Distinguished UNM Psychiatry Chair To Retire

Dr. Samuel Keith, Milton Rosenbaum Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, and Department of Psychiatry Chair, recently announced his retirement effective July 31. Dr. George Nurnberg will succeed Keith as Interim Psychiatry Chair.

Prior to coming to UNM in 1993 as psychiatry chair, Keith served at the National Institute of Mental Health for 20 years, heading its Schizophrenia research program. He was a long-standing editor forAcademic Psychiatry, and a founding member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Among his numerous professional accomplishments, Keith cites others’ success as the most satisfying outcome of his life work. “I feel like we have been able to develop real leaders in the field of psychiatry academically and clinically,” he submits. “Many of the faculty members who have left the department over the years are now Deans or Chairs themselves. Those who have stayed have earned national accolades while helping to create high-impact educational, clinical and community programs that really serve our local populations.”

Keith describes himself as a composite of researcher, clinician, educator and administrator. Although he’s always found clinical work exhilarating, Keith sensed a tremendous opportunity at the UNM Health Sciences Center to make psychiatry as exciting to others as it is for him. Furthermore, he could develop mental health programs delivered directly to the public. The department’s Institute for the Development of Education and Advancement of Science, or IDEAS, in Psychiatry is one such program.

Through local forums, IDEAS in Psychiatry p rovides to the public useful, accurate and up-to-date scientific information about psychiatric illnesses, symptoms, and treatments. The goal is to change the conversation – to encourage open, honest and informed discussion – so that those impacted by mental illness can seek effective help, and professionals have the tools to deliver the best care possible. “We’re taking science to the public,” Keith asserts. “And the community has responded by filling the auditoriums with poignant questions and personal experiences. It’s incredible.”

Keith will remain involved with IDEAS. “I’ve done my best to bring in very good people and get out of their way,” Keith adds. “We have an amazing faculty that continues to expand psychiatric science, refine very innovative curricula and deliver potent rural clinical programs throughout the state.

“This is a job for a younger, creative, more energetic person,” he shares. “I’ve had a good run and firmly believe that one should leave before folks start asking when it’s going to happen. We have numerous grandchildren and golf courses to visit, but New Mexico will remain our home.”


Contact: Luke Frank, 272-3322

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