In Memory of






Obituary for James E. O'Brien PhD MD

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