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IOL Burlingame Award Ceremony Returns to Downtown Hartford

November 02, 2022

After three years gathering remotely, colleagues at the Behavioral Health Network came together in person at the Marriot Downtown Hartford last week for the annual C. Charles Burlingame, MD, Award ceremony honoring Boris Birmaher, MD. More than 150 guests attended the 32-year tradition of honoring a luminary in American and international psychiatry who has made significant contributions to the field. Laughter and smiles were plentiful as many long-time colleagues who had not seen each other since the pandemic began enjoyed reconnecting. Javeed Sukhera, MD, PhD, chair of psychiatry at the Institute of Living, presented this year’s award to Dr. Birmaher, who is known for outstanding leadership in the study and treatment of pediatric mood and anxiety disorders. He was praised for his transformative work and research describing the predictors, risk factors, course and treatment of childhood-onset bipolar disorder. Upon accepting the award, Dr. Birmaher spoke of his studies and findings involving childhood depression that are leading to better analysis and treatment programs. The annual award is named after C. Charles Burlingame MD, superintendent of the IOL from 1931 to 1950 and psychiatrist-in-chief from 1939 to 1951. He was responsible for renaming the Retreat the “Institute of Living” and laying the groundwork for modern day diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

Pioneering work

Dr. Birmaher is endowed chair in early onset bipolar disease and distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of Child and Adolescent Bipolar Spectrum Services. For decades, his research and clinical and mentoring activities have helped increase understanding of the risk factors for mood and anxiety disorders, developed and implemented innovative treatments to improve the lives of patients and their families, and trained the next generation of educators, clinicians and researchers. Through his work, he hopes to decrease the burden of psychiatric illness, maximize normal development and enhance the functioning of young people and their families. Presenting at Grand Rounds the morning after the award ceremony, Dr. Birmaher spoke of his work identifying the risks of having and developing recurrent mood episodes in youth with bipolar disorder. Diagnosing the disorder presents challenges as children sometimes have difficulty expressing symptoms. The need is critical, however, as many experience increased family conflicts, hospitalizations, academic difficulties and weight. Discussing and sharing statistics from current studies, Dr. Birmaher mentioned new and improved treatments to delay - and in the best cases, prevent - bipolar disorder. He also relayed the excitement of groundbreaking work using biological markers and gene research to better determine who is at risk for bipolar disorder and developing future recurrences. Dr. Birmaher received his medical degree from Valle University in Colombia, completing training in general psychiatry at the Hebrew University in Israel, and child psychiatry at Columbia University. He has served as principal, co-principal or co-investigator for more than 25 federally-sponsored research grants and projects, and authored or co-authored more than 500 publications, numerous book chapters and his own book, New Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar Disorder. The Institute of Living is one of the oldest and foremost mental health institutions in the nation, and is currently celebrating its 200th anniversary.