Office of the Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
OD Press Office
Bethesda, Maryland Elias Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced the appointment of Thomas R. Insel,
M.D., as director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Dr. Insel,
who is currently Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Center
for Behavioral Neuroscience at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta,
Georgia, is expected to begin his appointment in mid-November.
"I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Insel to NIH," said Tommy Thompson,
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). "His
distinguished scientific research career, and his leadership roles in shaping
research in the academic arena make him well-suited to lead the NIMH."
"After a thorough and careful search process, it became clear that Dr.
Insel's ability to communicate a compelling vision for mental health research,
his outstanding scientific record and proven leadership skills made him the
natural choice for this important directorship," added Dr. Zerhouni.
Dr. Insel will oversee the NIMH's $1.3 billion research budget that provides
support to investigators at universities throughout the country in the areas
of basic science; clinical research, including large-scale trials of new treatments;
and studies of the organization and delivery of mental health services. The
Institute also administers an in-house research program at the NIH Bethesda.
NIMH was authorized in 1946 as one of the first NIH institutes. The Institute's
mission is to reduce the burden of mental illness and behavioral disorders
through research on mind, brain, and behavior.
"I am honored and privileged to be joining the NIH at a time when mental
health and mental disorders are so very clearly at the forefront of the Nation's
public health agenda," Dr. Insel said. "Recent years have witnessed
enormous progress in our understanding of the brain. We have important new
insights into the molecular and cellular basis of brain function. Now our
challenge is to translate these discoveries from basic science into new insights
and new treatments for mental disorders. Equally important, NIMH must work
with other Federal agencies and with professional and consumer groups to ensure
that what is known through research is being applied to address the tremendous
and frequently unmet needs for high quality mental health treatment services."
Dr. Insel first joined NIMH in 1979 as a clinical associate in the Clinical
Neuropharmacology Branch, and went on to hold several administrative and leadership
posts. During his 15 years at NIMH before heading to Emory in 1994, Insel
conducted research in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), initiating some
of the first treatment trials for OCD using serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Five years later, Dr. Insel launched a research program in social neuroscience,
focusing on the neurobiology of complex social behaviors in animals. Using
molecular, cellular, and pharmacological approaches, Dr. Insel's laboratory
has demonstrated the importance of the neuropeptides, oxytocin and vasopressin,
in maternal behavior, pair bond formation, and aggression.
Dr. Insel graduated from Boston University where he received a B.A. from
the College of Liberal Arts and an M.D. from the Medical School. He did his
internship at Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and his
residency at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute at the University
of California San Francisco. Dr. Insel joined NIMH in 1979, where he served
in various scientific research positions until 1994 when he went to Emory
University, Atlanta, as Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Emory University
School of Medicine, and Director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center.
As director of Yerkes, Dr. Insel built one of the nation's leading HIV vaccine
research programs. He currently serves as the founding director of the Center
for Behavioral Neuroscience, a science and technology center, funded by the
National Science Foundation (NSF). The Center has developed an interdisciplinary
consortium for research and education at eight Atlanta colleges and universities.
Dr. Insel's research continues to study the role of oxytocin in social attachment
and behavior, and under an NIMH grant, he is involved in the development of
an autism research center.
Dr. Insel serves on numerous academic, scientific, and professional committees
including 10 editorial boards. He is a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
and has received awards from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia
and Depression (NARSAD), the Society for Biological Psychiatry, and the U.S.
Public Health Service (USPHS).
NIMH is one of the 27 components of the National Institutes of Health,
the premier federal agency for biomedical research. More information about
the NIMH can be found at www.nimh.nih.gov.