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Saki Santorelli retires as executive director of Center for Mindfulness

After an impressive career, mindfulness pioneer moves on to ‘the next phase of my life’s work and purpose’

  Saki F. Santorelli, EdD, MA

Saki F. Santorelli, EdD, MA

After an impressive career as an educator, clinician, mentor and author, Saki F. Santorelli, EdD, MA, professor of medicine, has announced he will retire as the executive director of the UMass Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society.

Dr. Santorelli has been associated with the center since 1981, when he worked as the first intern at what was then called the Stress Reduction Clinic. He joined Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, the center’s founder, as assistant director of the clinic and cared for thousands of medical patients referred to the service. In 1996, he was appointed the clinic director for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and four years later as executive director of the Center for Mindfulness.

“It is with gratitude, a clear sense of accomplishment and a wide-open world before me that I have decided to step aside as executive director and enter into the next phase of my life’s work and purpose,” Santorelli said. “I can’t imagine a better job to have been entrusted with for all these years.”

Among many accomplishments, Santorelli developed Mindfulness for Medical Students, thefirst mindfulness program for medical students in a U.S. medical school. He was also the training director for the Inner City Stress Reduction Clinic (1992-2000), a free MBSR clinic at the Family Health Center in Worcester. His service to the commonwealth extended to teaching and training in a four-year mindfulness program for inmates and correctional officers in medium and minimum-security prisons, funded by the Massachusetts Committee on Criminal Justice. 

Santorelli founded Oasis Institute, the center’s professional school for educating health care professionals to teach MBSR. His annual scientific conferences on mindfulness brought researchers, clinicians and educators from around the world to UMass Medical School. The author of many papers, articles and book chapters, Santorelli wrote the book, Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, which has been translated into nine languages. 

Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, the center’s research director and associate professor of medicine, will serve as the interim executive director during the search for the next executive director.