Rutgers Counselor Pamela K. Heard, Who Helped Countless Students, Loses Battle With Cancer

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Dr. Pamela Heard, 49, director of the Counseling Center at Rutgers University, Newark,  died on March 29 following a long battle with breast cancer.  Dr. Heard, a Montclair, N.J., resident, is survived by her daughter, Lauren.  

Dr. Heard’s family and Rutgers colleagues will celebrate her life at memorial services later this spring. 

During her 18 years of service to the campus community as a member of the center’s staff, Dr. Heard touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of students. Dr. Heard’s special interests included helping those with mood disorders, particularly depression, and working to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

In remembering Dr. Heard, one of the students she counseled observed:  “Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.’  Dr. Pamela Heard was one of the rare people who managed to combine both into one.  Dr. Heard worked tirelessly, both at Rutgers and private practice, to give thousands of people hope and help to live a full life.”

The student noted, “The crossroads of adolescence and adulthood can be challenging and filled with pitfalls. Through Dr. Heard's counseling I was able to navigate those treacherous waters and develop strategies and tools that I rely on every day.  I remain indebted to her, as I know I stand on her shoulders.  I mourn her loss along with countless others who received the same care.  What saddens me the most is that she will not be here to guide another generation of youth.  You will be missed, Dr. Heard, but your legacy remains.”

“Inspirational, influential, compassionate, inspiring, loving – these are the first words that come to mind when remembering Dr. Pamela Heard,” stated another student. “I was one of her first patients at Rutgers University; she assisted me through some of the darkest days of my life, showing and teaching me that I could move forward into a better place in my life.  Dr. Heard believed in me, believed in all of her patients, believed that through hard work and dedication one can not only survive but prevail.  She will always remain an instrumental part of my life and all of those that she worked with.”

“Pam Heard was a strong leader and was highly respected by all of her staff,” recalled her longtime Rutgers colleague, Polly McLaughlin. “Along with her full caseload she would look for alternative ways to reach out to students, such as initiating a student-run organization called ‘Active Minds’ in which students reached out to other students who were in need of support, and developing the annual ‘DeStress Fest’ that helps students to relax and find support during final exams,” she said.  “In addition, she was a strong supporter of the award-winning Recovery Program for students in substance abuse recovery, coordinated and ran the Mother's Group which met weekly for mothers who are balancing work, home and school. She also was a member of the campus Threat Assessment team and a member of the Organization of Black Faculty and Staff.”

Dr. Heard was chair of the Rutgers-Newark Mental Health Committee, and served as chair of the university-wide Mental Health Committee.

From her bedside, Dr. Heard coordinated the ongoing expansion of the Counseling Center's facilities, despite her illness, according to McLaughlin. “She always put students first. She was a remarkable woman whose presence on campus will always be felt.”

Dr. Heard was a graduate of Yale University, where she received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.  She earned her undergraduate degree from Smith College. She was a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New Jersey.

Dr. Heard’s family and Rutgers colleagues will remember her at memorial services later this spring.