International Society of Psychiatric Genetics honors VCU’s Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., with Lifetime Achievement Award
Sathya Achia Abraham
University Public Affairs
The International Society of Psychiatric Genetics has named Kenneth Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry, and human and molecular genetics in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, a recipient of the 2011 ISPG Ming Tsuang Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors a scientist who has made a major contribution to the advancement of the field of psychiatric genetics.
Kendler is internationally recognized for his pioneering research in psychiatric genetics.
Since the early 1980s, Kendler has studied the genetics of psychiatric and substance use disorders including schizophrenia, major depression, alcoholism, personality disorders and nicotine dependence. His work has focused both on large-scale twin studies, clarifying the developmental pathways through which genes and environment contribute to risk of illness, and on molecular studies, identifying the nature of specific genes that influence vulnerability to schizophrenia, alcoholism and nicotine dependence.
“This award speaks to Dr. Kendler’s groundbreaking research in the field of psychiatry. As a pioneer in the psychiatric genetics, his work has significantly advanced our understanding of how genes and the environment influence the development of psychiatric and substance abuse disorders,” said Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine.
In recent years, Kendler has written a range of papers examining key conceptual and philosophical issues in psychiatry. These include the relationship of mind and brain, the limitations of reductionist models of psychiatric illness and the need, given the highly multifactorial nature of psychiatric illness, to integrate scientific approaches that include genetic, biological, psychological and social-environmental perspectives.
In 1984, Kendler, together with VCU colleague Lindon Eaves, M.D., distinguished professor of human genetics and co-director of VCU’s Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, initiated the largest, most comprehensive twin study of psychiatric and drug use disorders conducted in the United States based on 20,000 interviews with twins and their parents.
As the director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU, Kendler leads a world-renowned team of behavioral scientists who are attempting to more clearly understand the genetic and environmental influences on behavior.
This fall, Kendler, together with his close colleague, Danielle Dick, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, has launched a project titled, “Spit for Science: The VCU Student Survey,” which provides incoming VCU freshman an opportunity to participate in a survey and DNA collection focusing on mental health and substance use.
Working with key colleagues at VCU, especially Michael Neale, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, and Lindon Eaves, Kendler has played an important role in the development of a number of statistical and developmental models used by both the academic and scientific communities to understand the genetic and environmental factors contributing to a range of psychiatric and substance abuse disorders. Together with Michael Miles, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the VCU Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Neurology, Kendler co-directs the VCU Alcohol Research Center.
Kendler has published more than 640 articles in peer-reviewed journals and serves on several important editorial boards. He is the editor of Psychological Medicine and is a member of the Institute of Medicine.
Throughout his career, he has been honored with many national and international awards for his research contributions. He received his medical and psychiatric training at Stanford University and Yale University, respectively.
The ISPG Ming Tsuang Lifetime Achievement Award consists of a golden DNA helix designed by Charles Reina, an internationally recognized sculptor. Kendler will deliver a lecture and receive the award during the XIXth annual World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics: Genes to Biology meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13, 2011.
- About VCU and the VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 223 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.