Dr. Lewis Judd, chairman of the widely respected department of psychiatry at UC San Diego's School of Medicine, has been appointed to head the federal agency that supports and oversees much of the mental health research done in the United States.
Federal officials were expected today to announce Judd's appointment as director of the National Institute of Mental Health, described by some as "the central nervous system" of research in psychiatry and mental health.
Judd intends to begin work Jan. 1. The length of his term was not specified. Officials at UCSD said he will take a leave of absence from the university, where he has worked since 1970. Dr. Mark Schuckit, a professor in the department, will serve as acting chairman.
Judd's appointment received wide praise Wednesday.
"Everybody in the academic world--that is, among university departments of psychiatry--is extremely excited about this appointment," said Dr. David Kupfer, chairman and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.
"He is perceived as an extraordinarily able leader in academic psychiatry," said Dr. Melvin Sabshin, medical director of the American Psychiatric Assn. "He has built the (UC San Diego) department into a model academic department."
Judd, who was in Maryland at NIMH, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
The 57-year-old psychiatrist and specialist in the effect of drugs on the brain has headed the UCSD department since 1977. He is credited with having recruited eminent researchers and helped place the university in the vanguard of scientific psychiatry.
Specialists said Judd has managed to combine the best of two worlds--the more traditional psychodynamic and psychosocial view of psychiatric illness, and a newer "biological viewpoint" recognizing such things as genetic factors and the role of new drugs.
They also credited Judd with a strong commitment to attracting and training a new generation of scientists, done in part by setting up fellowship programs in such areas as research and the psychiatric problems of older people.
That background, some predicted, will be useful at NIMH.
"The mission of NIMH is a tripartite one," Kupfer said. "It has a research mission, it has a training mission and it also has an obligation to make sure that it sets the standards for first-class clinical care in the country."
Supports Research Education
The agency, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, supports research and education efforts in such areas as the biological, psychological, behavioral and social aspects of mental illness and mental health.
Its total budget in 1987 was $351 million. Of that, $247 million went to research and $15 million to demonstration programs. An additional $9.3 million went to demonstration programs designed to help the mentally ill homeless.
Kupfer said issues facing NIMH with Judd at the helm are likely to include the application of new medical technology to neuroscience and the application of genetic strategies in the search for causes and treatments for such conditions as depression.
Dr. J. Christian Gillin, a professor of psychiatry at UCSD, predicted that Judd's highest priority in the job would be "developing the scientific basis of the field" and the clinical application of basic brain sciences to psychiatry.
He is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Society and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He is a member of numerous professional organization including the Society for Neurosciences and the Assn. for Academic Psychiatry.