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9.17.2014

World-Renowned Psychiatric Researcher Receives Barnwell Award

Philip D. Harvey, Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Chief of the Division of Psychology, is one of only two 2014 recipients of the Veterans Health Administration John Blair Barnwell Award. The award is the highest honor for scientific achievement presented by the Clinical Science Research and Development division of the VA’s Office of Research and Development, and Harvey is the first psychologist to receive it.

“I am very honored to receive this award and impressed that the VA has acknowledged work on severe mental illness as central to the VA mission,” Harvey said. “Our patients are often underserved and overlooked, and it has been my goal for years to help improve their functioning and make their lives better.”

The award recognizes Harvey for his exemplary involvement in and service to the VA and clinical profession, as well as his significant contributions that have improved our understanding of cognitive and functional deficits in patients with schizophrenia and advanced diagnosis and treatment in veteran populations.

Harvey also was honored for his leadership of the VA Cooperative Study Program 572: “The Genetics of Functional Disability in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Illness,” the National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored study “Validating Measures of Real-World Outcome,” and the Social Cognition Psychometric Evaluation project.

A renowned psychiatric researcher, author and clinician, Harvey specializes in cognition, severe mental illness and neuropsychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Just this year, Harvey became the only faculty member at the Miller School to receive the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher award, ranking him in the top one percent of those cited for psychiatry/psychology in the past 10 years. As a member of the Highly Cited Research list, he also is included in the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014.

“The pioneering work of Dr. Harvey is furthering our mission to provide the highest level of care to the men and women who have bravely served in our nation’s armed forces to protect our freedom and safety,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth. “His innovation as a physician-scientist has transformed the delivery of healthcare for this important patient group and helped so many others with debilitating mental illness to lead more fulfilling lives.”

The Barnwell Award was established in 2007 to honor distinguished educator and physician-scientist John Blair Barnwell, M.D., who was the Director of Research and Education at the Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) in the 1940s.

Barnwell’s contributions to the VA include the formation of the Veterans Administration-Army-Navy Cooperative Studies in the Chemotherapy of Tuberculosis Program, which pioneered the model of the multi-site clinical trial to test treatments for tuberculosis following World War II. His leadership inspired enthusiasm and passion for the care of patients and fostered a tradition of top-level clinician-researchers within the VA. Through his efforts, the depth and quality of VA patient care was greatly enhanced with the influx of broad, multidisciplinary talent in medicine and science.

Like Barnwell, Harvey has achieved international acclaim for his clinical research in areas of prime importance to the VA’s research mission and has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to the patient population.

Harvey, who has been studying schizophrenia for more than 30 years, has played an essential role in evolving the field of cognition and functioning. In 1982, he completed the first study of working memory in schizophrenia, which also was the first study to link deficits in metacognitive monitoring to specific symptoms in schizophrenia. Another first was his study of dual-task information processing and practice-related development of automatic cognitive processing in veterans with schizophrenia. The study demonstrated that many people with schizophrenia have striking deficits in their ability to automate very simple cognitive operations despite thousands of practice trials. The results have paved the way for researchers to circumvent these basic deficits while applying learning-related therapies.

He also led the first study of its kind showing that remediation-oriented therapies can improve the real-world functioning of people with schizophrenia in as short as 12 weeks. Most recently, he spearheaded efforts to open South Florida’s first Brain Fitness Pavilion, which he co-directs with Sara Czaja, Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Scientific Director of the Center on Aging.

“Phil Harvey has conducted groundbreaking work on the nature of the cognitive impairment in schizophrenia, as well as pioneered methods to assess quality of life and functionality in patients with major psychiatric disorders,” said Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Miller Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Center on Aging. “This work has led to his seminal discovery that symptom reduction alone is often not associated with functional recovery in schizophrenia and other severe psychiatric illness – a finding that has prompted researchers to better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of functional impairment, not only in schizophrenia but in post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.

“I can think of no one more deserving of the highest research honor bestowed by the VA central office,” Nemeroff added. “We are proud to have Dr. Harvey as our colleague here at the University of Miami.”

In 2012, Harvey was awarded a $3.2 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health to study schizophrenia and improve treatment for the debilitating mental health disorder. Featured on the cover of the American Journal of Psychiatry, his study, “Determinants of Real-World Functional Performance in Schizophrenia Subjects: Correlations with Cognition, Functional Capacity and Symptoms,” was designated one of the top 15 most important papers of all time in clinical and applied neuropsychology by the six-volume reference guide Neuropsychology, published by SAGE, the world’s largest independent academic publisher.

The same year, he became the inaugural recipient of the Schizophrenia International Research Society’s Outstanding Clinical/Community Research Award, which is considered the society’s highest honor.

While Harvey’s focus is cognition and functioning, he has turned his attention to a previously ignored population – people with schizophrenia who are over 65. His studies have reintroduced the notion that there is a decline over time in a subset of people with schizophrenia and that this cognitive and functional decline can be differentiated both from normal aging-related changes and from degenerative dementing conditions.

Impairments in functional capacity, Harvey says, may constitute a heritable endophenotype that can be genetically transmitted, leading to yet another pertinent facet of schizophrenia research.

Currently, Harvey is engaged in the largest VA study in mental health involving 9,000 patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Using performance-based assessments of functional capacity, he is comparing veterans with severe mental illness to 20,000 psychiatrically healthy veterans in hopes of identifying the genetics of impaired everyday functioning.

Robert Jackson, M.D., professor of medicine and Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development at the Miami VA Healthcare System, said Harvey “epitomizes excellence in VA research.”

“Phil Harvey has been funded by the VA for many years to study functional decline in aging veterans with schizophrenia, and that work has resulted in several useful ways of reducing disability,” Jackson said. “Perhaps more importantly, he is a superb colleague, mentor and contributor to the VA research program by virtue of his service on the Research and Development Committee and his insightful reviews of research proposed by junior investigators. His recognition by the VA in the form of the Barnwell Award is well-deserved.”

On the academic side, Harvey organizes the Congress Cognition Satellite Conference, now in its 20th year. The annual conference is an official satellite of the two biennial international schizophrenia meetings – the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research and the Schizophrenia International Research Society – which provides a unique opportunity for junior scientists to interact with senior peers and present their data in a supportive forum.

A prolific author of more than 400 peer-reviewed articles, nine books and nearly 50 book chapters, he also lends his expertise as Editor in Chief of the international journal Schizophrenia Research: Cognition and has served on the editorial boards of dozens more.

As part of the Barnwell Award, Harvey received a $5,000 cash award and an inscribed plaque commemorating his scientific achievements. He also will receive $50,000 a year for three years to support his research.

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