Gregory Fricchione, MD, FAPM, wins 2017 Hackett Award

The Eleanor & Thomas P. Hackett Memorial Award is the Academy’s highest honor, presented to an individual for outstanding achievement in psychosomatic medicine. This year’s winner is: Gregory Fricchione, MD, FAPM, Director Emeritus, Division of Psychiatry and Medicine, Gary Gottlieb MD Partners Healthcare Chair in Global and Community Mental Health, and Director, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also the Mind Body Medical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Gregory FricchioneDr. Fricchione has been on faculty at Harvard Medical School (HMS) since 1993. He first came to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in 1982 as a psychosomatic medicine fellow receiving mentorship and supervision from three former Hackett Award winners–Ned Cassem, George Murray and Ted Stern. Since July 2002 he has been Associate Chief of Psychiatry at MGH and from June 2002 until July 2017 he was Founding Director of the Division of Psychiatry and Medicine, which includes psychiatrists and psychologists working at the interface of psychiatry, medicine, surgery and neurology. Prior to this he was Director of the Medical Psychiatry Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital from 1993 to 2000.

Dr. Fricchione received his MD from New York University School of Medicine in 1978. He is board certified in psychiatry and has had added qualifications in psychosomatic medicine and geriatric psychiatry. In addition to his clinical experience in general hospital psychiatry, Dr. Fricchione has been committed to medical education. He has taught in the medical schools at New York University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Emory University, Atlanta, and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia as well as at HMS.  He has also directed Psychosomatic Medicine Fellowships at Stony Brook University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at MGH.

Dr. Fricchione has been an active researcher in psychosomatic medicine and has made contributions to the treatment of patients with catatonia and to the management of cardiac patients who suffer from comorbid psychiatric conditions. He is the author of more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and is a co-author of the MGH Handbook on General Hospital Psychiatry (2017), Catatonia: From Psychopathology to Neurobiology (2004), The Heart-Mind Connection (2005) and The Science of Stress (2017). He is also the author of a book on brain evolution and healthcare from the Johns Hopkins University Press titled Compassion and Healing in Medicine and Society. On the Nature and Uses of Attachment Solutions to Separation Challenges (2011).

From 2000 to 2002 Dr Fricchione was Director of the Mental Health Program at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, while on leave of absence from HMS. He worked for President Carter and Mrs Carter on issues of mental health policy and public health. He continues to serve on the Mental Health Task Force of the Carter Center and on the Board of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. He was a consultant to Ethiopian Public Health Training Initiative and was a reviewer of the Mental Health Strategy for that country. He was the first Director of the MGH Chester M. Pierce Division of Global Psychiatry which was founded in 2003. It has training and research programs in Ethiopia, Somaliland, Uganda, South Africa, Peru and Barbados. In 2006 he became Director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH succeeding Dr. Herbert Benson. The institute has clinical, educational and research missions to bridge the gap between clinical medicine and public health by promoting health and preventing stress-related illnesses.

In his nomination of Dr. Fricchione for the Hackett, James K Rustad, MD, White River Junction VA Medical Center, Vermont, writes: “Greg Fricchione is a true seeker, in the 1960s sense (minus the lysergic acid).  His research with the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine and Global Health work represents his visionary search for spiritual clarity and healing. William James observed that ‘the philosophy which is so important to us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means.’ Greg carries the mighty torch at the MGH Consultation Fellowship passed to him by founding program director George Murray and, like George, teaches us to find "what is true in the meaningful and meaningful in the true."

“There exists no rigid dichotomy between the humanities and the sciences inside the imaginative mind of Greg Fricchione. Jacques Maritain asserted the wisdom sciences (e.g., philosophy) are ‘above the sciences of phenomena because they reach, in its very mystery…being itself, that being after which the intellect thirsts and hungers.’ Greg, in his book Compassion and Healing in Medicine and Society (On the Nature and Use of Attachment Solutions to Separation Challenges) countered that the wisdom sciences evolve from their foundations in the physical sciences. These foundations owe much to what he calls the separation challenge-attachment solution hypothesis which he feels is crucial to our understanding of evolution in the life sciences. Central to this hypothesis are Greg’s beloved “Basal Ganglia-Thalamocortical” loops (segregated, yet integrated) as exposited originally by Alexander and his colleagues at Hopkins. Greg once joked that he had an “irritable focus” in his brain firing away compelling him to proselytize about these loops. He then unleashed one of his patented hearty gut-busting laughs. Greg’s concepts are truly an integrative field theory for Consultation Psychiatrists and the lynchpin to the lectures I give to residents and medical students. 

“GK Chesterton wrote in Heretics that "there are some people – and I am one of them – who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe." Greg’s worldview encompasses the interface between compassionate patient care and brain science. He implores his fellows to study neuroanatomy in more depth and utilize George Murray’s brain-first principles in helping to relieve their patients’ suffering on the medical and surgical wards.  I fondly remember Greg walking into rounds with his Mesulam textbook and giant stacks of papers on Epilepsy, then leading us to the patient’s bedside to bring the knowledge to life. At MGH, I was fortunate enough to train with giants of Psychosomatic Medicine. In this tradition, Greg Fricchione modeled for me clinical and academic medicine at its peak level. I will always be grateful for his mentorship.”

Ana Ivkovic, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, writes: “Dr. Fricchione has also been instrumental in encouraging my own growth as a consultation psychiatrist. Thanks to him, my knowledge of the interface of immunology, psychiatry, neurology, endocrinology, and nutrition has evolved and expanded.”


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