Dorothy Popkin, 59, a former psychiatric nurse at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington and a teacher of community mental health at the Baltimore campus of the University of Maryland, died of an aneurysm Sunday at a hospital in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Mrs. Popkin, who was a resident of the Washington are from 1961 to 1970, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and became a registered nurse at the Long Island College Hospital there. She lived in South Hempstead, N.Y., and practiced nursing before moving to this area, where she lived in Bethesda and then in Garrett Park. She continued her nursing career here, working at St. Elizabeths until about 1967 and then teaching at the University of Maryland.

In 1970, she spent a year in Israel as a consultant on mental health maters. She then moved to Stony Brook, N.Y., and taught community mental health at the State University of New York campus there. She was on a year's sabbatical in California at the time of her death.

Her marriage to Roy Popkin ended in divorce.

Survivors include a son, Ray, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a daughter, Gail Ohnsman, of Breckenridge, Minn., her mother, Mary Robinson, of Queens, N.Y., and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Women's Resource Center, 738 Hignera No. 2, San Luis Obispo, calif.