Public Release: 

David J. Kupfer Awarded Sarnat Prize For Mental Health Research, Treatment

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON -- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) today presented the 1998 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health to David J. Kupfer, the Thomas Detre Professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Kupfer received the award for outstanding contributions to the field of mental health.

Kupfer's affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh began in 1973, where 10 years later, he became chair of the department of psychiatry. At Pittsburgh, he helped develop a new model for patient care that organized the previously fragmented delivery of services around the patient's disorder. Such an approach improved care, helped facilitate clinical research, and improved the quality of care and the training of health care providers. The model has been widely adopted by other major research and clinical institutions.

Kupfer's research has helped improve understanding of the long-term treatment of recurrent mood disorders, the development of depression, and the relationship between biological rhythms, sleep, and depression. Since 1977, Kupfer has been the principal investigator and chief architect of the federally funded Mental Health Clinical Research Center for the Study of Affective Disorders. He has authored or co-authored more than 600 articles, books, and book chapters. In addition, he has stimulated research within the University of Pittsburgh and beyond, promoting widespread collaboration among clinical investigators in psychiatry and in basic neuroscience. These research collaborations have encompassed virtually every psychiatric disorder and every age group, from infants to seniors.

The IOM, through its Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health, has awarded the Sarnat Prize since 1992 to individuals, groups, or organizations for outstanding achievement in improving mental health. The prize recognizes -- without regard for professional discipline or nationality -- achievements in basic science, clinical application, and public policy that lead to progress in the understanding, etiology, prevention, treatment, or cure of mental disorders, or to the promotion of mental health. As defined by the nominating criteria, the field of mental health encompasses neuroscience, psychology, social work, public health, nursing, psychiatry, and advocacy.

The prize consists of a medal and a $20,000 cash award. It is supported by income from an endowment created by Rhoda and Bernard G. Sarnat of Los Angeles. Rhoda Sarnat is a licensed clinical social worker with 45 years' experience in counseling clients. Her husband, Bernard Sarnat, is a researcher and practitioner of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Direct professional experience, in which they recognized the destructive effects of mental illness on individuals they have served, inspired the Sarnats to establish the award.

Nominations for potential recipients are solicited every year from IOM members, deans of medical schools, and other mental health professionals. Nominations for 1999 recipients may be sent to Linda DePugh in the IOM Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health at the street address in the letterhead. Recent recipients of the Sarnat Prize include Myrna Weissman, professor of epidemiology in psychiatry, Columbia University, and Gerald Klerman, professor of psychiatry, Columbia University (1994); Samuel B. Guze, professor and head of the department of psychiatry, Washington University, St. Louis (1995); Leon Eisenberg, professor of social medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston (1996); and Herbert Pardes, dean of the faculty of medicine, and chair of the department of psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (1997).

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Additional information regarding the Sarnat Prize and the Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health is available on the World Wide Web. The Institute of Medicine is a private, non-profit organization that provides health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences.

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