Friday, June 26, 2009

From Pittsburgh: Awards Night

It’s past 11 PM. I just got back from an awards dinner at the Eighth International Conference on Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh. This particular dinner is special to me. Allow me to explain:

The Conference honors the memory of Mogens Schou, the late Danish psychiatrist who pioneered lithium treatment in the 1960s, which revolutionized psychiatry and offered hope to millions. Each meeting, the Conference singles out individuals for outstanding achievement in three categories: Education and Advocacy, Research, and Public Service. The Mogens Schou Award is recognized as the highest honor one can attain in the field of bipolar. Past recipients have included Mogens Schou, Kay Jamison, and such paradigm-shifting researchers as Husseini Manji.

At the previous meeting, two years ago, I received the Mogens Schou Award for Public Service. I could say a number of things, but let’s leave it at the fact that I was flabbergasted, humbled, and honored.

This year’s Mogens Schou Award recipients:

Lakshmi Yatham, for Education and Advocacy: Dr Yatham of the University of British Columbia, through various leadership positions including president of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders has been instrumental in improving treatment and diagnostic standards within the medical profession and amongst the general public.

Guy Goodwin, for research: Dr Goodwin, of Oxford University, has been involved in research into the neurobiology of bipolar and psychopharmacology, including developing the basis for large scale and low budget real world clinical trials, including BALANCE, which you will hear a lot more about fairly soon.

Joyce and Dusty Sang, for public service: In 2004, the Sangs, who have a lifelong commitment to public service, created the Ryan Licht Sang Foundation which has fostered awareness, understanding, and research for child and adolescent bipolar.

At the first available opportunity, I introduced myself to the Sangs and told them how honored I felt that they received the Award. We instantly connected. The Sangs got involved through the suicide of their only child, Ryan, age 24. Joyce pinned a Foundation lapel pin on my jacket, which I will continue to wear in memory of their son and as a tribute to their work.

I found my voice catching several times in the conversation.

As I said, this particular dinner is special to me.

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