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Gopinath K. Mallya, MD, medical director of McLean’s Adult Outpatient Services and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Jonathan O. Cole Award.
The annual award was established by the Gifford family in 2006 to honor Cole—a former McLean psychiatrist and chief of psychopharmacology who was internationally known for his breakthrough research on the use of medications to treat psychiatric illnesses.
“Dr. Cole was a visionary in the mental health field, conducting pioneering research on the use of drugs to treat psychiatric illness. His professional accomplishments were matched by his notable personal qualities, including dedication to excellence, humility, compassion, innovation, perseverance, creativity, individuality, and a willingness to be unconventional,” said McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, who each year selects the Cole Award recipient, in consultation with key leadership across the hospital.
“Dr. Mallya’s unwavering efforts to provide the best possible care for every patient, dedication to research that improves our understanding of mental illness, and steadfast leadership exemplify these ideals,” Rauch added.
Having worked for McLean for 30 years in different capacities including associate psychiatrist and psychiatrist in charge for the Community Reintegration Unit, Mallya said the most rewarding aspect of his job is “seeing patients get better over time and returning to their regular lives at home, work, and in the community.”
In overseeing the outpatient services, which treat adults of all ages with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychotic illnesses, and trauma-related issues, Mallya also supervises McLean/Massachusetts General Hospital second- and third-year psychiatry residents—another area of his work that he finds rewarding. “It is gratifying for me to work with such a gifted and dedicated group of residents, many of whom go on to become future leaders in our field,” he said.
Mallya reflected on some of the many positive changes in the mental health field over the past three decades. “The breakthroughs that have occurred, such as newer drugs that are used in combination with different therapies, plus the advances in neurotherapeutics, have proven to be life-changing for patients,” said Mallya. “Even with this progress, we’re not going to stop looking for better treatments—we’re continuing to work to find new ways to help patients have a better quality of life.”
“I also think the advances in pharmacogenomics, the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs, may offer more insights into neuropharmacology, which will help us customize our therapeutic options,” he said.
Mallya also pointed to increased public awareness about mental illness, which has resulted in more people of all ages seeking treatment. “Even the celebrities who have talked openly about their own depression, anxiety, or addiction have helped to destigmatize mental illness,” he said.
“When I first started out in my career, there was very little mention of mental illness in popular culture. The increasing number of celebrities talking about their own challenges, as well as advertising campaigns discussing different mental disorders have helped many individuals feel reassured that they are not alone,” he said. “This has done a lot to start important conversations and to raise a higher level of understanding about the many different types of mental illness.”
Mallya also said the recent shift to integrate more mental health care services into the primary care setting is a significant step forward in expanding treatment access to patients. “Just having these resources in the same office will help meet the mental health needs of more individuals,” he added.
The Cole Award includes a modest monetary gift to support clinical, research, or training activities, which Mallya is dedicating to outpatient research projects.
“I am truly touched and honored in receiving this award,” said Mallya, who is also the recipient of several teaching awards. “Dr. Cole was a great individual and a remarkable repository of knowledge. He was available to anyone who needed him. It’s a very rare individual who was so bright and generous with his time.”