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McLean Hospital’s Ross J. Baldessarini, MD, director of the International Consortium for Bipolar & Psychotic Disorders Research, has been awarded the 2019 Mogens Schou Award from the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). Named for a pioneer in the treatment of bipolar disorder, the Mogens Schou Award is given annually to individuals involved in a mental health profession who have made significant contributions to education and career-development related to the better understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder.
Baldessarini was honored for his years of teaching and mentoring young psychiatrists and researchers. “The teaching, training, and career development components of my work have been especially important to me,” he said. “It may be the most important thing that I’ve done, because it should have a lasting effect on the field.”
For more than 50 years, Baldessarini has been working closely as a mentor to young laboratory neuroscientists and clinical investigators. From his time as an investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health to his career at McLean, he has trained more than 160 laboratory and clinical investigators and has made significant contributions to the fields of laboratory-based neuropharmacology and clinical psychopharmacology. These include improvements in the use of mood-altering and antipsychotic medicines for conditions such as bipolar and psychotic disorders and studies of treatments aimed at reducing the risk of suicide. A member of the ISBD since its creation in 1999, Baldessarini has contributed to several of the organization’s initiatives, including involvement on task forces investigating optimal treatments for bipolar disorder.
Prior to winning the 2019 Mogens Schou Award, Baldessarini has been recognized on two occasions for his mentoring and training efforts. He was the inaugural recipient of the Anne M. Cataldo Excellence in Mentoring Award, given each year to a McLean researcher for providing “sponsorship, encouragement, and support for the career and/or personal development” of McLean staff. In addition, Baldessarini received the 2011–2012 William Silen Lifetime Achievement Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard Medical School.
Baldessarini said he was “surprised” to receive the Mogens Schou Award but pleased that his efforts to train and guide junior researchers have been recognized. He continues to collaborate with, educate, and train researchers interested in furthering the understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder. He is particularly interested in examining links between mood disorders and suicide and the effects of such treatments as lithium to reduce suicidal risk. “The problem of suicide among people with bipolar disorder is especially serious,” he reported. “I continue to encourage more talented young people to work on this problem.”