Honoring Dr. Sherman Master

July 4, 1935 - August 14, 2019

In Loving Memory of Dr. Sherman Master - Friend, Colleague, Mentor

Dear patients, colleagues and friends – we’ve created this page and this forum to honor and commemorate our co-founder, partner, mentor and friend, Dr. Sherman Master. We knew that we wouldn’t have him forever but were still saddened to let him go – especially knowing that we all still had so much more to learn from him. Now it’s our duty to remember him, the things he shared with us and the example he set and we’d like to invite all of you who knew him to do the same.

Sherman’s contributions to psychiatry and the cause of treatment for addiction are remarkable and well known. In the course of his career, he has served as the director of nearly every psychiatric institution in Richmond and, as his career progressed, he became nationally-known as the leader of an impressive list of addiction treatment programs. He was characteristically humble when asked how he came to focus on treating patients with addiction, always denying any kind of superior vision or master plan. I believe that he was drawn to the field of addiction psychiatry for the same reasons patients were drawn to him – because of his extraordinary compassion and empathy.

Knowing and working with Dr. Master has been one of the greatest pleasures of my professional life. I first met him as a patient and in humbling circumstances; but, from the very start I always felt that, for some reason, he saw my potential and had faith in me. When I made the highly questionable decision to focus my career on treating addiction he encouraged me. In fact, he set up my first few job interviews at addiction treatment centers and I credit him with my earliest successes (although he always laughed when I said so and joked that I was exaggerating his importance).

I have told the story many times about approaching him in the Summer of 2015 to ask his advice about creating what I thought would be a radically new type of addiction treatment practice. He surprised me when he immediately expressed admiration for the plan and then asked if he could join in and work with me! As with so many other things, I later learned he had done this kind of thing before, 20 years before, in fact. When we were struggling to choose a name for the clinic, he characteristically refused to let me name it after him but instead produced a 20-year-old brochure from a program he had created in the 1990’s – The Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine. Over the last few years, scarcely a week went by when he didn’t take the time to tell me how proud he was of what we were doing and how thankful he was to be involved. It is difficult to express how much it has meant to me to know that he believed in me and the mission we had embarked on together. I doubt I’ll ever know a greater honor.

Dr. Master’s importance and influence in the Richmond community is hard to overstate. He was adored and trusted by his patients, some of whom he kept for decades. We were incredibly fortunate and thankful to have the opportunity to work with him and to be a part of his fantastic career. Perhaps now we can add his name to our program – how about The Sherman Master Center for Addiction Medicine?

- James Thompson
CEO & Co-Founder


  1. Vickie Kavanaugh says:

    I worked with Dr. Master in the early 80’s at St. John Vianny. I was a relatively new RN at the time and Dr. Master was extraordinarily supportive of our work and often joined in as few doctors do. I felt a strong personal commitment to my work there that i have rarely experienced throughout my career.

  2. Ryan Riggs says:

    I used to always pop in his office to get some guidance or sometimes just for quick lesson and Dr. Master always obliged. I think he recognized my thirst for knowledge and my desire to soak up as much as I could from the amazing staff I worked with at VCAM. So, sometimes I would come into my office and Dr. Master would have placed some information for me to read, Sometimes a page or two and sometimes a small novel. He was like that, very intuitive and always doing the thing that seemed to go unnoticed by many but which meant a lot to the person he was intending to help. I have never worked with or known a more humble and kind man in all of my life. Thanks for showing me what true humility and selflessness looked like. I will be forever grateful for the time I was afforded to get to know you and to learn all that you taught me.

  3. Kelley Eason says:

    He was a huge part of my recovery and helping me get through some tough things in those first 6 months. He knew NH so we would talk about what we loved about the state. He was kind and genuine. He touched my life unforgettably. He guided me on how to deal with my inability to sleep and on other heavy issues I was faced with mentally…. without judgement. You will be missed.

  4. Karen Marlowe says:

    I first met Dr. Master when I was a student nurse, doing a 2week rotation at Westbrook Hospital. He gave two lectures to our class. I remember that the pattern on his ties matched the topic of the day. My path crossed his many times over my 44 year career in psychiatric nursing at Richmond Memorial Hospital and at Tucker Pavilion. He was a kind, caring man..to his patients and to the staff. I have so much respect for this man. He will be missed by so many.

  5. Genie and George Crawford says:

    Sherman had been our friend for over 50 years. Never was there a kinder gentler person. He didn’t brag about his accomplishments but he always showed compassion and concern for his patients,his family and his friends. He has left a big empty space in the lives of all who knew him. We shared so much with him and Dianne. We will miss him terribly! Rest In Peace Sherman!

  6. Jillian Copeland says:

    Sherman was a dear friend of my in-laws, Ann and Bobby Copeland. When my sister had addiction issues about 20 years ago, they suggested I reach out to Sherman for help. I did. He was so helpful, so kind and so generous with his time and his care. I will never forget his knowledge, expertise and kind heart. He will be greatly missed.

  7. Joel Elston says:

    Dr Master changed the direction of my life in a positive way. We spent many hours discussing addiction and effective ways to help those who suffer. He was exceptionally proud of the work that he was doing at VCAM.
    We lost a giant.

  8. Amanda Carpenter says:

    Words cannot express what a wonderful, caring, inspiring man Dr Master shown to be. I was privileged to have worked with him and learn lessons of compassion and grace from him. Over the decades, he had taught so many people and touched so many lives that this loss has the medical community, patients, friends and family humbled all over the nation. His knowledge, his compassion, his legacy shall live on though our thoughts, hearts and through the acts of kindness. He really taught me that medicine is an art because we care with passion, we learn with passion and we give with passion. Furthermore, His legacy will live on through supporting our patients as he did which was one of the things he loved most. Thank you Dr Master for everything you taught me and the strength to get through these next hurdles. You truly are one of a kind and Im so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from an extraordinary doctor and loving person! I will miss you greatly! ❤️ RIP

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