Dr. Francis Lee Named Chair of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine
Francis S. Lee, MD, PhD, has been named Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and Psychiatrist-in-Chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, effective July 1. Dr. Lee, a leading physician-scientist whose research focuses on anxiety disorders, succeeds Jack D. Barchas, MD, an early mentor of Dr. Lee who has served as chair of the department for 25 years and remains on faculty. “It is a great honor and will be a great challenge to succeed someone as accomplished as Dr. Barchas, who has had such a powerful impact on the department,” says Dr. Lee. “To be able to build upon what he has established is one of my greatest joys.”
As chair, Dr. Lee oversees one of the largest academic psychiatric programs in the country, with more than 300 inpatient beds and numerous outpatient programs across two campuses — NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division in White Plains, NY. Dr. Lee will administer a psychiatric program with 600 faculty members practicing in a range of psychological health areas — mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, addiction, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and neuropsychology.
Encompassing multiple renowned research institutes, the Department of Psychiatry includes the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry, DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain — a collaborative program between NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“Dr. Lee is an exceptional leader in the Department of Psychiatry whose research and clinical innovations have propelled the field and inspired new psychiatric approaches to benefit patients,” says Augustine M.K. Choi, MD, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “He is an outstanding physician, pioneering scientist, and accomplished educator. I am thrilled Dr. Lee will continue to advance our efforts to provide the best, most compassionate care for our patients.”
“We congratulate Dr. Lee on his new roles at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine,” says Steven J. Corwin, MD, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian. “An accomplished researcher, talented educator, and skilled clinician, Dr. Lee is committed to the mental health and well-being of our patients. His pioneering research is paving the way for new, innovative treatments for anxiety disorders, and we look forward to the continued impact his work will have on patients and the field of psychiatry.”
In his new role, Dr. Lee plans to further develop the department’s expertise in psychotherapy, molecular neurobiology, and circuit-based neuroscience, among other research areas. “My vision is to capitalize on our strengths in order to maintain the department’s national presence, not only as a leader in education, but also in our exceptional clinical care delivery and groundbreaking research,” says Dr. Lee, who is the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Professor of Molecular Biology in Psychiatry and a Professor of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine, as well as Research Co-Director of the NewYork-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center.
About Dr. Francis Lee
Dr. Lee earned his bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Princeton University and his medical degree and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. Completing psychiatry residency training at the Payne Whitney Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, he then went on to pursue postdoctoral training in molecular neuroscience at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Lee joined the Weill Cornell Medicine faculty in 2002 as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and of Pharmacology. In 2011, he was named Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry and has served as Interim Director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology since 2016.
Dr. Lee’s research focuses on the molecular basis of anxiety disorders. He has pioneered a vertically integrated approach combining molecular and cell biological studies with parallel mouse and human circuit-based and behavioral studies to identify robust genotype-phenotype relationships to inform psychiatric practice.
“When I hear from patients directly about the devastating impact of their psychiatric illnesses, it truly puts my work into perspective — that there’s a certain level of urgency to what we’re doing.”
— Dr. Francis S. Lee
Working with investigators in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, Dr. Lee hopes to advance the department’s expertise in systems neuroscience, combining techniques such as functional neuroimaging with noninvasive neurostimulation techniques, as well as streamlined behavioral interventions to treat psychiatric disorders such as depression.
“We have a tremendous resource in our large number of outpatient visits and inpatient beds. One of my priorities is to translate the department’s incredible scientific advances into the actual delivery of innovative care to our patients,” says Dr. Lee, who has served on several panels and boards at the National Institutes of Health and national mental health foundations. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious honors and awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Burroughs Wellcome Clinical Scientist Award, and the Siegel Family Award for Outstanding Medical Research. He has also been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Association of American Physicians, and the National Academy of Medicine.
In addition to his research, Dr. Lee remains an active clinician. “It means so much to me to see patients, because I learn from them,” says Dr. Lee. “I can read articles, but when I hear from patients directly about the devastating impact of their psychiatric illnesses, it truly puts my work into perspective — that there’s a certain level of urgency to what we’re doing.”