In Memoriam: Dr. Herbert D. Kleber

October 10, 2018

The faculty and staff of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital deeply mourn the passing of our beloved and distinguished colleague Herbert D. Kleber, MD. 

Over the course of his 50-year career, Dr. Kleber and his colleagues probed the pathology of addiction and developed treatments to mitigate withdrawal and promote recovery. At the time Dr. Kleber began his career, substance abuse was not a major focus of biomedical research and clinical medicine. Thus, his career importantly contributed to the emergence of addiction and substance use disorders as a focus of research and treatment by the medical profession.  Dr. Kleber’s pioneering efforts were elevated to the policy level with his appointment as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy by President George H.W. Bush. Working under Director William Bennett, he implemented policies that led to decreased demand for illegal drugs through programs in prevention, education and treatment. He also co-founded, along with former Health and Human Services Secretary Joseph Califano, the National Policy Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Through these efforts, Dr. Kleber raised the consciousness of academic medicine, health care providers and health policy makers to the importance of substance use disorders and addiction.  Following his government service at the U.S. Federal Prison in Lexington, KY, faculty position at Yale, and appointment in the Bush 41 administration, he joined the Department of Psychiatry, at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute where he established, with his late wife Dr. Marian W. Fischman, what became one of the largest and most successful research programs on substance abuse in the country, recognized perennially as such, in the U.S. News and World Report's rankings of medical school specialties.

At the time of his death, Dr. Kleber was Professor of Psychiatry and Emeritus Director of the Division on Substance Use Disorders at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

It is with fond memories and heartfelt sadness that we mourn our dear colleague and extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Anne Burlock Lawver, and the entire Kleber family.  Funeral services will be held at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan on Sunday, October 14th at 12:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to CPDD (College of Problems on Drug Dependence) with a note indicating that it is for the Herbert D. Kleber Memorial Fund. 


Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD

Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons

Director, New York State Psychiatric Institute

Psychiatrist-In-Chief, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital


Frances R. Levin, M.D.

Director, Division on Substance Use Disorders, New York State Psychiatric Institute