McLean Hospital Welcomes Renowned Researcher to its Leadership Team

July 21, 2015

McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School, announced today that Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, will assume the roles of Chief Scientific Officer and Chief of the Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, effective August 1, 2015. He will also hold the James and Patricia Poitras Endowed Chair in Psychiatry at McLean Hospital, thanks to a generous gift from longtime hospital supporters Patricia and James Poitras.

As McLean’s Chief Scientific Officer, Ressler will oversee the hospital’s comprehensive research enterprise, enhancing the breadth and depth of the scientific portfolio, promoting research collaborations, and advancing a vision for improved lab facilities. As McLean’s inaugural Chief of the Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, he will work to improve communication across clinical operations, while working with researchers with an interest in depression and anxiety to identify greater opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues throughout the hospital and across translational and clinical research programs.

“These are extraordinarily exciting times in our field with great opportunity to translate scientific findings into better care. Dr. Ressler is among the foremost translational scientists of this era, and thus we could not be more enthusiastic about his joining McLean to lead us in these efforts,” said Scott L. Rauch, MD, president and psychiatrist in chief for McLean.

Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD
Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD

Ressler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, joins the McLean community from the Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes Research Center in Atlanta where, since 2001, he has been investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of fear learning and the process of extinction of fear. The primary objective of his work is to use the power of molecular genetics to understand the molecular biology, neural circuitry and behavioral biology of fear and recovery from fear in animal models and human patients.

Also a practicing psychiatrist, Ressler’s primary interest is in translational and clinical research on fear-related psychiatric disorders, with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His hope is that understanding how fear works in the mammalian brain in a laboratory setting will someday translate into improved treatment and prevention for disorders such as PTSD, phobias, panic, and other anxiety disorders.

In addition to Ressler’s clinical and research work, he is involved in a number of influential organizations, including serving as president-elect of the Society for Biological Psychiatry and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute of Mental Health. He has served on numerous NIH study sections and serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Biological Psychiatry and Neuropsychopharmacology, and Depression and Anxiety.

Ressler holds a degree in molecular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency training at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. As a faculty member at Emory, he was previously interim director of the Emory Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), a member of the Executive Committee of the Emory Neuroscience Graduate Program, and director of the Emory Psychiatry Residency Research Program.

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