Hagop Souren Akiskal was born of Armenian parents in Beirut, Lebanon in 1944 and, after matriculating with a baccalaureate in mathematics and B.Sc. in biology, received his medical degree (with Alpha Omega Alpha honors) from the American University of Beirut in 1969. He obtained his psychiatric training at the Universities of Tennessee (Memphis) and Wisconsin (Madison), and research training at the Wisconsin Primate Laboratory.
Academic: Appointed Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Tennessee (1972-1990), he also served as Director of the Affective Disorders Program, co-director of the Sleep Disorder Center and the Neurophysiological Laboratory. He was subsequently recruited as the Senior Science Advisor to the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (1990-1994). He is presently Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the International Mood Center at the University of California at San Diego, where he is also on the faculty of International Health and Cross-Cultural Medicine. Prof. Akiskal has served as Director of Medical Student Education and Continuing Medical Education, receiving “Best Psychiatry Teacher” Awards both at Tennessee and California. He has also served in a visiting capacity as clinical professor at Laval (Quebec), Montreal and McGill Universities (1987-92). More recently, he has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Lisbon (2003) and Aristotle University at Thessaloniki (2005).
Professional: Following the devastating 1988 earthquake in Armenia, Prof. Akiskal led a US psychiatric delegation to that Republic. In 1997, he had a brief stint as Special Advisor to the Director of Mental Health of the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. Since 2002, he has chaired the Private Practice Section of the World Psychiatric Association. He is a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and founding fellow of the International Society of Affective Disorders; fellow of the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology; honorary member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK), the Hungarian, Peruvian, Mexican, and Argentinean Psychiatric Associations, the Portuguese Biological Psychiatric Society, Société Médico-Psychologique (Paris); and the Armenian Medical Association. During the 1990’s he served as Honorary President of the Hungarian Suicide Prevention Society and of the National Union of French Depressive and Manic-Depressive Associations. In 2004, he was elected into the French National Academy of Medicine, and in 2005 into the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.
Research: Prof. Akiskal rose to prominence with his integrative theory of depression (Science, 1973). Subsequently he established chronic depressions as treatable mood disorders. His research on the offspring of bipolar patients was among the first to delineate juvenile bipolarity. His work on dysthymia, cyclothymia and hyperthymia challenged the concept of personality disorders, led to the development of a new instrument (Temperament Evaluation of Memphis, Pisa, Paris and San Diego (TEMPS-A), thereby contributing to the worldwide renaissance of the temperament field. With Kareen Akiskal he has studied the creativity of Blues musicians and Parisian writers and painters. His focus on subthreshold mood disorders enlarged the boundaries of bipolar disorders. He is the author of over 500 journal articles and book chapters, and is listed by the Institute of Scientific Information among the world’s “most highly cited authors” since 1981. Fluent in 5 languages, he has been invited to lecture in more than 250 universities in over 50 countries. On the Editorial Board of 35 national and international psychiatric journals, Prof. Akiskal is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Affective Disorders, the CME Journal of Bipolar Disorders, as well as Editor of Psychopathology.
Clinical: His mood clinics have had worldwide appeal because of their philosophy of conducting clinical training and research while delivering high quality care. His expertise ranges from dysthymia to the bipolar spectrum, the structure of mania and hypomania, bipolar depression, mixed states, anxious bipolarity, suicide prevention, and disaster medicine. Of his 20 books, Dysthymia and the Spectrum of Chronic Depressions (1997) and Bipolar Psychopharmacotherapy: Caring for the Patient (2006), are among the most representative.
Prizes: Clinical Research Award (American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists), Gold Medal for Pioneer Research (Society of Biological Psychiatry), the German Anna Monika Prize for Depression, the NARSAD Falcone Prize for Affective Disorders, the Jean Delay Prize (highest distinction of the World Psychiatric Association), the Ig-Noble prize for “the chemistry of romantic love” (Harvard), the French Jules Baillarger, the Italian Aretaeus Prize (for research on the bipolar spectrum). He is also a recipient of the Gold Medal of the Armenian Medical Association; a special Presidential Commendation from the American Psychiatric Association for “transferring clinical care to clinical science,” as well as the George Tarjan Prize for helping the integration of foreign medical graduates into American psychiatry. In 2003, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor “for exceptional national humanitarian service”, and in 2006 the Aristoteles Gold Medal “for distinguished contributions to psychiatry, science, and humanity.”