Pioneer in schizophrenia and ethics research receives Institute of Medicine's 2013 Sarnat Prize

October 21st, 2013
The Institute of Medicine today awarded the 2013 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health to William T. Carpenter, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore. He is being recognized for his achievements in broadening the understanding of schizophrenia as well as for his research on ethics and informed consent. The Sarnat Prize, which consists of a medal and $20,000, was presented to Carpenter at IOM's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Our understanding of schizophrenia and how to treat it are greatly due to the lifetime dedication of Dr. Carpenter," said IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg. "His work on mental illness research ethics and academic relations has contributed significantly to policies that have become influential in setting national standards for handling this illness."

Carpenter's research into schizophrenia has helped uncover its symptoms, courses, and causes and shaped the prevention and treatment of the illness. In the 1970s, he challenged the understanding of schizophrenia, which focused on "positive" symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, and shifted the disease paradigm to emphasize "negative" symptoms—for example, inexpressive faces, monotone speech, and impaired social behavior. This work spurred an initiative at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that urged more focus on negative symptoms and cognitive deficits for therapeutic intervention. The domains for the disease that are specified in the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are based on this paradigm shift and on domains Carpenter previously identified.

When schizophrenia research was under intense scrutiny due to allegations of research ethics violations—including lack of informed consent, medication-free research, and the use of compounds to deliberately cause psychoses—Carpenter provided key empirical data supporting competent informed consent, established new methods for implementing and documenting informed consent, and completed critical reviews demonstrating the absence of harm in off-medication research and in pharmacological challenge studies. In addition, he published guidelines for conducting schizophrenia research safely and ethically.

As director of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, he transformed a facility that lacked research beds, clinics, and funding into a top-tier translational research center with the dual purpose of supporting investigative work and providing unique clinical services at no cost to patients. The center recently gained support for an initiative in pre-psychotic early detection and intervention.

Carpenter is editor-in-chief of Schizophrenia Bulletin; is author of more than 400 publications; and has served on the editorial boards of the Archives of General Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Neuropsychopharmacology, Psychiatry Research, Schizophrenia Research, and Current Psychiatry Reports. He is a past president of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and helped establish the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Carpenter earned his bachelor's degrees from Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., and his medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. He has held academic appointments at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. In addition, Carpenter served as a collaborating investigator for the World Health Organization International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia, on the NIMH Intramural Research Program Board of Scientific Counselors, and as a consultant and reviewer for NIMH and the National Institutes of Health on a variety of topics. He played a key role in founding the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), now known as the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and has chaired its scientific program since NARSAD's inception. He was also a member of a U.S. State Department delegation whose investigation of the political misuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union resulted in a change of laws, and he provided expert testimony in the trial of John W. Hinkley for the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Carpenter was elected to the IOM in 1998.

Provided by National Academy of Sciences

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