Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D.

VCU psychiatry professor honored with prestigious award from the National Academy of Medicine

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The National Academy of Medicine today awarded Virginia Commonwealth University psychiatry professor Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., with the Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health in recognition of his research on the role of genes and environment in the development of psychiatric and substance use disorders.

The award was presented to the director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at the NAM’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Kendler shares the recognition with Kay Jamison, Ph.D., professor of mood disorders at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Jamison is a leading international expert on manic-depressive illness.

“Dr. Jamison and Dr. Kendler have each made tremendous contributions to the field of mental health by increasing our understanding of the nature of mental illness and by reducing the stigma associated with it,” said Victor Dzau, M.D., president of the National Academy of Medicine.

Kendler is a world-renowned expert on the genetics of psychiatric and substance use disorders. His research focuses on how genes and the environment contribute to the development of major depression, schizophrenia, alcohol use disorders and other psychiatric conditions. Throughout the course of his career, his work has addressed the relationship among biological, psychological and social contributors to psychiatric and substance use disorders.

An award like this is important because it means that the scientific work I have done over my career is valued by my peers and colleagues.

In July, Kendler was part of an international research team that published the first scientific evidence of risk genes for major depressive disorder. He has also collaborated this year with researchers from the University of Virginia and Sweden to uncover evidence that young adults who were raised in educated households develop higher cognitive ability than those who were brought up in less ideal environments. Earlier in the year, his research resulted in the discovery that high intelligence could protect against the development of schizophrenia in people who have a genetic predisposition for the disease.

“An award like this is important because it means that the scientific work I have done over my career is valued by my peers and colleagues,” he said. “I am honored that they feel I have contributed something of importance to the difficult but critical effort to understand better the etiology of psychiatric and drug use disorders, which are together responsible for so much suffering.”

Kendler received his medical degree at Stanford School of Medicine and trained in psychiatry at Yale University. He has worked at VCU since 1983.