James O'Brien PhD

James E. O'Brien PhD MD

Monday, June 30th, 1930 - Saturday, May 9th, 2020
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James Edward O’Brien, Ph.D., M.D., of Wethersfield, CT, son of John K. O’Brien and Delia (McNamara) O’Brien, passed away peacefully at home on May 9, 2020 surrounded by his family. James was born on June 30, 1930 in New Haven, CT and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in New Haven, CT. He attended the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy earning a BS in Pharmacy and a MS and PhD in Pharmacology. He then earned his Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Vermont School of Medicine and completed his residency in internal medicine at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT. He became Clinical Pharmacologist and Acting Visiting Physician in the Department of Medicine, Medical Director of the Intensive Care Unit, and Director of the Methadone Detoxification Program at St. Francis. Following that, he was appointed the Medical Director of the Combined Hospital Alcoholism Program (CHAP) in Hartford and then Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, serving as Medical Director of the Alcohol Treatment Center at UConn John Dempsey Hospital. He was the Medical Director of the Poison Control Center for the State of Connecticut. He was also a Commissioner of Pharmacy for the State of Connecticut. After retiring from UConn, he served as Medical Director of the Government Managed Care Programs at BlueCross BlueShield of Connecticut and as outside consultant at The Hartford. He was recognized for his leadership and commitment to drug education and the pursuit of the abolishment of drug abuse, receiving awards from the US Department of Justice, New England Narcotics Enforcement Association, and the Governor’s Prevention Partnership for Safe and Successful Drug-Free Kids. He was also named a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy. He was a faithful communicant of the Church of the Incarnation in Wethersfield, where he served as an usher, Minister of Holy Communion, and President of the Parish Council.
James is survived by his loving wife of 64 years, Joan (McMullen) O’Brien, whom he met while they were attending UConn School of Pharmacy, and by their four children: Dr. James E. O’Brien, Jr. (Dr. Lina) and their children Lauren, Connor, and Christine of Leawood, KS; Elizabeth O. Massey (Bruce) and their children Erin, Rachel, and Joshua of West Hartford, CT; Dr. Thomas J. O’Brien (Sharon) and their children Daniel, Kaitlyn, and Kerianne; and Deborah J. O’Brien all of Wethersfield. He is also survived by his sisters-in-law, Christine and Shirley O’Brien, sisters and brothers-in-law, Audrey and Donald Wasik and Anne and William Tetmeyer, as well as numerous nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brothers, John and Francis, and his brother-in-law, Robert Orner.
The family would like to thank his dedicated caregivers, Kofi and Lealtor, as well as the staff at Masters in Home Care and Trinity Health for providing such wonderful care and support.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Dr. James E. O’Brien to the UConn Foundation. Please make checks payable to: The UConn Foundation, Inc. for the Dr. James E. O’Brien ‘52 ‘55 ‘57 and Joan McMullen O’Brien ‘54 Scholarship in Pharmacy and forward to the following address: 2390 Alumni Drive Unit 3206, Storrs, Connecticut 06269.

Due to health concerns, a private burial will take place in Village Cemetery, Wethersfield at 10:00 am on Thursday May 14, 2020. A Memorial Mass will be held at a later date. To extend condolences or to view the committal service on webcasting, please visit
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Service Details

  • Interment

    Village Cemetery
    Marsh St.
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
Due to the current health restrictions, there will be a live stream of Dr. James O'Brien's Committal Service at 10AM, this Thursday, May 14, 2020.


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Susan Viinson

Posted at 03:55pm
This was one of the men I loved in my life. . . and Joanie as well! I was on staff at the ATC at UConn in Farmington and we
interacted (sometimes scraping horns) every working day. He took care of me as well and taught me how to BE in this
world: lessons I've bought to me to this point in my life! He took on the responsibility for my girls when we had to be out
of touch. He was our favorite Leprechaun! I have so many memories - especially of him shoving a bed into the unit and
saying, "WE WILL ADMIT THIS PATIENT"! My family has heard the stories. We love him beyond measure and wish for the
best for his children and his memory. We've tried to live up to the expectations he had of all of us!

With love and Blessings!

Jim and Susan Vinson

Ellen Martineau

Posted at 11:43pm
Dear Joan and family. It is many years since we met back in 1966 when I was working as a new grad on ICU. Dr. Jim was such a wonderful physician and support to us all. Answering all our questions and teaching us and keeping our spirits up with his marvelous wit. I remember babysitting for your wonderful children and all those Christmas cards with pictures of the family as they grew up and married. I always had the highest regard and respect for both of you. Only recently I learned of Jim’s passing must have missed the paper that day. May he Rest In Peace after a life so well lived and may you remember with a smile all the wonderful years you had together. Peace of the Lord be with you all, Ellen and Harvey Martineau

Michael Lutsky

Posted at 07:38am
So sorry to hear about the passing of Doctor O'Brien. My condolences to the entire O'Brien family.
Michael Lutsky


Posted at 05:13am
When I graduated from nursing school I started in the ICU and met Dr Jim since he was the medical director. I could not have asked for a better champion of the nurses! He always encouraged, educated and always had our backs. His wit was as quick as his smile. I can picture him coming down the hall with his great friend Fr Butler. Between the two of them they ran the ICU and ER.

Fr. George Couturier

Posted at 06:10pm
Dr. James O'Brien was a giant of an educator. I remember his skill and insight so generously given to the students of South Catholic High School, his knowledge about the issues of addiction and youth in powerful and vibrant ways. I thank him for helping to save lives. May he rest in the loving embrace of the God he so loved. Peace Fr. George Couturier

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