New chairpersons boost neurosciences at University of Chicago Medical Center

July 10, 1998

The appointment of two chairmen, for the department of psychiatry and for the department of pharmacological and physiological sciences, signals the beginning of a major planned expansion of neuroscience programs at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Each chairman was chosen for his ability to build on the University's established strengths and to extend those strengths into new areas.

Sangram S. Sisodia, PhD, professor and chairman of pharmacological and physiological sciences, came to the University in May from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he was a professor in the departments of neuroscience and pathology and a faculty member in the cellular and molecular medicine program.

Elliot S. Gershon, MD, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry, came to the University on June 15, 1998 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where he was chief of the clinical neurogenetics branch since 1984. He has also been a medical director in the United States Public Health Service since 1975.

"I am delighted to bring two such noteworthy scholars to the University of Chicago," said Glenn D. Steele, MD, dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at the University. "Their presence adds new dimensions to our established strengths in the biochemistry and genetics of the brain and is an important step in building a more dominating presence within this rapidly growing field."

The University has long been a major research center for studies of the brain, combining resources from neurosurgery, the Brain Research Institute, and the committees on neurobiology and biopsychology with those in the departments of neurology, psychiatry, psychology, and pharmacological and physiological sciences.

"I look forward," added Dr. Steele, "to working with these distinguished scientists to continue to build their respective departments into a major components of our Center for Behavioral and Neurosciences."

A recognized authority on the molecular biology of Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Sisodia, 41, created transgenic models for both diseases and is a pioneer in studying the role of genes for presenilin 1 and 2--which can cause the early-onset forms of Alzheimer's.

This year's recipient of the prestigious Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research, Sisodia received his BA from the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio and his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Georgia. He completed his post-doctoral training at Johns Hopkins and taught there from 1988 to 1998. The author of more than 75 peer-reviewed articles and 60 book chapters or reviews, Sisodia serves on the editorial board of several journals. He is the core program director of a program project grant from the National Institute on Aging to assess the role of presenilins in familial Alzheimer's disease.

An authority on the genetics of major psychiatric disorders, Dr. Gershon, 58, is a leader in the search for genes that contribute to the development of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Along with his colleagues, he found linkages to schizophrenia on chromosome 6 and to bipolar disease in chromosome 18. He has received many honors, including the Selo Prize of the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders in 1996.

Dr. Gershon, routinely named in The Best Doctors in America for care of patients with mood disorders, earned his BA, magna cum laude, and his MD, cum laude, from Harvard University. He completed his internship at New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital, then served as a teaching fellow at Harvard Medical School while completing his psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. He was a clinical associate at NIMH, spent four years as director of research at the Jerusalem Mental Health Center in Israel, then returned to the NIMH Biological Psychiatry Branch in 1974. A member of the editorial boards of several psychiatric journals and past president of the American Psychopathological Association, Dr. Gershon has edited four books and written more than 300 articles on the neurobiology, genetics, and treatment of mental disorders.

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