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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Gordon To Step Down as NIMH Director

In suit & tie, man with graying hair, mustache, and beard smiles with arms folded

Dr. Joshua Gordon heads back to Columbia University in June.

Photo: NIMH

Dr. Joshua Gordon was managing a thriving career as a professor, researcher and clinician when his mentor suggested he apply for the position of director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 

At the time, Gordon was an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) and an associate director of the Columbia University/NYSPI Adult Psychiatry Residency Program. He also maintained a psychiatry practice, providing one-on-one care for patients living with mental illnesses.

“I was blessed with a rich array of enthusiastic collaborators and committed trainees, a supportive university administration, and funding—my lab was flourishing,” said Gordon. “I’d never thought about being an institute director. But the opportunity to think broadly, serve communities around the country and contribute to transformative new treatments beckoned.”

In July 2016, then-NIH director Dr. Francis Collins announced the selection of Gordon as the next NIMH director. Gordon brought his unique perspective—as a neuroscientist and psychiatrist—to NIMH, the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders.

Eight years later, after shepherding NIMH to its 75th year, Gordon announced he would step down as NIMH director on June 14. 

Gordon’s vision and influence are evident across NIMH’s intramural and extramural research programs. Under his leadership, the institute has made strides in enhancing suicide prevention research, expanding neural circuit research to include translational efforts, and investing in computational psychiatry to bring powerful modeling approaches to mental health research. NIMH has also supported groundbreaking advances in mental health practice and services, from innovative treatments to developments in telemedicine and other digital health technologies, which proved instrumental during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I’m proud of our initiatives and the people at NIMH, NIH and beyond who helped bring them to life,” said Gordon. “As NIMH celebrates its 75th anniversary, I can confidently say that the institute has made many impactful contributions to support the nation’s mental health. It fills me with pride and excitement to be part of it.”

Sharing these advances with the public—through social media, blog posts, media interviews, online Q&As, podcasts and videos—has also been a priority throughout Gordon’s tenure. 

“It’s crucial that people see our work and understand how mental health research can help make a meaningful difference in people’s lives,” said Gordon. 

In June, Gordon plans to return to Columbia University as chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and psychiatrist-in-chief of the New York Presbyterian Hospital campus at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Gordon will also serve as director of NYSPI. The move reunites Gordon with his family, who reside in New York.  

“It’s been a fantastic journey and I know I’m leaving the institute in great hands with NIMH’s talented and dedicated staff,” said Gordon.

Following Gordon’s departure, NIMH deputy director Dr. Shelli Avenevoli will serve as acting NIMH director while NIH conducts a national search to fill the role. 

“Dr. Gordon’s commitment to advancing neuroscience and psychiatry is only matched by his dedication to helping the millions of people impacted by mental illnesses,” said Avenevoli. “He will be missed.”

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