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Drs. Beatrix and David Hamburg awarded 2015 Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health

October 30, 2015
by Christopher Gardner

Beatrix A. (Betty) Hamburg, MD, and her husband, David A. Hamburg, MD, graduates of Yale School of Medicine, have been awarded The Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

The award was given October 23 at the foundation’s annual awards dinner in New York City. It recognizes people whose extraordinary contribution has made a profound and lasting impact in advancing the understanding of mental health and improving the lives of people who suffer from mental illness.

Drs. Hamburg were honored for their more than six decades of pioneering work in mental health.

Herbert Pardes, MD, President of the foundation’s Scientific Council and Executive Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, presented the award, saying the Hamburgs “have blended their scientific knowledge, understanding of human behavior and profound compassion into a unique, humanistic vision. Their work has transformed our view of mental illness and minimized its stigma. They have taught us about the interconnections of all humans, the importance of hope and compassion, and using our knowledge toward the greater good for all humanity."

The Hamburgs met at Yale in 1948, and forged parallel career paths in the field of mental health. They jointly studied human coping processes under severe stress—from physical stress to mental illness, severe depression, poverty, and war.

Beatrix Hamburg, the first female African-American graduate of the medical school, advanced the field of adolescent psychiatry through her groundbreaking work on peer counseling, the health and mental health status of minority populations, the critical role of early development in physical and mental health, her recognition of early adolescence as a distinctive and critical developmental period, and her clinical research on school-based programs for conflict resolution and violence prevention.

She developed the concept of peer counseling as head of child psychiatry at Stanford University, and continued her work at Mt. Sinai and Cornell University.

She also played an important role in influencing public policy as President of the William T Grant Foundation, a member of the President's Commission on Mental Health under President Carter, a member of the IOM, and as co-author, with her husband, of “Learning to Live Together,” teaching children not to hate.

David Hamburg established the first Mental Health Clinical Research Center at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and initiated a line of research on the role of stress biology in severe mood disorders, an area that continues to be a major focus of research to date.

As Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford, he created a visionary, highly multidisciplinary department that became a prototype for others across the nation The kidnapping of four Stanford students in rural Congo brought him to the international scene, and showcased his unique skills in negotiating complex situations in conflict.

His focus shifted to health and science policy as he became the President of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), followed by a stint at Harvard University as Director of the Division of Health Policy Research and Education, and then almost 20 years as President of the Carnegie Corporation. More recently, he chaired commissions for both the United Nations and the European Union, and received the United States' highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has authored many books, including “Preventing Genocide: Practical Steps Toward Early Detection and Effective Action.”

"We are deeply honored to receive the Pardes Humanitarian Prize from our dear friend and colleague Herb Pardes," David Hamburg said. "It is especially meaningful for Betty and I to share this award for our work together, a lifelong effort to understand how human beings cope during the most difficult circumstances. This work has ever greater urgency in today's world of strife and conflict."

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering of mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research. The foundation funds the most innovative ideas in neuroscience and psychiatry to better understand the causes and develop new ways to treat brain and behavior disorders.

Since 1987, it has awarded more than $340 million to fund more than 5,000 grants to more than 4,000 leading scientists around the world. This has led to over $3 billion in additional funding for these scientists.
Submitted by Christopher Gardner on October 30, 2015