In Memoriam: Robert Spitzer, MD, Friend and Colleague

December 29, 2015

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 Robert Spitzer, M.D.  Dr. Spitzer completed his psychiatric residency at Columbia and was a vital member of the faculty for over half a century. The seminal achievement of his career was the establishment of a diagnostic system that was empirically based on uniform standards. The third revision of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-III), developed under his supervision, revolutionized the field of psychiatry and had a transformative effect on the diagnosis and treatment of patients and on psychiatric research. Dr. Spitzer’s enlightened scholarship and commitment to rigorous research methodology helped the field of psychiatry evolve from an ideologically based theory driven discipline to one scientifically guided by empirical data. In addition to his leadership role in developing DSM-III, Dr. Spitzer’s notable achievements included his instrumental role in the processes that eliminated homosexuality as a mental disorder and established the diagnosis of PTSD as a pathologic sequela of experiential trauma. As a researcher, educator and mentor, Dr. Spitzer’s lifelong accomplishments in nosology and diagnostic assessment have fundamentally changed both psychiatric research and the practice of psychiatry in the United States and internationally. 

It is with fond memories and heartfelt sadness that we mourn our dear colleague and extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Dr. Janet Williams, and the entire Spitzer family.

Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD

Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University; Director, New York State Psychiatric Institute; Psychiatrist-In-Chief, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

Please click here to read Dr. Spitzer's obituary in the New York Times.


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