Psychiatry Chair, Sarah "Holly" Lisanby, M.D.

The Chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Sarah "Holly" Lisanby, M.D.


Sarah Hollingsworth “Holly” Lisanby, MD, an internationally recognized leader in the field of brain stimulation, was named Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine October 1, 2010. Before coming to Duke, Lisanby was Chief of the Brain Stimulation and Therapeutic Modulation Division at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University.

An expert in translational research in the field of brain stimulation, Lisanby has received professional accolades for her leading role in pioneering a novel depression treatment called magnetic seizure therapy (MST), which her team took through the steps from bench to bedside, and is now at the stage of multi-center, international collaborative trials. She is the co-author on more than 150 publications in prestigious scientific journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine.

Lisanby has a distinguished academic record as a member of NIH Study Sections and the FDA Neurological Devices Advisory Panel, co-Principal Investigator of an 8-center NIH funded U01, former President of the leading international professional organizations on brain stimulation (Association for Convulsive Therapy / International Society of Neurostimulation, and the International Society for Transcranial Stimulation), and as Chair of both American Psychiatric Association committees related to brain stimulation (APA committee on ECT and the APA Task Force to Revise the Guidelines on ECT).

An active researcher supported by a series of NIH, foundation, and industry grants, Lisanby founded and directs the Columbia Brain Stimulation and Therapeutic Modulation Division that encompasses multidisciplinary research labs (spanning technology development, pre-clinical modeling, translational neuroscience, and clinical trials), clinical brain stimulation services (including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS)) and educational programs for trainees at all levels.

She has received many prestigious awards, including the Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the Max Hamilton Memorial Prize of the Collegium Internationale Neuro-Psychoharmacologicum (CINP), the Gerald Klerman Award from the National Depression and Manic Depression Association (NDMDA), and the NARSAD Klerman Award.

A native of Arlington, VA, Lisanby earned her undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Psychology at Duke as an Angier Biddle Duke Memorial Scholar and Faculty Scholar. She received early acceptance to the Duke School of Medicine through the Early Identification Program. She performed her internship and residency in psychiatry at Duke, and served as Executive Chief Resident in Psychiatry.

Lisanby joined Columbia in 1995 to pursue a postdoctoral research fellowship in Affective Disorders and Geriatric Psychiatry. She joined Columbia’s psychiatry faculty in 1998, and was the founding director of the Brain Stimulation Division there since 2005.

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