In Memoriam: Dr. Bruce J. Rounsaville

Dr. Bruce J. Rounsaville, a member of the Yale School of Medicine faculty since 1978 and an internationally recognized expert in the areas of depression, substance abuse, and the development and validation of psychotherapies to treat addiction, died suddenly, after being stricken while exercising on Jan. 9.

Rounsaville served as professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, director of the VA Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and director of the Psychotherapy Development Research Center and Clinical Scientist Training Program in Substance Abuse, which was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Rounsaville was renowned as a researcher, mentor and adviser, and was known for his generosity, warmth and sense of humor. In addition to his own path-breaking research, he guided the careers of a generation of clinical researchers in the areas of depression and addictions.

“Over the course of nearly four decades, he was exceptionally well regarded as a colleague and mentor. His passing is a tremendous loss to his colleagues, friends, and family,” said School of Medicine Dean Dr. Robert J. Alpern in a message to the school’s community.

Born May 21, 1949, in the Panama Canal Zone, Rounsaville was a 1970 graduate of Yale College who received his medical degree in 1973 from the University of Maryland. He completed the Yale Psychiatry Residency Program in 1977 and a fellowship in psychiatry and epidemiology at Yale the following year. Upon completion of his training, Rounsaville joined the Yale faculty and spent his entire career as a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry.

Rounsaville was a pioneer in psychotherapy research. His early work - conducted with his initial mentors, Drs. Myrna Weissman and Gerald Klerman - contributed to the emergence of one of the first empirically validated forms of psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy, and was a landmark contribution to the systematic evaluation of psychotherapy effectiveness. Their studies also provided an important early evidence base for the combination of medications and psychotherapy.

He is best known for the development and validation of psychotherapies for addiction, a condition that many had viewed previously as untreatable, and for the development of the Stage Model of Psychotherapy Development Research. In 1978, Rounsaville joined Dr. Herbert Kleber to become director of research for what is now known as the Division of Substance Abuse Research of the Yale Department of Psychiatry. This program emerged in the 1980s as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. Rounsaville - along with his collaborators, Drs. Thomas Kosten, Richard Schottenfeld, Kathleen Carroll, Stephanie O’Malley, Rajita Sinha, and others - contributed numerous advances in the treatment of addiction. Overall, he published more than 350 papers and chapters, and six books.

Rounsaville’s research garnered him numerous prestigious honors including the Anna-Monika Depression Prize of the Anna-Monika Foundation, the Norman Zinberg Prize from Harvard Medical School, the Research Award of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, and the Seymour Lustman Award from the Yale Department of Psychiatry.

Rounsaville served in numerous advisory roles for the National Institute on Drug Abuse and was also a member of the work group of the American Psychiatric Association that revised the psychiatric diagnostic manual, DSM-III, and its subsequent updates. He was assistant editor of Addiction, and he served on the editorial boards of several other journals including Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Journal of Substance Abuse, and Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

Rounsaville is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Brett, associate clinical professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, and their sons, Dan (and his wife Rebecca Soinski) and Ted (and his wife Catherine Ward).

The Department of Psychiatry plans to hold a memorial event, although this is not yet scheduled.

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