Three Columbia psychiatry researchers receive top awards from largest psychiatric philanthropy

October 11, 2006

Leading Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute faculty, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D., chair of psychiatry; David Shaffer, M.D., chief of the child and adolescent psychiatry division; and, Lorna Role, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and cell biology, have been chosen for awards from NARSAD: The Mental Health Research Association for their significant contributions to the field of psychiatric research.

NARSAD is the world's largest donor-supported philanthropy dedicated to funding scientific research on psychiatric disorders. The winners will be formally awarded at a gala dinner on Friday, Oct. 27 at New York City's Pierre Hotel.

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman Honored with Lieber Prize for Schizophrenia Research

Dr. Lieberman, who also is director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, has been awarded the Lieber Prize for Schizophrenia Research. The $50,000 prize honors a scientist who has made distinguished contributions to the understanding of schizophrenia. Dr. Lieberman holds the Lieber Chair and directs the Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia.

"Dr. Lieberman has significantly improved our understanding of schizophrenia through his research that has shed light on the progressive changes in the brain of patients in the early stages of schizophrenia and the potential benefits of early intervention" said William E. Bunney, Jr., MD., Della Martin Chair of Psychiatry, University of California, Irvine, and chair of the NARSAD Scientific Council Lieber Prize selection committee.

Dr. Lieberman is currently principal investigator of the landmark NIH-funded schizophrenia trial, the Clinical Antipsychotic Trial of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE), supported by a $42.6 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). With more than 1400 participants at 57 sites around the country studied for 18 months, the trial is the largest and longest study of schizophrenia and the effectiveness of antipsychotic treatments.

"I have worked closely with NARSAD for many years as a member of their scientific council, so I am particularly honored to receive this award," said Dr. Lieberman. "I am grateful for NARSAD's continued support and collaboration, which has been a foundation for my work into the most effective treatments for people living with schizophrenia."

Dr. Lieberman received a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award in 1999 for his research into the structural and functional brain markers that identify family members at increased risk to develop schizophrenia.

Dr. David Shaffer Receives Ruane Prize for Childhood Psychiatric Disorders Research

Dr. Shaffer, also a member of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, is one of two scientists awarded the Ruane Prize for Childhood Psychiatric Disorders, for his research on teen suicide and its prevention. The $50,000 prize, which will be shared between Dr. Shaffer and David A. Brent, M.D. of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, honors outstanding research into the causes, pathophysiology, treatment or prevention of severe child psychiatric illness.

"Dr. Shaffer has devoted his professional life to the study of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood depression and suicide - exploring these issues from several aspects including epidemiology, drug and non-drug treatment, support for advocacy groups and public education," said Judith L. Rapoport, M.D., chief, child psychiatry branch, National Institute of Mental Health, and chair of the NARSAD Scientific Council Ruane Prize selection committee. "His work has had great influence on today's educators and mental health practitioners."

"Being selected by NARSAD for achievement in the field of child psychiatry is a great honor," said Dr. Shaffer. "This grant and the continued support of NARSAD will enable me to continue my work developing new prevention and treatment protocols against teen suicide. I strongly believe that no member of our society, no matter what their age, should have to suffer in silence from mental illness and this award will help support that mission."

Dr. Shaffer received a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award in 1992 for his research into the neuropsychiatric aspects of childhood affective and anxiety disorders.

Dr. Lorna Role Honored with Sidney R. Baer Jr. Prize for Promising Psychiatric Research

Dr. Lorna Role, has been honored with the Sidney R. Baer Jr. Prize. Selected each year by the Lieber prize winner, the $40,000 prize honors a psychiatric investigator who is conducting particularly promising research. Dr. Lieberman, recipient of this year's Lieber prize, chose Dr. Role for her research into the mechanisms of central nervous system development and synaptic plasticity related to neuropsychiatric disorders.

"Although Lorna Role is not new to science, she is relatively new to schizophrenia research, and is the ideal recipient of the Sidney R. Baer Jr. Prize," said Dr. Lieberman. "Dr. Role has carried out spectacular work on the combined effects of candidate genes on the pathogenic mechanisms and phenotype of schizophrenia, and the effects on these of novel therapeutic agents."

"I am thrilled to have been chosen for this award and grateful to Dr Lieberman for his generous nomination statements on my behalf. The Sidney Baer Prize from NARSAD is a recent addition to the their achievement awards that is for new and innovative approaches to psychiatric disease - as a neuroscientist researching basic mechanisms underlying affective disorders, I am particularly grateful to be recognized by NARSAD for my efforts along these lines," said Dr. Role. "This award provides important funding toward my laboratory's continued research on gene-gene interactions in the manifestation of schizophrenia phenotypes and inspires us in these times when federal grants for medical research are more competitive than ever."

Dr. Role received a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award in 2000 for her work on the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation and maintenance of synapses in the central nervous system.
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NARSAD: The Mental Health Research Association is the world's largest donor-supported organization for research on psychiatric disorders. Its programs represent the commitment of thousands of donors to finding the causes of and better treatments for mental illnesses. Since 1987, the organization has awarded a total of $199.3 million in 2,948 research grants to scientists in the United States and 25 other countries. www.narsad.org

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. www.cumc.columbia.edu

New York-Presbyterian Hospital is the largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital in the country. It provides state-of-the art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: New York-Presbyterian hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, the Allen Pavilion, and the Westchester Division. It consistently ranks as one of the top hospitals in the country in U.S. News & World Report's guide to "America's Best Hospitals." The New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System - an affiliation of acute-care and community hospitals, long-term care facilities, ambulatory sites, and specialty institutes -serves one in four patients in the New York metropolitan area. www.nyp.org

Columbia University Medical Center

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