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Kimberly Yonkers appointed professor and chair of psychiatry

Expert in psychiatry and women’s health to start Nov. 1 at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care

Kimberly A. Yonkers, MD

Kimberly A. Yonkers, MD, an innovative and visionary leader in the interdisciplinary fields connecting psychiatry and women’s health, will join UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care as chair and professor of psychiatry on Nov. 1, according to Terence R. Flotte, MD, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine.

Dr. Yonkers is professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, where she also holds appointments in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine and in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health. She has also directed the Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers at Yale since 2000, overseeing an interdisciplinary team that researches the clinical course, pathology and treatment of psychiatric and substance use disorders as they occur in women.

A major component of her work has been the treatment of illnesses in pregnancy and the postpartum period and across the menstrual cycle, including pivotal research that indicated half of the instances of postpartum depression begin antenatally and that standard antidepressant treatment is effective for postpartum onset of major depressive episodes.

“Our Department of Psychiatry has a long and storied history, with a renowned reputation in public sector psychiatry, neuro-imaging, brain research and the understanding and treatment of substance use disorders. Dr. Yonkers is an ideal leader for a department that sits at the nexus of basic science research, clinical care, professional training and public service. Her academic leadership in the field of women’s health provides a particularly strong complement to our institution’s existing strengths and future strategic direction,” said Dr. Flotte.

Her research, funded by, among others, the Doris Duke Foundation, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health, is multidisciplinary, collaborative and contemporary. Her recent work on the impact and treatment of substance abuse disorders in pregnancy let to a widely adopted screening measure to help identify and assist pregnant women with substance misuse.

Yonkers is a 1979 graduate of Amherst College and received her MD degree from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1986. She completed her residency training in psychiatry at McLean Hospital, followed by a fellowship in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. Prior to joining the faculty at Yale in 1999, she was on the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas for seven years. At Yale, she made many substantive contributions to the field of academic medicine and was honored for her work as a mentor and a colleague, including obtaining grant support to help clinician-scientists maintain productivity in the face of extraprofessional demands.

“Her prominence in a field where our own institutions are leaders—the often-unique health needs of women and mothers—suggests an exceptionally strong fit for her vision for the department,” said Flotte. “When Dr. Yonkers joins the Medical School faculty, pending board approval, she will be invested in a new endowed chair, the Katz Family Chair in Psychiatry. The Katz Family Foundation, based in Pennsylvania, has endowed a fund dedicated solely to providing ongoing support for the chair of the psychiatry at the Medical School. The Katz family has long been a generous supporter of mental health initiatives and research across the country.”

Flotte thanked Sheldon Benjamin, MD, “for his thoughtful, supportive and energetic leadership of the department as we undertook to identify its next leader. We appreciate his many contributions to the success of the department during this time. We would also like to commend the work of the search committee members that identified a number of exceptional candidates, including Dr. Yonkers; they have been a dedicated and patient group and we all share in the rewards of it.”