NIMH Director Hyman to Step Down
It was announced today that Dr. Steven Hyman intends to resign as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) after nearly six years in the job. In mid-December, Dr. Hyman will assume the position of provost at Harvard University - the second highest academic position at the university.
Under Dr. Hyman's tenure as head of NIMH, the agency's budget has nearly doubled, from $661 million in FY 1996, to just over $1.2 billion (the final funding level for FY 2002 has still not been resolved). These record increases in the NIMH budget have been the result of strong bipartisan support in Congress for doubling the federal investment in biomedical research. Dr. Hyman has been a key player in working with key members of Congress to ensure that increases in severe mental illness research keep pace with all other diseases, and that funding decisions are based on promising science and the public health burden of disease.
Since becoming Director of NIMH in early 1996, Dr. Hyman also pushed hard to change the focus of NIMH toward higher scientific standards for research and for integrating advances in neuroscience and genetics with clinical practice. In addition, Dr. Hyman's tenure saw more focus in the NIMH research portfolio on severe mental illness research. In recent years NIMH has undertaken the STEP-BD program, which is the largest study of real-world treatment of bipolar disorder ever undertaken. This important study, is examining both primary treatments and at adjunctive or add-on treatments to determine the best clinical approach in situations where the best approach is currently unknown.
Last year, under Dr. Hyman's leadership NIMH also initiated the CATIE study, a landmark effort to study available atypical antipsychotic medications in head-to-head comparisons, looking at relative effectiveness and side effects. This important study is expected to help determine whether there are ways to choose the best medications for specific consumers.
It is expected that Dr. Richard Nakamura will begin serving as Acting Director of NIMH after Dr. Hyman's departure in December.
In addition to Dr. Hyman's resignation as NIMH Director, advocates for severe mental illness research suffered another loss with the announcement last week that National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Alan Leshner was leaving to become head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Leshner is a former Acting Director of NIMH and a strong advocate for mental illness research. During his seven-year tenure at NIDA, he played a key role in pushing research on effective treatments for co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse that has become the scientific foundation in support of integrated treatment. His new position at AAAS affords him a tremendous opportunity to be a national spokesman on scientific research. His leadership at NIDA will be missed.
Below is a statement from NAMI President, and NIMH Advisory Council Member, Jim McNulty on Dr. Hyman's departure.
For Immediate Release
October 29, 2001
NIMH DIRECTOR STEVEN HYMAN TO RETURN TO HARVARD;
NAMI PRAISES HIS LEADERSHIP AS
"A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW"
NAMI President Jim McNulty,
Member, NIMH Advisory Council
Since 1996, Steven E. Hyman, M.D. has served with distinction as a brilliant, dynamic, outspoken director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), presiding over an agency with more than 1,000 scientists and budget of $1.2 billion. He will be a hard act for anyone to follow.
Under Dr. Hyman, NIMH's budget nearly doubled, and the agency played a more forceful role in setting the nation's scientific research agenda in mental illnesses. He challenged traditional research and achieved greater emphasis on the brain and molecular biology, as well as the mind and behavior.
Dr. Hyman understood the importance of connecting pure scientific research to clinical insights and practices. He helped to initiate large-scale studies seeking to identify more effective, real world treatments for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other severe mental illnesses. He also played a leading role in collaborating with the White House and the U.S. Surgeon General to produce landmark reports and conferences on mental illness in adults and children. He helped to establish the nation's baseline for future research and treatment.
NAMI also honors Dr. Hyman for significant leadership to ensure greater protections for consumers who participate in clinical research, and to increase the role of consumers and families in shaping NIMH priorities and families. We wish him well as he prepares to return to Harvard University to assume the office of Provost in December 2001. We look forward to continued friendship with him, and opportunities for future collaboration.