Institute of Medicine Awards Rutgers’ David Mechanic 2009 Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health

Institute of Medicine Awards Rutgers’ David Mechanic 2009 Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health

Researcher in credited with helping to define, build medical sociology field

David Mechanic high
David Mechanic

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Institute of Medicine (IOM) today awarded the 2009 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health to David Mechanic, director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Mechanic, a university professor and the René Dubos Professor of Behavioral Sciences, was honored at the institute’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

A medical sociologist, Mechanic, from Princeton Township, received a medal and $20,000 from IOM, which was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences. The institute provides independent, objective, evidenced-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector and the public.

“Through his prolific research, teaching and writings, David Mechanic has helped to define and build the field of medical sociology,” said IOM President Harvey V. Fineberg. “Dr. Mechanic has greatly influenced thinking in areas ranging from mental health to health policy, providing a sociological perspective that has complemented and enriched medical and psychological approaches to the subjects. In addition, he has been an exemplary professional colleague, teacher and mentor.”

The Sarnat Prize was presented to Mechanic in recognition of his decades of effort to increase scientific knowledge about the causes and factors shaping mental health and to improve mental health care services. His books on medical sociology, mental health and social policy – the latest being The Truth About Health Care: Why Reform Is Not Working in America (Rutgers University Press, 2006) and Mental Health and Social Policy: Beyond Managed Care, fifth edition (Allyn and Bacon, 2008) – laid a foundation for looking at mental illness through a sociological lens.

Mechanic’s early research in social psychology focused on how patients’ behavior can affect their ability to obtain care, pioneering a line of research that has extended to other areas of medicine where behaviors such as medication compliance and smoking cessation affect the success of treatment. His work on factors that contribute to high rates of unmet treatment needs has been influential in guiding policy planners in improving mental health care and has been especially important in the treatment of persistent and severe mental disorders.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine, Mechanic has been a valued adviser to several state, federal and private mental health system developers. He has also been an influential mentor to many researchers and clinicians through the National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored training programs in mental health services that he has led for years at Rutgers and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and through his direction of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Awards Program in Health Policy Research.

The Sarnat award is supported by an endowment created by Rhoda Sarnat, a licensed clinical social worker, and Bernard Sarnat, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and researcher, of Los Angeles.

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