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November 30, 2004

Albert J. Stunkard, MD, Receives Prestigious Award
from the Institute of Medicine

(Philadelphia, PA) -- Albert J. Stunkard, MD, Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has been selected by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), to receive the 2004 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize. The award recognizes the international scope and significance of Dr. Stunkard's many contributions to psychiatry and mental health, and takes the form of a Gold Medal and $20,000.

Stunkard was the first to describe both binge-eating disorder and night-eating syndrome. He has conducted clinical research in these areas, as well as obesity, for the past 50 years. In the 1960s, his report on the "Midtown Manhattan Study" was the first to establish the strong relationship between obesity and social class. In the 1970s, he helped develop behavioral therapies to treat patients dealing with obesity and anorexia nervosa. In the 1980s, he formulated the most widely used questionnaire for the assessment of psychological aspects involved in eating behavior. In addition, his twin and adoption studies yielded powerful evidence of the role played by genetics in the development of obesity. Stunkard's work has helped shape public perception and understanding of eating disorders, as well as brought about significant advances in treatment.

Stunkard received his medical degree from Columbia University and completed his residency in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He went on to become a research fellow in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and Cornell Universities. He became assistant professor of medicine at Cornell University, and then served as professor of psychiatry at both Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. He became Penn's first full-time Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Stunkard is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and has served as President of the American Association of Chairmen of Departments of Psychiatry, the American Psychosomatic Society, the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine. He has received numerous awards, including the American Psychiatric Association Award for Research, the American Psychiatric Association Distinguished Service Award, the Society of Behavioral Medicine Distinguished Scientist Award, the Academy of Eating Disorders Lifetime Achievement Award, the International Association for the Study of Obesity Willendorf Research Prize, the New York Academy of Medicine Thomas William Salmon Medal, the University of Pennsylvania William Osler Patient Oriented Research Award, and the Cornell Alumni Council Distinguished Achievement Award.

Stunkard serves on the editorial board of seven journals in the fields of nutrition and behavioral medicine. He has published more than 400 reports, mostly in the field of obesity and eating disorders, and has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health for the past 50 years.

The Sarnat Prize has been awarded by the IOM since 1992, to individuals, groups, or organizations that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in improving mental health. The prize recognizes -- without regard for professional discipline or nationality -- achievement in basic science, clinical application and public policy that lead to progress in the understanding, etiology, prevention, treatment or cure of mental disorders, or to the promotion of mental health. As defined by the nominating criteria, the field of mental health encompasses neuroscience, psychology, social work, public health, nursing, psychiatry, and advocacy.

The award is supported by an endowment created by Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat of Los Angeles. The Sarnat's concern about the destructive effects of mental illness inspired them to establish the award.

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