!”

Tom Jones added, “Erik was the best of friends. In 2021 I lost a dear Jewish friend. His widow asked me to conduct the service. I was terrified. I couldn’t refuse, but I had no idea what to do other than perhaps write an obituary. But I knew to whom I could turn. I called Erik. With great kindness and gentleness, he guided me. He suggested I sing “Avinu Malkeynu.” Because I could not possibly recite the prayer, he translated the Kaddish into English for me. And he encouraged me. The morning was difficult, but with Erik’s support I made it through. He was a friend indeed.”

And Geoff Neigher said, “Erik was a relatively new addition to the Whiffs, but he seemed, almost instantly, to be an old friend. Maybe it was his sparkling sense of humor, or his easy conversational style. Certainly, it was his warmth and compassion. He demonstrated those qualities to members of my family on more than one occasion, and for that and for his friendship, I am deeply grateful. His voice will be missed in more ways than one.”

“Erik and Walt Buhl and I all moved on to medical school at Columbia P&S following our graduation,” adds Mark Chodoff. “There was a tradition at P&S of producing old Broadway musicals each year. Our first year there, the show chosen was Guys and Dolls. I, as a Dramat techie emeritus, built the sets. Eric was a smoooooooth Guy Masterson, and Walt played Nicely Nicely Johnson. A lovely Vassar girl who was in her first year of Nursing School was cast as the female lead, Sarah Brown. Her name was Abigail Bantham, but that changed in September of 1968 when we married. And this September it will be 55 years.

“I will cherish my memories of Erik.”

Peter Sheckman adds, “Erik was my closest friend of a lifetime from 9th grade at Horace Mann School in the Bronx. Although our lives separated by San Francisco to Boston we remained as close as brothers sharing just about everything in life.

“Our time at Yale brought us even closer through interest in singing and music but far more so in helping each other through times of growth and well as times of joy. Erik always had his deep interest in understanding of the mind and psychological development. We were kindred spirits in so many regards and truly deeply emotionally attached. When Erik presented with his terminal illness, he and I and, of course, Phyllis talked constantly. I was able to spend two weeks with him and Phyllis in NYC where he came for specialized radiation treatment. I felt as close as ever knowing, full well that his return to San Francisco was for hospice terminal care. I will miss him as a brother and I will grieve his loss for a long time.

“I will also always remember the bright, talented, funny, learned and sensitive man that I was so fortunate to have had as my best friend.”