In Memoriam: Herbert Pardes, MD, Leader, Researcher, and Advocate

Faculty and staff deeply mourn the passing of Dr. Herbert Pardes, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia for 40 years who served chair of Department and Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute—and whose name graces our institute’s Herbert Pardes Building at 168th Street and Riverside Drive. 

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD, interim chair of the Columbia Department of Psychiatry, pays tribute with a message of remembrance:

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Dr. Herbert Pardes, a towering figure in psychiatry and academic medicine whose name graces our institute’s Herbert Pardes building at Riverside Drive and 168th Street. A former Chair of our Department and Executive Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Dr. Pardes leaves behind a profound legacy of leadership, compassion, and innovation.

Dr. Pardes received his medical degree from the State University of New York in Brooklyn and completed his residency in psychiatry at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, with additional psychoanalytic training at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. He was called to leadership early in his career, and his visionary approach had tremendous impact across several institutions, including as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Assistant Surgeon General during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

After his service in the federal government, Dr. Pardes became leader of Columbia Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the psychiatry service at Presbyterian Hospital in 1984. Under his tireless leadership, our Department and Institute thrived. He expanded our clinical reach, grew our research impact, and inspired a generation of mental health trainees. His advocacy was similarly impactful. As an example, following a public symposium he hosted on psychiatry research, Dr. Pardes inspired the launch of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF), which has funded $450 million in research grants since 1987.

In 1989, Dr. Pardes became Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, even while still serving as the senior leader for the Department of Psychiatry for much of his tenure. After his outstanding term as Dean, Dr. Pardes then became President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital from 1999-2011. His leadership played an instrumental role in shaping one of the nation's leading academic medical centers—and the only one that spans two leading medical schools.

Dr. Pardes' influence extended far beyond the confines of academia. He was a tireless advocate for mental health parity, working to ensure that people with mental illness received the same level of care and support as those with physical ailments. His advocacy efforts played a pivotal role in shaping mental health policy at both the state and national levels, including during his tenure as President of the American Psychiatric Association. His contributions were recognized with countless awards, including the annual BBRF Pardes Humanitarian Prize in Mental Health, named in his honor.

Even beyond his impact as a leader, researcher, and advocate, Dr. Pardes touched the lives of countless patients as a clinician, providing compassionate care and support to those struggling with mental illness. His holistic approach to treatment emphasized the importance of addressing not only the symptoms but also the underlying factors contributing to mental health disorders, earning him the respect and admiration of colleagues and patients alike. His care for people was a natural extension of who he was, well beyond his professional responsibilities, as reflected in not just one or two but many who considered him to be their dearest friend.

Dr. Pardes will be remembered for his warmth, humility, and unwavering commitment to serving others. He was a mentor and friend to many, always willing to offer guidance and support to those in need. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of psychiatrists and health care leaders, reminding us of the difference one person can make.

With deepest sympathy,

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD
Interim Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons 

Interim Executive Director, New York State Psychiatric Institute 

Interim Psychiatrist-in-Chief, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-CUIMC