Katherine A. Halmi, 61BA, 65MD, 69R, 73R, is internationally recognized for her pioneering studies and treatment of eating disorders, which have greatly heightened understanding of these complex and devastating illnesses.
With her rare breadth of research, clinical, and teaching skills, Halmi has altered forever the medical community's approach to eating disorders—and her passionate devotion to patients has improved the lives of thousands who suffer from the crippling effects of these diseases.
A board-certified pediatrician and psychiatrist, Halmi received her medical degree from the University of Iowa in 1965 and launched her career there, serving on faculty as an assistant and then associate professor of psychiatry. At the UI, she received her first National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) grant to study behavior modification and drug therapy for anorexia nervosa. She would subsequently receive many more grants to comprehensively investigate all aspects of eating disorders, including both the psychiatric and biological underpinnings of their manifestation.
Also while at the UI, Halmi established a clinical and research eating disorders program. She eventually moved on to Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, and, using her Iowa model, created an internationally recognized research and treatment program that has served patients for 30-plus years. A tenured professor of psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College since 1986, Halmi is also a DeWitt Wallace Senior Scholar, a designation given to very few members of the school's senior psychiatry faculty.
Colleagues credit Halmi for putting eating disorders "on the map" by taking a collection of poorly understood patients and symptoms and organizing them in such a way that they could be scientifically evaluated and studied. In total, Halmi has received more than $4 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health—which she has applied toward decoding the basic science of eating behavior, metabolism, psychopharmacology, and the mechanisms of illness. Her discoveries have led to new and effective, behaviorally focused treatment strategies for anorexia and bulimia nervosa.
"It would be rare to participate in a discussion about eating disorders and not have Dr. Halmi's name mentioned," says Philip J. Wilner, executive vice chair of the Weill-Cornell Medical College's Department of Psychiatry. "As I travel to different programs and introduce myself, I'm frequently asked, "Isn't that the place where Kathy Halmi has her eating disorders program?' She is an enormous source of pride for us."
Despite her busy research and clinical schedule, Halmi still makes it a priority to mentor younger clinicians, always taking time to chat at conferences and introduce up-and-comers to older colleagues. She has appeared at more than 300 invited lectures, can claim more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, and has authored a "Curriculum for Primary Care Providers" to assist them in their interactions with patients with eating disorders.
In addition, she is the recipient of the College of Medicine's Distinguished Alumni Award, the Research Career Award from the NIMH, and the American Academy of Child Psychiatry Eating Disorders Scientific Achievement Award. Also widely recognized by her field's major professional societies, Halmi has served as president of the American Psychopathological Association, the Society of Biological Psychiatry, and the Eating Disorder Research Society.
With her incisive mind, endless energy, and passion for service, Katherine Halmi has earned the widespread admiration of her peers—and her patients.