July 8, 2005

Ed Mahon
(215) 662-2560


Penn Professor Receives Gold Medal for Distinguished Academic Accomplishments

(Philadelphia, PA) - Albert J. Stunkard, MD, founding director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, was awarded the Gold Medal for Distinguished Academic Accomplishment from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he earned his medical degree in 1945. The medal, which is presented by Columbia’s Alumni Association, is their highest honor in recognizing outstanding achievement.

For more than 50 years, Stunkard has been a pioneer in the field of obesity and eating disorders. He was the first to describe the powerful environmental influence on obesity of social class and, through the study of identical twins separated at birth, of the even greater power of genetics. He has developed a widely-used questionnaire to assess the psychological aspects of eating behavior. Dr. Stunkard helped to define behavioral medicine as a field of intellectual endeavor and was an early President of the Society for Behavioral Medicine.

In the 1950s, Stunkard was the first to describe Binge Eating Disorder and the Night Eating Syndrome (NES), a condition that compels people to eat well into the evening and to wake and consume snacks to get back to sleep at night. Together with colleague Kelly Allison, PhD, Stunkard recently published Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-by Step Guide to Breaking the Cycle (New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2004). His work has not only added significantly to our understanding of eating disorders, but it has altered public perception of such disorders, making it possible for sufferers to receive more effective treatment.

Stunkard served as Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania for 11 years and also served as President of the American Association of Chairmen of Departments of Psychiatry, the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Diseases, the American Psychosomatic Society, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research.

Stunkard has authored over 400 publications, mostly in the field of obesity, and his research has been supported for 50 years by the National Institutes of Health. He also serves on the editorial boards of seven journals in the fields of nutrition and behavioral medicine.


PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

This release is available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/jul05/Stunkardmedal.htm