Center for Precision Psychiatry
Richard B. Simches Research Building
185 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114
Explore This Center
Drawing on expertise in big data analytics, genomics, neuroscience, precision medicine and clinical trials, the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry is uniquely positioned to lead the rapidly emerging field of precision psychiatry. To drive this transformation, we created the Center for Precision Psychiatry, an interdisciplinary center integrating research, clinical implementation, education and training, advancing risk prediction and prevention of mental health outcomes, including suicide prevention.
The mission of the Center for Precision Psychiatry is to integrate research and clinical practice to enable more accurate risk prediction, targeted prevention, precise diagnosis and effective treatments for psychiatric disorders.
A major focus of the Center is a deep investment in addressing suicide, including the prediction and prevention of suicidal behaviors and the care of patients across all areas of medicine who are affected by this growing public health crisis.
What is Precision Psychiatry?
The field of psychiatry is at a singular moment of challenge and opportunity. There is an increasing recognition that neuropsychiatric disorders affect all walks of life and are responsible for an enormous burden of suffering, disability and even mortality. We recognize that early intervention can improve prognosis, but we have few tools for identifying risk or preventing illness. We have treatments that help many people, but for others prove ineffective. Existing treatments lack precision, rooted in insights that are decades old and based on what works for the average person.
Fortunately, we now have powerful new opportunities to overcome these challenges, the emergence of a new framework for improving health and treating disease: precision medicine.
Advances in genetics and neuroscience give us the tools to develop novel therapies, while big data resources and machine learning help identify those at risk and facilitate more effective prevention or early intervention.
The idea behind precision medicine is to move beyond a one-size-fits-all approach by accounting for our individual differences in biology, environment and lifestyle to develop more targeted and effective approaches to diagnosis, treatment and prevention. We have already seen major dividends from precision medicine, including the development of targeted treatments for cancer and heart disease, and new methods for predicting individual risk of these and other diseases. We now have an opportunity to bring precision medicine to psychiatry and to lead a transformation of the field toward a new paradigm of precision psychiatry.
Fundamental unsolved questions remain in our ability to prevent, diagnose and treat mental illness, including:
- How do genes, environment and lifestyle contribute to vulnerability and resilience?
- How can we predict and prevent suicide?
- Can we predict who will develop posttraumatic stress disorder after trauma so that we can enable targeted prevention?
- Can we use genomics and other biomarkers to improve diagnosis?
- How can we identify undiagnosed psychosis to improve outcomes?
- Which antidepressant will work for which patient?
- How can we move beyond a one-size-fits all, trial-and-error approach to treatment?
The Center's work will be focused in four strategic areas:
- Use data-driven approaches, develop and implement strategies to enable risk prediction and preventive interventions for important mental health outcomes
- Leverage big data resources (i.e., electronic health records, genomic risk scores and mobile health technologies) along with machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict individual risk of important outcomes including suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after traumatic exposures, first episode psychosis
- Implement risk, prevention and treatment algorithms as clinical decision support tools for clinical practice at the point-of-care
- Develop a specialized clinical and consultation service to implement suicide prevention efforts and support clinicians across Mass General in the management of patients at risk of self-harm
- Establish a “learning health system” approach in which real-world outcomes are captured, analyzed and applied to create a feedback cycle for learning and improvement of care
Precision Treatment Optimization
- Reduce trial-and-error prescriptions by using data-driven methods to more rapidly match individual patients to the most effective treatment, including medication, psychotherapy and digital health technologies
- Leverage large-scale health system data, pharmacogenetics and artificial intelligence to develop clinically useful tools to stratify patients and match them to treatments that are most likely to provide benefit
- Validate tools in controlled trials and disseminate them to clinical practice using a learning health system approach
Precision Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics
- Develop new, more effective treatments based on our understanding of the causes of disease
- Leverage large-scale genomic studies to identify the genetic basis of psychiatric disorders
- Use state-of-the art tools--including functional genomics and stem cell biology--to identify useful biomarkers and uncover mechanisms linking genes to disease
Education, Training, Dissemination
- First Annual Conference on Precision Psychiatry to convene experts and showcase cutting-edge research – September 30, 2021- October 1, 2021 (Virtual)
- Regular Precision Psychiatry Seminar for trainees, faculty and staff across the Mass General Department of Psychiatry (begins 2021)
- Annual Mass General Grand Rounds Lecture in the area of suicide (begins 2021)
- Training programs for future research scientists and clinicians in the methods, tools and clinical practice of precision psychiatry
- Educational materials (e.g. webinars, podcasts and didactic modules) with a focus on enhancing risk assessment and management of patients at risk for suicide
Jordan W Smoller, MD
Jordan Smoller, MD, is a psychiatrist, epidemiologist and geneticist whose research focus has been understanding the genetic and environmental determinants of psychiatric disorders across the lifespan and using big data to advance precision mental health including improved methods to reduce risk and enhance resilience.
