McLean’s President Announces New Chief Scientific Officer

Posted: August 18th, 2015


It is my pleasure to welcome Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, to the McLean community. Dr. Ressler will assume the roles of Chief Scientific Officer and Chief of the Depression and Anxiety Disorders Division, effective August 1, 2015. He will also hold the Patricia and James Poitras Endowed Chair in Psychiatry at McLean Hospital, thanks to a generous gift from longtime hospital supporters Patricia and James Poitras.

As McLean’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Ressler will oversee the hospital’s comprehensive research enterprise, enhancing the breadth and depth of the scientific portfolio, promoting research collaborations, and advancing a vision for improved lab facilities. As McLean’s inaugural Chief of the Depression and Anxiety Disorders Division, he will work to improve communication across clinical operations, while working with researchers with an interest in depression and anxiety to identify greater opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues throughout the hospital and across translational and clinical research programs. A formal Division launch event will be planned for the fall.

Dr. Ressler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, comes to Belmont from the Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes Research Center in Atlanta where, since 2001, he has been investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of fear learning and the process of extinction of fear. The primary objective of his work is to use the power of molecular genetics to understand the molecular biology, neural circuitry and behavioral biology of fear and recovery from fear in animal models and human patients.

Also a practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Ressler’s primary interest is in translational and clinical research on fear-related psychiatric disorders, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His hope is that understanding how fear works in the mammalian brain in a laboratory setting will someday translate into improved treatment and prevention for disorders such as PTSD, phobias, panic and other anxiety disorders.

In addition to Dr. Ressler’s clinical and research work, his academic qualifications are broad, numerous and well recognized. He has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, including a number of articles in high-profile journals including Nature, Cell, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Ressler is President-Elect of the Society for Biological Psychiatry and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute of Mental Health. He has served on numerous NIH study sections and serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Biological Psychiatry and Neuropsychopharmacology, and Depression and Anxiety.

Dr. Ressler holds a degree in molecular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency training at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. As a faculty member at Emory, he was previously Interim Director of the Emory Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), a member of the Executive Committee of the Emory Neuroscience Graduate Program, and Director of the Emory Psychiatry Residency Research Program.

As we welcome Dr. Ressler, I would also like to take a moment to thank Joseph Coyle, MD, for serving as our first CSO. His leadership has provided critical support and mentorship for young researchers and has helped us to recruit and retain future generations of leaders in the field. Although he is stepping down as CSO, Dr. Coyle will continue to be an active member of our research community, leading the Molecular Psychiatry Research Laboratory and holding the Eben S. Draper Chair in Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Ressler to McLean and thanking Dr. Coyle for his leadership within our research community. A welcome reception for Dr. Ressler will be planned for this fall.

Scott L. Rauch, MD


Dr. Rauch's letter was originally published in the August 3rd edition of the McLean News

Leadership Changes in the Division of Basic Neuroscience

Posted: August 10th, 2015

Left: Dr. William Carlezon Ph.D.
Right: Dr. Christopher Cowan Ph.D.

In July 2015 Dr. Joseph Coyle, M.D., stepped down from the role of Chief of the Division of Basic Neuroscience, and has been succeeded by Dr. William Carlezon, Ph.D. The Division of Basic Neuroscience, established in 2011, provides crucial support and mentorship to young scientists as well as providing an environment to establish leaders in psychiatric research. The Division also fosters collaboration between researchers at McLean and other research institutions. Dr. Carlezon will continue the exceptional work being done within the Department prioritizing teamwork and efficiency, with specific plans to streamline the grant application process moving forward.

“While Dr. Coyle is leaving big shoes to fill, I can think of no one better suited to take the helm than Dr. Carlezon, who has served as Assistant Chief of the Division for the past 17 months,” remarked McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD. “Dr. Carlezon is widely respected for his influential body of work and will provide strong leadership as he sets priorities for distribution of divisional resources and facilitates broader collaborations and partnerships among investigators within and beyond McLean. Through his energy, enthusiasm and generative style, Dr. Carlezon is poised to elevate and enhance the work being conducted within McLean’s Division of Basic Neuroscience.”

Dr. Christopher Cowan, Director of the Integrative Neurobiology Laboratory, has been appointed to the new role of Director of Education for the Division of Basic Neuroscience. As the Director of Education, Dr. Cowan will initiate and supervisor new trainings and educational opportunities within the Division of Basic Neuroscience. Dr. Cowan aims to create interactive training modules for the general neuroscience community at McLean, and to generate more funding opportunities for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees.

“While a big part of this role involves facilitating research training opportunities at McLean, another important aspect is the implementation of a long-range plan for the Basic Neuroscience Division,” said Dr. Cowan. “A strong focus on innovative training opportunities will enable us to grow and maintain our position as a leading institution for mental health basic research and to ensure that our trainees are equipped to be the future leaders in this exciting field of research.”

See original article in the July 14th issue of McLean News

Expanding the Frontier of Psychiatry

Posted: December 9th, 2014

While all residents that attend MGH/McLean receive stellar clinical training, we also strive to foster our residents' research interests. Whether they are interested in clinical, translational, or basic research, there is a diverse set of labs to meet their interests. This installment of our weekly video series outlines the wealth of resources available to aspiring researchers at MGH and McLean. Click here to watch the Research During Residency video.

Remember to check back in next Tuesday for the latest video installment. If you prefer not to wait, click here for the complete set of MGH/McLean Psychiatry Residency videos.

New Research Links Clinician-Patient Relationship with Treatment Outcomes

Posted: May 9th, 2014

A meta-analysis of studies that investigated measures designed to improve health professionals’ interactions with patients confirms that such efforts can produce health effects just as beneficial as taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack. In contrast to previous such reviews, the current report from the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) only included randomized, controlled trials with more reliable results than those included in earlier studies. While it has long been believed that a good patient-clinician relationship can improve health outcomes, objective evidence to support that belief has been hard to come by.

“Although the effect we found was small, this is the first analysis of the combined results of previous studies to show that relationship factors really do make a difference in patients’ health outcomes,” says Helen Riess, MD, (pictured above) Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the report in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.


DSM-5 Controversy and its Impact on Research

Posted: May 22nd, 2013

“NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories,” stated NIMH director Thomas Insel in April, 2013. He supports an effort to re-categorize mental-health disorders according to their biological bases. To this end, the NIMH is developing a framework called the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). Many scientists protest that the DSM categories do not allow for effective clinical treatment. Some researchers also have concerns that the RDoC focus on biological mechanisms will detract from research on clinical symptoms.

Read the full article here.  Source: Nature, Wednesday, May 10, 2013

Fostering research education and mentorship during residency

Posted: October 13th, 2011

In Spring 2011, the residency program was awarded an Institutional Research Education Grant (R25) from the National Institute for Mental Health. Under the leadership of Maurizio Fava MD and Shelly Greenfield MD, MPH and with support from over fifty junior and senior research faculty across our two campuses, this five-year, $250K education grant is designed to foster research training and mentorship for all residents in our program.  In addition, the grant allows the residency to further develop the Research Concentration Program, a program established in 2007 to optimize clinical and research training for residents with substantial research experience who plan to embark on psychiatric research careers.  John Denninger, MD, PhD, and Dost Ongur, MD, PhD will serve as co-director of the RCP, with recent graduate Justin Baker MD, PhD, serving as Associate Director.

Pictured, from left: John Denninger, Co-Director of the RCP; Shelly Greenfield, co-PI; Maurizio Fava, co-PI; Kathy Sanders, Training Director; Justin Baker, Associate Director of the RCP; Joy Littlefield.