Kathleen (Kathy) M. Carroll, PhD, a clinical scientist in the Yale Department of Psychiatry who made seminal contributions to improving treatments for addiction, died unexpectedly after a brief illness on December 28, 2020. She was 62 years old. At the time of her death, Dr. Carroll was the Albert E. Kent Professor of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, and the Director of the Psychosocial Research in the Division on Addictions.
Kathy possessed a rare blend of brilliance, generosity, and humility that propelled a career spanning over 30 years in addiction treatment research at Yale. She graduated summa cum laude from Duke University, received her PhD in clinical psychology and neuropsychology in 1988 from the University of Minnesota, and completed her pre-doctoral training at the Yale School of Medicine’s Division of Substance Abuse. Following a brief stint as Instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, she joined the faculty at Yale in 1989 as Assistant Professor of Psychiatry. Working closely with Dr. Bruce Rounsaville, she helped establish and subsequently led the Psychotherapy Development Center (PDC), the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA’s) only funded Center of Excellence devoted to behavioral therapies research. Through Dr. Carroll’s leadership, the PDC became one of the most important sources of addiction treatment development and dissemination over the past 25 years, improving the methodological rigor of clinical trials research and leading to multiple clinical innovations that have impacted the lives of many struggling with addiction. Officially ending in 2020, the PDC produced over 1,500 peer-reviewed publications and launched the careers of dozens of independent investigators. Dr. Carroll also served as a Principal Investigator of NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network, a partnership between NIDA, treatment researchers and community providers to work toward new treatment options in community-level clinical practice.
The depths of her contribution to the field of addiction are unparalleled. She has been a Principal Investigator on over 100 research projects funded through NIH, with funding amounts totaling over $76 million. She authored or co-authored over 330 articles in peer-reviewed publications, with over 50 chapters in major textbooks, along with several books and published manuals. Her Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) manual for cocaine use disorders has been translated to over 14 languages and implemented worldwide. Among the defining accomplishments of her career has been broader recognition of the efficacy, safety, and durability of behavioral therapies. She helped establish the Stage Model of Behavioral Therapies Development that facilitated important advances by defining stages of science for behavioral therapies development, from pilot testing of novel approaches translated from basic clinical science (“Stage 1”) to efficacy testing via randomized clinical trials (“Stage 2”) to effectiveness research based in community settings (Stage 3”). This required a set of methodological advances (e.g., systemization of interventions in manuals, development of fidelity rating systems, therapist training strategies) to which she made multiple contributions. She received a NIH MERIT award for her work which led to the development of an effective web-based version of CBT (“CBT4CBT”), now validated in eight independent trials. CBT4CBT became one of the first evidence-based computerized interventions for a range of substance use disorders and is currently being adapted and implemented for various co-occurring conditions.
Dr. Carroll served on several journal editorial boards, advisory boards, and NIH scientific review panels, too numerous to list. Most recently, she was an invited member of the National Academy of Medicine's committee on medications to treat opioid use disorders and was a major author of its influential consensus report, "Responding to the Opioid Crisis: Medications Save Lives."
Dr. Carroll received many prestigious awards, but being honored in September of this year at the 50th anniversary celebration of the APT Foundation, where she conducted much of her research, was among the most meaningful to her. This award highlighted not only her research contributions but her mentorship and relationships with others, to which she was truly committed. According to long-time collaborator, Charla Nich, “we were blessed to be able to give Kathy a message just three months ago about our gratitude for her scientific integrity, brilliance, courage, strength, radical acceptance, and love personified.” Ayana Jordan, MD, PhD, a current mentee noted, “Her ability to lead compassionately and lift others while climbing is indeed a gift from the creator.” Brian Kiluk, PhD, another long-time mentee, described her as “the embodiment of a true mentor – someone who both teaches and guides others on their career path, but also serves as a shining example for what others aspire to be."
Dr. Carroll's tremendous academic and scientific accomplishments are dwarfed by her kind, generous, and playful spirit. She had an amazing ability to find joy in everyday situations, especially in life's most difficult moments. She loved swimming, art history, architectural history, hiking, and reading. Kathy was an expert on the works of Shakespeare and opera. She also had a fine sense of humor and loved a good prank. She was a lifelong progressive with great compassion for social justice and coupled anti-racist principles with her recent academic work on identifying and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in substance use treatment outcomes.
Kathy maintained a decades old relationship with Christian Community Action (CCA) in New Haven and contributed annually through efforts to provide school clothing, Christmas gifts, and Easter baskets for children living in emergency housing. From her hospital bed one week prior to falling critically ill, Kathy reached out to CCA caseworkers to make sure that all the homeless children were cared for, and donated electronically toward that effort.
Kathy is survived by her daughter, Kate; her brother, John and his two amazing sons, Dag and Dashiell; her mother, Barbara, and her husband Geoffrey White and his daughters Natalie and Carla White as well as Matthew Chivian. Her Yale/APT team, too large to mention by name, embraced Kathy as family. Kathy was predeceased by her father, John, and loving canine companions Trundo and Ernie.
In lieu of flowers, Kathy’s family is suggesting a donation to the Kathy Carroll Memorial Playground fund at Christian Community Action, 168 Davenport Ave., New Haven, CT 06519. CCA has agreed to set up a creative, safe, and fun outdoor play space for the children in emergency housing.
Memorial services have been postponed until the pandemic allows for a proper gathering and celebration of Kathy’s life.