Dr. Smoller earned his undergraduate degree summa cum laude at Harvard University and his medical degree at Harvard Medical School. After completing residency training in psychiatry at McLean Hospital, he received masters and doctoral degrees in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Smoller is the Massachusetts General Hospital Trustees Endowed Chair in Psychiatric Neuroscience, professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. He is associate chief for research in the Mass General Department of Psychiatry, director of the Center for Precision Psychiatry and director of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the Mass General Center for Genomic Medicine. Dr. Smoller is a Tepper Family MGH Research Scholar and also serves as director of the Omics Unit of the Mass General Division of Clinical Research and co-director of the Mass General Brigham Biobank. He is director of the Mass General Brigham Training Program in Precision and Genomic Medicine, an associate member of the Broad Institute, co-chair of the Cross-Disorder Workgroup of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium and president of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics.
He has played a leading role in national and international efforts to advance precision medicine. He is a Principal Investigator (PI) in the eMERGE (Electronic Medical Records and Genomics) network, founding PI of the PsycheMERGE Consortium and lead PI of the New England Precision Medicine Consortium as part of the NIH All of Us Research Program and co-Chair of the All of Us Science Committee. Dr. Smoller is an author of more than 400 scientific publications and is also the author of The Other Side of Normal (HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2012).
Tian Ge, PhD
Statistical / Computational Director
Tian Ge, PhD, is an applied mathematician and biostatistician who works at the intersection of neuroimaging science, genetics and statistics. His current research focuses on developing statistical and computational methods to integrate large-scale imaging, genomic and biomedical data. Dr. Ge received his BS in Mathematics and PhD in Applied Mathematics from Fudan University, and a PhD in Computer Science from University of Warwick. He completed his postdoctoral training with at Mass General and Harvard Medical School. He is currently an Instructor at Harvard Medical school, a junior faculty member in the Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU), Center for Genomic Medicine and is also affiliated with Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Mass General.
Kate Bentley, PhD
Kate Bentley, PhD, is a clinical psychologist whose research focuses on the prediction and prevention of suicidal and non-suicidal self-injurious thoughts and behaviors. Dr. Bentley received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Boston University and completed her clinical internship at Mass General in the cognitive-behavioral therapy track. She is currently funded by a five-year National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) career development award, mentored by Matthew Nock, PhD, at Harvard University and Jordan Smoller, MD, and Maurizio Fava, MD, in the Mass General Department of Psychiatry.
Karmel Choi, PhD
Karmel Choi, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Jordan Smoller and Karestan Koenen, PhD, through the T32 Training Fellowship in Psychiatric Genetics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the interplay of genetic and environmental factors that influence trauma and resilience across the life course. Her clinical work focuses on treatment of mood and anxiety disorders and stress-related health conditions, particularly in women. Karmel completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Duke University and her predoctoral clinical internship in Behavioral Medicine at Mass General.
Erin Dunn, ScD, MPH
Erin Dunn, ScD, MPH, is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist with expertise in genetics and epigenetics. Her research uses interdisciplinary approaches to better understand the social and biological factors that influence the etiology of depression among women, children and adolescents. The goal of her work is to identify the causal mechanisms underlying risk for depression, translate that knowledge to population-based strategies for prevention and target those strategies to “sensitive periods” in development. Dr. Dunn is currently an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an associate investigator at Mass General and is affiliated with the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard and the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at Mass General. She has led several genetic association studies and gene-environment interaction studies that were the first of their kind, including publishing some of the first genome-wide association studies of depression risk in non-European ancestry populations and the first genome-wide environment interaction study of depression. Her research has been recognized by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America through the Donald F. Klein Early Career Investigator Award and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation through the Gerald R. Klerman Award, Honorable Mention. She is a 2017 recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS). In 2018, she was awarded a Rising Star award from One Mind.
Richard Liu, PhD
Richard Liu, PhD, focuses his research program on characterizing dynamic processes of risk underlying onset and recurrence of self-injurious thoughts and behaviors and depression in youth and young adults. He is currently the principal investigator of two NIMH-funded studies involving computational modeling of ecological momentary assessment data and ambulatory measures of psychosocial stress, sleep and physiological arousal, as well as neurocognitive markers of short-term risk for suicidal behavior in adolescents.View Dr. Liu's research >
Robbie Mealer, MD, PhD
Robbie Mealer, MD, PhD, recently completed clinical residency in the Mass General / McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Program. He is currently an instructor in Psychiatry at Mass General and Harvard Medical School, staff psychiatrist at McLean Hospital and the recipient of the Stanley Center Psychiatric Genetics and Neuroscience Fellowship and the MGH Translational Neuroscience Training for Clinicians Fellowship. He received his undergraduate degree from Montana State University while performing basic neuroscience research with Thomas E. Hughes, PhD. He received his MD and PhD degrees from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, working in the lab of Solomon H. Snyder, MD. He is currently working with Dr. Jordan Smoller in the MGH PNGU on a project following up schizophrenia GWAS hits, looking for novel diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers.
