Weill Cornell Medicine Psychiatry

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Dr. Francis Lee Appointed Chair of Psychiatry

NEW YORK (July 12, 2018) – Dr. Francis Lee, a leading physician-scientist whose research focuses on anxiety disorders, has been named chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, effective July 1.

Dr. Lee will oversee one of the largest academic psychiatric programs in the country, with more than 300 inpatient beds and numerous outpatient programs across two campuses – NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan and NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division in White Plains. Dr. Lee will succeed Dr. Jack Barchas, who has served as chair of the department for 25 years and will remain on faculty.

Under Dr. Lee’s leadership, the department will continue to enhance its mission to provide exceptional psychiatric care and education, and conduct cutting-edge research on diseases of the brain and mind. The department has approximately 600 faculty across a range of psychological health areas including mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, addiction, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and neuropsychology. Dr. Lee has served on the faculty of Weill Cornell Medicine since 2002.

“Dr. Lee is an exceptional leader in the Department of Psychiatry whose research and clinical innovations have advanced the field and inspired new psychiatric approaches to benefit patients,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “He is an outstanding physician, pioneering scientist and accomplished educator. I am thrilled Dr. Lee will continue to advance our efforts to provide the best, most compassionate care as the department’s chairman.”

“We congratulate Dr. Lee on his new roles at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian. “An accomplished researcher, talented educator and skilled clinician, Dr. Lee is committed to the mental health and well-being of our patients. His pioneering research is paving the way for new, innovative treatments for anxiety disorders, and we look forward to the continued impact his work will have on patients and the field of psychiatry.”

Dr. Lee plans to further develop the department’s expertise in psychotherapy, molecular neurobiology and circuit-based neuroscience, among other research areas. “My vision is to capitalize on our strengths in order to maintain the department’s national presence, not only as a leader in education but also in our exceptional clinical care delivery and groundbreaking research,” said Dr. Lee, who is the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Professor of Molecular Biology in Psychiatry and a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Working with investigators in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, Dr. Lee hopes to advance the department’s expertise in systems neuroscience, combining techniques such as functional neuroimaging with noninvasive neurostimulation techniques. These include transcranial magnetic stimulation—a noninvasive procedure that uses targeted magnetic fields to stimulate brain circuits—as well as streamlined behavioral interventions to treat psychiatric disorders such as depression. “We have a tremendous resource in our large number of outpatient visits and inpatient beds. One of my priorities is to translate the department’s incredible scientific advances into the actual delivery of innovative care to our patients,” said Dr. Lee, who is also research co-director of the NewYork-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center. 

As chair and psychiatrist-in-chief, Dr. Lee plans to strengthen collaborations between basic science investigators and physicians who provide psychiatric clinical care at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. He also will work to foster new opportunities for scientific discovery and clinical care with collaborators at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University.

The Department of Psychiatry encompasses multiple renowned research institutes including the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, the Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry, the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain — a collaborative program between NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons — all of which provide myriad opportunities for collaboration across specialties.

Dr. Lee’s research is currently focused on why many psychiatric disorders emerge during the transition from childhood to adolescence, hypothesizing that this is a critical stage for emotional development, particularly as it relates to fear and anxiety. He is studying the brain circuits and molecular mechanisms that underlie this transition with the goal of understanding why emerging adolescents may be vulnerable to psychiatric disorders. Using these insights, he is developing treatments targeted for this critical period.

In addition to his research, Dr. Lee remains active as a clinician. “It means so much to me to see patients, because I learn from them,” said Dr. Lee. “I can read articles, but when I hear from patients directly about the devastating impact of their psychiatric illnesses, it truly puts my work into perspective – that there’s a certain level of urgency to what we’re doing.”

As chair of the department, Dr. Lee follows in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr. Barchas, a renowned physician-scientist. “It is a great honor and will be a great challenge to succeed someone as accomplished as Dr. Barchas, who has had such a powerful impact on the department,” Dr. Lee said. “To be able to build upon what he has established is one of my greatest joys.”

About Dr. Francis Lee

Dr. Lee is a neurobiologist and psychiatrist studying the molecular basis of anxiety disorders. He earned his bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Princeton University and his medical degree and a doctorate from the University of Michigan, followed by psychiatry residency training at the Payne Whitney Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He completed postdoctoral training in molecular neuroscience at the Skirball Institute, New York University and the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Lee joined the Weill Cornell Medicine faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor of psychiatry and of pharmacology. In 2011, he was named vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry, and has served as interim director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology since 2016.

Dr. Lee has served on several panels and boards at the National Institutes of Health and national mental health foundations, and has received numerous honors and awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Burroughs Wellcome Clinical Scientist Award and the Siegel Family Award for Outstanding Medical Research. He has been elected a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians and the National Academy of Medicine.

Weill Cornell Medicine

Weill Cornell Medicine is committed to excellence in patient care, scientific discovery and the education of future physicians in New York City and around the world. The doctors and scientists of Weill Cornell Medicine — faculty from Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and Weill Cornell Physician Organization—are engaged in world-class clinical care and cutting-edge research that connect patients to the latest treatment innovations and prevention strategies. Located in the heart of the Upper East Side's scientific corridor, Weill Cornell Medicine's powerful network of collaborators extends to its parent university Cornell University; to Qatar, where Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar offers a Cornell University medical degree; and to programs in Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Weill Cornell Medicine faculty provide comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Weill Cornell Medicine is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

NewYork-Presbyterian

NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the nation’s most comprehensive, integrated academic healthcare delivery systems, whose organizations are dedicated to providing the highest quality, most compassionate care and service to patients in the New York metropolitan area, nationally, and throughout the globe. In collaboration with two renowned medical schools, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is consistently recognized as a leader in medical education, groundbreaking research and innovative, patient-centered clinical care.

NewYork-Presbyterian has four major divisions:

  • NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is ranked #1 in the New York metropolitan area by U.S. News and World Report and repeatedly named to the Honor Roll of “America’s Best Hospitals.”
  • NewYork-Presbyterian Regional Hospital Network comprises hospitals and other facilities in the New York metropolitan region.
  • NewYork-Presbyterian Physician Services, which connects medical experts with patients in their communities.
  • NewYork-Presbyterian Community and Population Health, encompassing ambulatory care network sites and community healthcare initiatives, including NewYork Quality Care, the Accountable Care Organization jointly established by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia.

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