Dr. John F. Bolter died May 10, 2023, at the age of 72. He suffered
from Alzheimer’s disease.
A respected Clinical Neuropsychologist and Medical Psychologist, Dr. Bolter served as the Director of the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology at The NeuroMedical Center in Baton Rouge. He was one of the leaders of the movement to provide specially trained psychologists with “prescriptive authority” also called RxP. In 2004, he helped accomplish what many believed was an almost impossible achievement––the political maneuvering that gave Louisiana medical psychologists the right to prescribe medication, and the state psychology board the right to regulate that authority.
Dr. Bolter earned the distinction of being the first civilian psychologist in the United States to write a prescription for medication to treat emotional and behavioral health disorders. He was also a key figure in the education efforts of medical psychologists having developed a psychopharmacology education program for postdoctoral psychologists in 1998. He served as Senior Lecturer for the International Psychopharmacology Program, Alliant University, College of Professional Psychology, San Francisco, California.
Fellow medical and neuropsychologist, Dr. Darlyne Nemeth wrote, “Dr. John Bolter was a kind, loving, and multi-talented pioneer who changed the course of psychology forever. Along with Dr. James Quillin and their amazing colleagues, this small group of individuals sought to obtain prescription privileges for Louisiana Psychologists. Over many years, political forays, and monetary efforts, John, “Q,” and company prevailed. I was privileged to play a small part. John orchestrated that process,” she said, and “wrote the first prescription. Throughout, John remained a humble, soft-spoken man who never lost sight of the goal.”
In 2009, Dr. Bolter was part of a second and successful effort to give medical psychologists more autonomy by moving them under the medical board, known as Act 251. While controversial, the move was praised by many as a way of accelerating medical psychologists’ independent practice.
Dr. Warren Lowe, a colleague and also a leader in the medical psychologist community, wrote, “Medical psychologists stand on the shoulders of giants, none greater in stature than John Bolter and Jim Quillin. John was a visionary. His curriculum for post doctoral training in psychopharmacology has become the standard for universities across the country,” he said.
“John was intelligent, kind, and considerate, always willing to help a colleague. It was not his style to place himself in the limelight. What a privilege it has been for us to know him and to benefit from his counsel, wisdom, encouragement and determination. What a gift he has left us. God bless him,” Dr. Lowe said.
Dr. Bolter received multiple awards for his service to the field. In 2004 he and colleagues were named with the Karl F. Heiser APA Presidential Award for Advocacy, an award honoring those psychologists who have given voluntarily of their time to define the discipline of psychology statutorily by state and federal laws through advocacy.
His efforts were also recognized by the American Psychological Association Division 55’s Leadership Award and the Special Recognition Award in Leadership by Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists.
During his extensive career he served as Consulting Neuropsychologist at the Sage Rehabilitation Hospital, the NeuroMedical Center Surgical Hospital, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, the Medical Center of Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and the South Louisiana Rehabilitation Hospital and Outpatient Center.
He was a Medical Expert Witness for the Office of Hearing and Approvals, Department of Health and Human Services, and Social Security Administration. He was Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Family Medicine, Louisiana State University Medical Center, in Baton Rouge,
Dr. Joseph Comaty, colleague and medical psychologist, wrote for the Tributes Page, “I have so many memories of John there is too little space to share them. My memories of John are as a dynamic individual who was thoroughly engaged with his patients, his profession, his family, and his colleagues. You could not help feeling energized anytime you were in his company,” he said.
“I was fortunate to be in the first cohort of psychologists who trained to be prescribing psychologists in Louisiana and had the opportunity to observe first-hand John’s brilliance in the areas of clinical psychopharmacology, politics, academics, professional regulation, and organization. I remember our first class of instruction enroute to our MSCP degree. It was Neuroscience taught by John and two other colleagues. John was clearly one of the most intellectual thinkers I have known,” he said. “His service to his country and his profession will be honored continuously.”
Dr. Bolter was a member of the International Neuropsychology Society, National Academy of Neuropsychology American Psychological Association, APA Divisions 55 (Psychopharmacology), 40 (Neuropsychology), and 42 (Independent Practice). He was also a member of the Louisiana Psychological Association, the Southeastern Psychological Association, the Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists, and the Academy of Medical Psychology.
