Longtime Psychiatry Chair Lewis Judd Dies at Age 88
When he stepped down in 2013, no one had – or has – served longer
Lewis Lund Judd, who held the position of chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the UC San Diego School of Medicine for 36 years before stepping down in 2013 – an astounding 70 percent of the university’s existence at the time – died December 16, 2018. He was 88.
Born in Los Angeles, Judd received his medical degree and training in adult and child psychiatry at UCLA. He served on the faculty at UCLA until 1970 when he was recruited by Arnold J. Mandell to the then-one-year-old Department of Psychiatry and two-year-old UC San Diego School of Medicine. The Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine was the first in the country to be neurobiologically oriented. Judd would succeed Mandell as department chair in 1977.
Judd was an expert in biological psychiatry and clinical psychopharmacology — and a forceful advocate for pushing psychiatry beyond its decidedly charismatic, but often controversial, past to its empirical present as a data-driven, hard-charging neuroscience. He was an early and vocal leader of the idea that mental disorders, such as depression, were the result of neurological and biological dysfunction, and argued that they could be effectively treated with appropriate, rigorously developed psychopharmaceuticals.
“Lew Judd was one of the giants of psychiatry and one of the leaders who transformed psychiatry into a rigorous science using genetics and imaging,” said David Brenner, MD, vice chancellor, UC San Diego Health Sciences. “He built one of the greatest research departments in the world and trained the next generation of its leaders. He had amazing insight to anticipate areas of excitement and discovery and to invest in these areas.”
As a young psychiatrist-in-training in the 1970s, Judd said the profession’s emphasis still strongly emphasized the works of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and others. It involved exploring a patient’s state-of-mind through talk, dreams, free association and fantasies. Successful psychoanalysis relied heavily upon the interpretive skills, imagination and charisma of the practitioner. “It was an art form,” said Judd in 2013, not a science. The underlying biology of the brain was usually an after-thought.
Changing that mind-set would not be easy or quick. In 1988, for example, in a Q&A in Parade magazine, Judd was asked whether depression was “an act,” that with just a “little willpower,” according to the magazine’s writer, a depressed person might “become cheerful again.”
“It’s a real disease, just as a heart attack is real,” Judd countered. “Depression produces physical, emotional and thinking symptoms. Without treatment, depression can last for years and can even end in suicide. With treatment, as many as nine out of 10 people recover.”
“Lew built this department by choosing independent investigators who could work together,” said Igor Grant, MD, FRCP(C), professor and current psychiatry chair. “He sought breadth and depth. He wanted people who could further the idea of psychiatry as evidence-based medicine. He saw research as the key, and built a department that rose to become among the top three National Institutes of Health-funded psychiatry departments in the country.
“Another of his passions was the training of the next generation of academic and clinical psychiatrists and psychologists. Indeed, the majority of psychiatrists in practice in the San Diego region today were trained in the programs he fostered.”
At the age of 57, Judd was named director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the first active scientist to hold the job. He served as NIMH director from 1987 to 1990. During this time, Judd developed and launched multiple initiatives, including the National Plan for Research into Schizophrenia; the National Plan for Research in Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders; the National Research Plan to Improve Services for Individuals with Severe Mental Illness; and the momentous Decade of the Brain Research Plan.
“This appreciation for the science of the human brain and mind exploded under his NIH leadership in the late 80s when he launched “The Decade of the Brain,” said Sandra A. Brown, PhD, vice chancellor for research and Distinguished Professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “It was the transformative precursor to the BRAIN Initiative two decades later.”
“The thing I’m most proud of is how psychiatry is becoming increasingly recognized as a real biomedical science,” Judd said in 2013. “It used to be disdained. A broken mind wasn’t as real as a broken bone. We lionized physical medicine, but dismissed brain biology, which has an enormous affect upon not just our behavior, but our bodies as well.”
Judd authored more than 200 scientific publications and edited nine books and monographs.
He was a member of the Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine. He received an honorary Doctor of Science from the Medical College of Ohio for national leadership in brain research. The American College of Physicians awarded him its William C. Menninger Memorial Award for achievement in the science of mental health. And he received the Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Psychiatry and the C. Charles Burlingame Award from the Hartford Institute of Living for meritorious contributions in education and research in psychiatry.
Judd was also a dedicated and talented clinician. He trained in psychoanalysis during his residency and provided psychotherapy and psychopharmacologic treatment throughout his career until his retirement. He was often called upon to consult on challenging patient conditions. He was always generous and available to help others.
Numerous national mental health advocacy organizations honored him, including the Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to national mental health research from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Award of Distinction from the National Mental Health Association for his leadership in child and adolescent mental disorders.
Judd was a Renaissance man: a runner, tennis player, avid reader of fiction and history, football devotee, lover of good food and wine, patron of the arts, loyal friend, devoted husband, father and grandfather.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia Judd, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego Health; daughters Stephanie Judd, a clinical psychologist; Catherine Judd, a professor of English literature; and Allison Fee, an occupational therapist; sons-in- law Cliff Greenblatt and Frank Fee; and grandchildren Helena, Henry, Spencer, Miles and Jack. He was predeceased by his brother, Howard Judd, a UCLA faculty member in the Department of Reproductive Medicine.
A tribute to Judd is planned in the late winter or early spring of 2019 in conjunction with celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the psychiatry department. The Lewis L. Judd Recognition Fund has been established to help advance his ideas for better understanding and treating mental disorders. Contributions can also be made in his honor to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
David A. Brenner
Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences
Steven R. Garfin
Interim Dean, School of Medicine
Chair, Department of Psychiatry