Mount Sinai Starts New Division of Psychiatric Genomics to Understand Genetics Behind Psychiatric Disorders

Pamela Sklar, MD, PhD, a distinguished researcher of genetics in mental illness, has joined Mount Sinai to found the Division of Psychiatric Genomics.

New York, NY
 – May 13, 2011 /Press Release/  –– 

Pamela Sklar, MD, PhD, a renowned expert in the genetic causes of psychiatric disorders, has joined The Mount Sinai Medical Center as founding Chief of the Division of Psychiatric Genomics in the Department of Psychiatry and as Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Her appointment began this February.

"We’re learning that genetics play a significant role in setting the stage for psychiatric disorders later in life," said Wayne Goodman, MD, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and the Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "As an international leader in psychiatric genomics, Dr. Sklar has made significant contributions to understanding this role. We are pleased that she has joined Mount Sinai and confident she will help us lead the charge in this emerging area of psychiatry."

Dr. Sklar will concentrate on building a world-class psychiatric genomics division that identifies genetic risk factors for psychiatric diseases, and involves the collaboration of many of Mount Sinai’s departments and research institutes and translates these insights into basic molecular and clinical studies. A better understanding of genetic risk factors would enable physicians to target diseases at their roots, and intervene with earlier treatments. Today, most symptoms are treated after they are presented, which often occurs in adolescence.

"Psychiatry is somewhat unique in that we do not yet grasp the root cause of mental illnesses, and there is a significant unmet need for disease models," said Dr. Sklar. "Mount Sinai has a long history and commitment to psychiatry in both the basic science and clinical arenas. With neuroscientists, psychiatrists, geneticists, and stem cell researchers all collaborating in one setting, Mount Sinai is poised to make important advances in this field. I am pleased to lead the new Psychiatric Genomics division to aide in this mission."

Dr. Sklar has focused her research on identifying susceptibility genes for psychiatric diseases by applying tools developed for understanding and characterizing human sequence variation. She has made substantial contributions to the understanding of gene variants and structural variants that influence the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Dr. Sklar has led genetic studies of bipolar disorder through the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD) network, and has completed genome-wide association analyses in bipolar disorder. Recently, she organized and led an International Schizophrenia Consortium that completed a genome-wide study of schizophrenia.

Prior to joining Mount Sinai, Dr. Sklar served as Director of Genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. She was Associate Director of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU) in the Center for Human Genetics Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Sklar also served as an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Adjunct Associate Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and as an attending physician in the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital.

After earning her medical degree and a PhD in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins Medical School, Dr. Sklar completed clinical training in psychiatry at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan. She conducted research training in the laboratories of Solomon Snyder, PhD, at Johns Hopkins and Nobel Laureate Richard Axel, MD, at Columbia.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital among the nation's best hospitals based on reputation, patient safety, and other patient-care factors. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 530,000 outpatient visits took place.

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