He served as President of Louisiana Psychological Association and as Treasurer of Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists. He served on the Advisory Council of Spinal Cord and Head Injury Trust Fund of Louisiana, on the APA Psychopharmacology Task Force, and on the APA Model Practice Act Committee.
He served twice on the Board of Examiners of Psychologists, in 1995 as well as in 2007.
Mr. Lloyd Lunceford, posting a Tribute, wrote, “As legal counsel for the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychology for twenty years, I had many occasions to work with dozens of outstanding board members — and John stood out as the best of the best. He was wise, kind, conscientious, hardworking, articulate, gracious, and humble. He was devoted to his profession and to protecting the public health, a trusted leader who had the respect of his peers. I was blessed to know him, and will miss him. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Throughout his long career Dr. Bolter assessed and treated thousands of people and published widely in the areas of brain trauma, seizure disorder, and dementia.
Just a few examples include: “The Relationship Between an Alternative Scoring System for the Halstead Category Test and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test,” in Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology; “Item Error Frequencies for the Halstead Category Test: A Cross Validation Study for a Performance Validity Check,” in Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology; “Frequency of occurrence of WAIS dementia profile in head trauma patient,” in Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology; “Epilepsy in Children: Neuropsychological Effects,” in J. E. Orbzut & G. W. Hynd (Eds.), Child Neuropsychology Vol. II. Clinical Practice; and “Lateralized Cerebral Dysfunction in Early and Late Stage Alcoholics,” in Journal of Studies on Alcohol, and he published the “Multidigit Memory Test,” through Wang Neuropsychological Laboratories.
“We all knew Dr. Bolter as a pioneer in many areas of Psychology/Neuropsychology/Medical Psychology,” wrote a fellow Neuropsychologist, “but I also wanted to share his pioneering efforts in the nascent development of embedded validity indicators in the 1980s (way before this was a regular thing in forensic neuropsychology).” Dr. Bolter and colleagues made use of embedded validity indicators to identify 18 items rarely missed by neurological patients, resulting in the “Bolter items.”
Dr. John Bolter made it a practice to train and share his information with others. He presented over 75 professional workshops, seminars and talks. Examples include: “PEP Review Course, Neurology and Neuroscience, Differential Diagnosis, and Integrating Psychopharmacology into Clinical Practice,” for The American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy Mid-Winter Meeting, San Diego, California; “Workshop: Essential Laboratory Tests with Psychotropic Medications.,” for the Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists Semi-Annual Meeting, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Symposium Chair: “From Law to Practice, Prescription Privileges in Louisiana,” for American Psychological Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana; “Rosecrans SEPA Invited Address: Prescribing Activities of A Medical Psychologist,” for South Eastern Psychological Association Annual Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana; and “Workshop: A Review of Antidepressant Psychopharmacology,” for the Mississippi Psychological Annual Meeting, Biloxi, Mississippi.
A native of San Francisco, and longtime resident of Baton Rouge, he was born in 1950 in San Francisco, California, to Oila Larsen Bolter and Bernard John Bolter. He was a Vietnam era veteran, serving as a corpsman for the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1974, at Balboa Hospital in San Diego, California and on the USS Ticonderoga. He served in the Army Reserves until 2001, at the rank of Major.
He attended the University of California, Berkeley where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with a BA degree in psychology. He obtained a master’s degree in experimental psychology from the University of the Pacific, and his PhD in clinical and neuropsychology from University of Memphis in 1983. He reentered the military for his clinical neuropsychology internship at Walter Reed Army Hospital in 1983. He obtained a postdoctoral Master’s degree in psychopharmacology in 1999.
His family noted that his “side gig” was as a drummer for the classic rock band Blu Rouge. He is survived by his wife Dr. Brenda L. Dawson, also a psychologist, currently in Wilmington, NC, his son Brian John Bolter (Lisa) and grandchildren Bailey and Barrett Bolter, Annapolis, MD, and his daughter Caroline Janice Bolter, Culver City, CA. Also surviving him are his brothers George B. Bolter (Barbara) in Janesville, WI, Bernard J. Bolter (Kay) in San Francisco, CA and James A. Bolter (Susan) also in San Francisco, CA. He was preceded in death by his infant son Patrick John Bolter, his parents and his stepparents.