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Member Profile: William Breitbart, M.D.

8 Jul 2021 11:33 AM | John Chagnon (Administrator)


My name is William “Bill” Breitbart and I was a founding member of the International Psycho-Oncology Society’s (IPOS) in 1984. 1984 was the year I became a Clinical Fellow in Psychiatric Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and had the privilege of being mentored by Dr. Jimmie Holland.  In 1984, Dr Holland and an international group of Psych-oncology pioneers established IPOS, and I was there to see it all begin and to ultimately participate in helping IPOS grow over the next 4 decades. I joined the faculty of MSKCC in 1986 and stayed on ever since. I became the Chief of the Psychiatry Service in 1996 (succeeding Dr Holland as she became the first Chair of our new Department) and I became Chairman of the Department at MSKCC in 2011. I have also been the Fellowship Training Program Director of our fellowships at MSKCC for over 20 years, and I have trained and mentored over 400 young psychiatrists and psychologists in psycho-oncology over the last 37 years I joined the Board of IPOS in 1990 and served as Treasurer, Secretary and Vice-president, before becoming President of IPOS in 2009. I received the IPOS 2009 Sutherland Lifetime Achievement Award and the IPOS 2019 Jimmie Holland Award for lifetime contributions to psychiatric oncology. I am currently a President Emeritus of IPOS. I helped establish IPOS Press which has published a number of handbooks in Psycho-oncology in partnership with Oxford University PressMy clinical and research efforts have focused on psychiatric aspects of cancer and palliative care. My research has included studies of delirium, pain, fatigue, desire for hastened death, and the role of inflammation in cancer-related depression. My most recent efforts focus on Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy for cancer patients, an “NCI designated Research Tested Intervention” for end of life despair. I have had continuous NIH RO1 funding of investigator-initiated research since 1989. I am currently PI of R25 CA190169 which is training a national and international cohort of cancer care clinicians in Meaning Centered Psychotherapy. I have over 500 peer review publications, chapters and review papers, and 16 textbooks including: Psycho-oncology - 1st , 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Editions (I took over as Senior editor from Dr. Holland for the 4th edition of Psycho-oncology which was published in 2021) ; Psychosocial Palliative Care; Handbook of Psychiatry in Palliative Medicine – 1st and 2nd Editions; and the treatment manuals for Meaning-Centered Group Psychotherapy in Advanced Cancer Patients; and Individual Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy for Advanced Cancer Patients; and Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy in the Cancer Setting from Oxford University Press. I am Editor-in-Chief, of Cambridge University Press’ international palliative care journal entitled, “Palliative & Supportive Care”. One thing that people are surprised to learn about me is that in fact I do sleep 8 hours a night and I am quite a procrastinator. I’m an example of how dedication to a mission and the courage to risk failure are attributes that can help one achieve a meaningful life.


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