Two Prominent Researchers Take Helm of Psychiatric Research Institute at Montefiore Einstein

December 17, 2020—(BRONX, NY)—Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System have named Vilma Gabbay, M.D., M.S., and Jelena Radulovic, M.D., Ph.D., directors of the Psychiatry Research Institute at Montefiore Einstein (PRIME). With both leaders in place, the new center will integrate research in the complementary fields of psychiatry and neuroscience to tackle some of medicine’s most urgent questions and intractable conditions across the lifespan, such as trauma and stress related disorders, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety as well as to address multicultural mental health and health disparities related to mental health.

Vilma Gabbay, M.D., M.S. (left) and Jelena Radulovic, M.D., Ph.D. (right)
Vilma Gabbay, M.D., M.S. (left) and Jelena Radulovic, M.D., Ph.D. (right)

“We couldn’t be more pleased that Vilma and Jelena are joining us and have agreed to launch a new era of psychiatric research in the Bronx,” said Jonathan Alpert, M.D., Ph.D., chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Einstein and Montefiore, professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, and of pediatrics, and the Dorothy and Marty Silverman Chair in Psychiatry at Einstein and Chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Research. “Their individual strengths and joint leadership will help spur novel scientific findings, recruit and train promising investigators, build bridges with investigators in other basic science and clinical departments, and fulfill our goal to become one of the nation’s leading psychiatric and neuroscience research institutes.”

Embracing Collaboration

PRIME is a joint initiative from the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience and a demonstration of Einstein and Montefiore’s commitment to supporting basic, translational, and clinical research. It also underscores the necessity of team science and collaboration to further knowledge in complex fields.

“Recent innovations in brain science are propelling the field forward, offering new opportunities for fundamental discoveries that can change our understanding of the brain and mental health disorders and point the way to new and effective treatments,” said Kamran Khodakhah, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience. “With Jelena and Vilma, we are covering the spectrum of scientific research and leveraging the strengths of our departments to make real advances that can potentially help millions worldwide.”

Untangling the Neurobiology of Depression

Dr. Gabbay, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience at Einstein and a clinical psychiatrist at Montefiore, studies the neurobiological links to mood and anxiety disorders in young adults. She directs the Pediatric Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program at Einstein and Montefiore, and she recently received a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the neurobiology of depression in teenagers.

Jonathan E. Alpert, M.D., Ph.D.

Jonathan E. Alpert, M.D., Ph.D.

She has received numerous grants to study a range of subjects, including neuroinflammation, teenage anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), and brain systems related to reward-seeking behaviors in adolescent suicide and depression. Earlier this year, she received the American Psychiatric Association’s Blanche F. Ittleson Award for Research in Child Psychiatry.

“PRIME is committed to pursuing meaningful advances in understanding and treating mental illness,” said Dr. Gabbay. “Together, Dr. Radulovic and I will support and mentor teams of investigators—from medical and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to early career scientists. After a career at medical schools in New York City, I am looking forward to working with the diverse communities served by Einstein and Montefiore.”

Dr. Gabbay earned her bachelor’s degree in human sciences and LL.B. at Tel Aviv University and is a graduate of the Sackler School of Medicine. She completed her adult psychiatry residency at Montefiore and her postdoctoral training in child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University where she also earned a Master’s degree in translational research. Prior to joining Einstein, Dr. Gabbay was chief of the Pediatric Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience.

Defusing Traumatic Memory

Dr. Radulovic, professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, uses animal models to examine brain mechanisms by which memories of stressful events cause fear, anxiety, and depression.

Kamran Khodakhah, Ph.D.

Kamran Khodakhah, Ph.D.

Dr. Radulovic most recently was the Dunbar Professor of Bipolar Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In 2015, she was the senior author of a Nature Neuroscience study in mice that found a brain mechanism responsible for traumatic memories to be consciously inaccessible. Last year, the Lundbeck Foundation awarded her a six-year $5 million grant to lead research on (molecular) cellular physiological mechanisms in the brain’s processing, storage, and recall of negative memories and their role in the development of depression.

“The challenges of researching these questions connected to mental health disorders are big—but so are the excitement and promise of our work at PRIME,” said Dr. Radulovic. “So many people suffer from these disorders, and if we can discover more about the molecular and cellular mechanisms in brain circuits that are affected, we can work toward developing treatments and preventative approaches to alleviate their symptoms and improve their lives.”

Dr. Radulovic earned her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at University of Belgrade, Serbia, where she worked on the effects of stress on immunological functions. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, where she studied the neuroendocrine and behavioral aspects of stress and developed a research program on the role of memory systems in emotional behavior.