Supporting New Discoveries in Psychiatry

November 13, 2015

Thanks to a recent gift from Patricia and James Poitras to establish the James and Patricia Poitras Endowed Chair in Psychiatry, McLean Hospital has recruited world-renowned clinician-researcher Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, as the new Chief Scientific Officer. As an expert in fear-based disorders, Dr. Ressler’s research examines how fear works in the mammalian brain at cellular and molecular levels to inform the treatment and prevention of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Patricia and James Poitras
Patricia and James Poitras

“We have often thought that the people you recruit to an institution are crucial,” said Pat. “It sounds obvious, but it is a very competitive environment, and there are many institutions interested in candidates like Dr. Ressler. This opportunity was exciting for us because we knew that endowing the chair would greatly increase the probability that he would come to McLean.”

Bringing with him significant scientific and clinical expertise, Dr. Ressler joined the McLean team in August 2015. As Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Ressler oversees 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.

“I’ve spent my career doing translational research, from bench to bedside and back again. I see my charge at McLean as fostering further translation by helping the clinicians intersect with the basic scientists and vice versa,” said Dr. Ressler.

Discoveries made in the study of one specific brain disorder often inform the research of other disorders, and sometimes even apply to the entire field. This notion was compelling to the Poitrases, along with the idea that the Chief Scientific Officer position is essential. “Having someone like Dr. Ressler who is responsible for institution-wide research is important to the coordination, direction and focus of the overall operation,” said Jim.

The Poitrases’ $4 million gift came at a critical juncture for McLean, with the fields of neuroscience and psychiatric genetics exploding, according to Scott L. Rauch, MD, McLean’s President and Psychiatrist in Chief and Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Chair of Psychiatry. “McLean has a 200-year commitment to improving the quality of care for those with mental illness through neuroscientific discoveries,” he said. “The Poitrases’ tremendous gift helps us build on that incredible legacy.

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