The Massachusetts General Hospital community mourns the loss of Joseph Biederman, MD, who passed on January 5, 2023, due to complications of mantle cell lymphoma. Dr. Biederman, born in Prague, Czech Republic, the son of Holocaust survivors saved by Oskar Schindler, dedicated his life to mitigating suffering associated with pediatric psychiatric illnesses and to improving the state of pediatric psychiatric care. His unrivaled body of work, spanning forty years, has permanently altered the state of care for patients with ADHD, autism, OCD and numerous other psychiatric conditions.
Globally regarded as the “father of pediatric psychopharmacology,” Dr. Biederman was the most cited psychiatrist and child psychiatrist in all of medicine, authoring and co-authoring more than 800 scientific articles, 650 scientific abstracts and 70 book chapters. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors and was listed in 2014 by Thompson Reuters as one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” for ranking in the top 1% by citations for the field of psychiatry.
A member of the Mass General Department of Psychiatry since 1980, Dr. Biederman was a physician investigator in Psychiatry at the Mass General Research Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, where he was one of the university’s most productive researchers. He was the Chief of the Clinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD at Mass General and founding director of the Alan and Lorraine Bressler Clinical and Research Program for Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was a mentor to several generations of researchers and physicians, working closely with junior clinical investigators who now, themselves, mentor the next generation of clinician scientists. The success of the Mass General Division of Child Psychiatry is a testament to his decades-long inspirational leadership during which, at every turn, he empowered his colleagues and mentees and guided them in their immensely impactful collective work.
Dr. Biederman was a fierce advocate for his patients and their families and saw clinical work as the essential means of uncovering the most important research questions which, when answered, provided the needed precise treatment for children suffering with psychiatric disorders. He reminded his colleagues daily of the need to support families — not blame them — for the psychiatric illness affecting their children. He continually taught his mentees to listen to their patients, to observe, to generate solutions and to innovate — all to better the lives of those sitting across from them.
A memorial service was held at Mass General to celebrate Dr. Biederman’s life and legacy, and the Mass General psychiatry community is engaging in ongoing fundraising efforts to establish an endowed grand rounds lecture in his honor. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Biederman’s beloved family as well as his colleagues, community and patients.