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Honorary degree citation - Nora Volkow

By: Shimon Amir, June 2016

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Dr. Nora Volkow, psychiatrist, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a revolutionary scholar in the field of drug addiction. 

Dr. Nora Volkow has led the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse since 2003 with an energy and enthusiasm for research and public advocacy that is unprecedented.

During this time, she also maintained a very active research program at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Volkow has made exceptional strides in the scientific study of drug addiction.

She was the first to use brain imaging to understand and characterize the brain circuits that are disrupted in drug addiction while at the same time showing the involvement of these same circuits in other disorders of inhibitory control including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity.

Her contributions to research, scholarship, and public advocacy in the area of drug addiction place her in the top ranks of world neuroscientists.

Her research has been transformative in shifting the paradigm of addiction from that of a behavioral choice to a brain disease.

Drug abuse and other diseases of addiction are among the most devastating problems that plague our society, placing a substantial burden on our health care and criminal justice systems.

This is exacerbated by public prejudice and the temptation to dispel drug addiction as a moral weakness or lack of willpower.

Dr. Volkow’s brain images of drug addicted individuals have made a compelling case for recognizing drug addiction as a disease of the brain with its own characteristic neurochemical and metabolic signatures just like other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression and schizophrenia.

By bringing attention to the importance of diseases of addiction to society, she has demonstrated the power of neuroscience to make a difference in the way addiction is studied and treated.

Her work on addiction and other disorders of inhibitory control continues to inspire the next generation of basic scientists and clinical translational researchers worldwide.

Nora Volkow was born in Mexico City, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts at the Modern American School and her M.D. from the National University of Mexico UNAM.

Her psychiatric residency was at New York University, where she earned the Laughlin Fellowship Award as one of the 10 Outstanding Psychiatric Residents in the USA.

She has since worked and taught at the University of Texas Medical School, the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University.

Dr. Volkow has edited several books and published over 100 book chapters and 600 peer reviewed research papers, many in high impact journals including Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, JAMA and PNAS.

As a mentor and educator, Dr. Volkow influenced an emerging generation of women and men in STEM Education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Her work on addiction and public advocacy is recognized around the world and has won her prestigious awards from numerous professional, academic and public institutions.

She was a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal finalist and was inducted into the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivitiy Disorder (CHAAD) Hall of Fame.

She was also elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in the National Academy of Sciences and received the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science.

Dr. Volkow has been repeatedly listed in publications including Time, Newsweek, Washingtonian Magazine and the U.S. News and World Report as one of the top innovators and powerful people who shape our world. 

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Dr. Nora Volkow, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

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