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Date:  Oct. 13, 2008

Contacts:  Christine Stencel, Senior Media Relations Officer

Alison Burnette, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

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Paul R. McHugh Wins Institute of Medicine's 2008 Sarnat Prize in Mental Health


WASHINGTON -- The Institute of Medicine today awarded the 2008 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health to Paul R. McHugh, the University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins' School of Medicine and professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The Sarnat Prize, consisting of a medal and $20,000, was presented at IOM's annual meeting.


"During his remarkable career, Paul McHugh has explored maladies ranging from depressive disorders to eating disorders, always providing new information to improve our understanding," said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine.  "His contributions to the field of modern psychiatry are many and profound, and foremost among these may be his co-authorship of The Perspectives of Psychiatry, a text whose influence on the field can hardly be overstated."


The Sarnat Prize was presented to McHugh in recognition of his seminal contributions to the field of psychiatry and his wide-ranging efforts to identify and treat various mental disorders.  The Perspectives of Psychiatry, a treatise on practice methods and principles, has been lauded as one of the most influential psychiatry texts in the last century.  By emphasizing the field's unifying concepts while identifying the different ways psychiatrists can approach mental illness, the text has given practitioners insights into how they can better understand one another and communicate more effectively.  In several other books, McHugh has explored some of the most strenuously debated topics in both society and psychiatry, including assisted suicide, recovered memories, alcoholism, and sexual disorders.  He also is credited with building the psychiatry department at the Johns Hopkins University into an internationally recognized program in both research and clinical care during his tenure as director.


McHugh was among the first to describe increased cortisol secretion associated with depression, an accomplishment that led to the development of a test to identify serious depression by physical means.  His extensive work studying the control of food intake revealed how gastrointestinal and neurophysiologic mechanisms regulate caloric intake in primates and are disrupted in people with eating disorders. 


McHugh received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.  He pursued further training at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women's); Massachusetts General Hospital; University of London's Institute of Psychiatry; and the division of neuropsychiatry at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.


He has received many professional honors, including the Paul Hoch Award of the American Psychopathological Association, Joseph Zubin Award of the American Psychopathological Association, and the William C. Menninger Award from the American College of Physicians.  He has been a visiting scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1992.  Currently serving on the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and the President's Council on Bioethics, he also is an adviser to the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease.  He served for five years on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board for the protection of children and youth.


Since 1992, the Institute of Medicine has presented the Sarnat Prize to individuals, groups, or organizations that have demonstrated 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, nursing, psychiatry, and advocacy.


The award is supported by an endowment created by Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat of Los Angeles.  Rhoda Sarnat is a licensed clinical social worker, and Bernard Sarnat is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and researcher.  The Sarnats' concern about the destructive effects of mental illness inspired them to establish the award.  Nominations for potential recipients are solicited every year from IOM members, deans of medical schools, and mental health professionals.  This year's nominating committee was chaired by William E. Bunney Jr., M.D., Distinguished Professor and Della Martin Chair of Psychiatry, department of psychiatry and human behavior, University of California, Irvine.


Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.


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