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Yonkers to Become Chair of Psychiatry at UMass Medical School

September 11, 2020

Kimberly Yonkers, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases) and of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Services at Yale School of Medicine, has been appointed Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care.

Her appointment will become effective November 1, 2020, pending approval by the University Board of Trustees. She is at least the 45th person recruited from Yale to be chair of a university psychiatry department. She has been on faculty at Yale since 1999.

“This transition is bittersweet. We are happy to see Kim assume this important new position, but sad that this means that she is leaving our community,” said John H. Krystal, MD, Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Professor of Translational Research and Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience, and Chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry. “We will miss Kim, but we are proud that she will build on her success at Yale in her new leadership position.”

Krystal said Yonkers has been an outstanding leader of the Section of Psychological Medicine within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Yale New Haven Hospital. He said she may be best known for her groundbreaking research on understanding and treating mood disorders associated with the reproductive health of women, including post-partum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Her studies also targeted the important, under-recognized, and inadequately treated problem of mothers who are also suffering with addiction. Her group published some of the first longitudinal studies mapping the course of substance use and substance use disorders in pregnancy. She and colleague Mehmet Sofuolglu, MD, PhD, found that progesterone can diminish the risk of relapse in postpartum women who use cocaine. She and collaborator Steve Martino, PhD, showed that a computer-administered motivational interview can reduce substance use as much as a clinician-administered interview among reproductive aged women.

She has also played a leadership role more broadly at Yale through her leadership in the Doris Duke Fund to retain Clinician Scientists at Yale. She is widely respected for her teaching and mentorship of young doctors. Her trainees include emerging stars in psychiatry, including Megan Smith, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and in the Child Study Center; Ariadna Forray, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry; and Paula Zimbrean, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry.

She has taken on national leadership positions, serving as editor of the journal Psychiatric Research and Clinical Practice, and as a member of the Steering Committee that is modifying the current diagnostic manual for psychiatry (DSM5).

At UMass she will be invested in a new endowed chair, the Katz Family Chair in Psychiatry, supported by the Katz Family Foundation, based in Pennsylvania. “Dr. Yonkers is an ideal leader for a department that sits at the nexus of basic science research, clinical care, professional training and public service,” wrote Terence R. Flotte, MD, Executive Deputy Chancellor, Provost and Dean, UMass School of Medicine; and Eric Dickson, MD, MHCM, FACEP, President and CEO, UMass Memorial Health Care in a letter to the UMass community announcing Yonkers’ appointment. “Her academic leadership in the field of women’s health provides a particularly strong complement to our institution’s existing strengths and future strategic direction.”

Yonkers said it has been a pleasure to work at Yale for two decades. “I have numerous friends and collaborators throughout the school and hope these relationships endure despite my moving to my new position at UMass,” she said.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on September 11, 2020