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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA

Former UCLA professor dies at 80

By Daily Bruin Staff

Aug. 12, 2001 9:00 p.m.

  Keith Ditman

By Marcelle Richards
Daily Bruin Senior Staff

A former UCLA psychiatry professor, Keith Ditman spent his last
years at his private practice where he saw patients just weeks
before his death. But after battling heart complications, Ditman
passed away on July 19 at age 80.

“His world revolved around being a doctor,” said his
daughter, Cynthia Ditman. “He held high his education because
he started off with nothing. Education was probably the most
important thing to him.”

Born in Spokane, Wash., on April 18, 1921, Ditman’s humble
beginnings were no deterrent to his passion for education.

His service in the Army, Navy and Marines coincided with his
years in college, as he earned degrees from UC Santa Barbara, the
California Institute of Technology and the University of Southern

But the bulk of Ditman’s academic career was grounded at

He started as an associate professor of psychiatry and
eventually headed the department’s research clinic. In the
1960s, he served as a researcher for the UCLA Brain Mapping

With a specialization in psychopharmacology, Ditman published 71
articles and books ““ findings spawned from expeditions to
Africa and LSD studies inspired by Timothy Leary, the father of

“Back then, the studies were pretty simple. It was done at
the doctors’ leisure and in their homes,” Cynthia said
in recollection of researchers going on acid trips at her house in
the name of science. “Even after he left (UCLA), a lot of the
research he did was still used.”

Ditman’s work was not limited to human subjects,

While a drug consultant for the San Diego Zoo, he made
expeditions to Africa to test the effects of tranquilizers on
animals, which resulted in the transport of the zoo’s first
white rhinoceros.

Ditman even had a run-in with show business when TV producer
Ivan Tours hired him to oversee the health and treatment of
Flipper, the dolphin and show’s star.

But Ditman never abandoned his love for people, said
psychiatrist Barbara Sziraki, his friend and colleague for 15

In a slightly disheveled office, Ditman was the dry-humored
psychiatrist who thrived on interaction with patients.

“He was very devoted to his patients,” said Robert
Van Scoyac, a 1944 UCLA alumnus who met Ditman in medical school at
USC. “He was just a wonderful person. It’s a sad

Van Scoyac shared birthdays, Christmases, New Years, and a
healthy dose of political argument with Ditman throughout the

“He was a devoted Democrat, and I’m a devoted
Republican, so we always had a good time discussing things,”
he said. “He was always very humorous, very clever with
regards to current events and politics.”

Though roses, books and swimming topped his list of favorites,
Sziraki said Ditman’s interest in the role of women was one
of his more apparent fascinations.

“He was always impressed by the issue of motherhood
““ that was very germane to his view of people, whether they
were mothered well or were good mothers,” she said.

The funeral was held Saturday at the Westwood Presbyterian

Ditman is survived by his daughter, son and two

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