Amy O’C. Fitzpatrick, MBA, MSA
Amy O'C. Fitzpatrick, MBA, MSW, is the program director for the Center for Precision Psychiatry (CPP). She is responsible for the development, integration and operational management of the Center’s initiatives, stakeholder engagement as well as high-level administrative and fiscal functions of the Center. Previously, Amy served for five and half years as the senior administrative and Finance Director at Home Base, A Red Sox Foundation and Mass General program and the nation’s largest private sector clinic treating the invisible wounds of war through world class clinical care, wellness and education for veterans, service members and their families. Amy earned her MBA at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in health care management with strategic planning, MSW at the Boston College School of Social Work and her BA at the College of the Holy Cross.
Ashley Seiger, MSc
Research Operations, Senior Clinical and Research Administration Program Manager
Ashley Seiger-Jones, MSc, is the clinical research and administrative program manager for the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit. Ashley has over a decade of clinical research experience and holds a Masters degree in Management, focused specifically on research administration. Ashley thrives on team inclusion and is passionate about streamlining processes to enhance study and team efficiencies across all phases of the research process.
Becky Fortgang, PhD
Becky Fortgang's research program focuses on transdiagnostic processes of self-control and effort. In one line of research, she investigates the heritability and structure of these traits and their prevalence and relationships across genetically related disorders. In another, she focuses on self-control among other mechanisms and predictors of self-destructive behaviors, such as suicide and pathological gambling. In a third, she is particularly focused on the self-control required to initiate and maintain effortful activity and on effort disruptions in schizophrenia and mood disorders.
Andrew Grotzinger, PhD
Andrew Grotzinger is a clinical psychology fellow at Mass General /Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on developing multivariate genomic methods that can be applied to understand the joint genetic architecture of complex traits. While on fellowship, he is excited to work with Dr. Jordan Smoller and Phil Lee, PhD, to unpack the genetic underpinnings of high levels of comorbidity across psychiatric disorders. Andrew completed his doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
Heather Lee, PhD
Heather Lee is a postdoctoral research fellow in the PNGU, working with Dr. Jordan Smoller. She recently completed her PhD in psychiatric epidemiology from Brown University, focusing on prenatal immune activation as a potential predictor of offspring’s cognitive and psychiatric outcomes in the New England Family Study. During her postdoctoral training at PNGU, she has been excited to investigate the etiologic connections between immunological and psychiatric disorders using electronic health records and GWAS data.
Zhaowen Liu, PhD
Zhaowen Liu is a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Smoller and Tian Ge, PhD, at PNGU. She received her PhD in computer science from Xidian University with research topic on omics data analysis in cancers. In addition, she received her co-supervised PhD training at Fudan University worked on imaging genetics. Her research interests focus on developing and applying algorithms integrating omics data, EHRs and multimodal brain imaging data. Her focus at Mass General will be mainly on developing new data mining methods to explore the genetic and neural correlates of psychiatric disorders.
Yi-Han Sheu, MD, MPH, ScD
Yi-han Sheu is a postdoctoral research fellow working with Dr. Smoller. He received his MD degree at National Taiwan University and completed residency and fellowship training in psychiatry at National Taiwan University Hospital. He then went on to complete degrees of MPH in Healthcare Management and Policy and ScD in Epidemiology, both at Harvard University. His doctoral thesis involves using electronic health records data to improve treatment decision in psychiatric disorders by combining machine learning, artificial intelligence and epidemiological approaches. He is currently interested in increasing medical care precision by further extending the application of the methodologies above, and to achieve so, improving its prerequisites in general artificial intelligence, such as model interpretation and robustness, incorporation of causal inferential methods, effective transfer learning and building multi-modal knowledge representations.
Eric Ross, MD
Eric Ross, MD, is a resident psychiatrist at Mass General and McLean Hospital. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a neuroscience/chemistry degree in 2011 and from the University of Michigan Medical School in 2018. His research focuses on the use of population-level mathematical modeling to address issues in public health, health economics and clinical decision-making. At Mass General, he's working on projects evaluating the health-economic effects of suicide risk prediction, the cost-effectiveness of novel treatments for depression and the approach to testing for medical causes of first-episode psychosis.
Hyunjoon Lee, MS
Hyunjoon Lee is a Senior Data Analyst in the Smoller lab at the PNGU. At Smoller Lab, Hyunjoon focuses on analyzing and modeling using electronic health records data. Prior to joining the Smoller Lab, he was a data scientist for a tech start-up. He holds a BS in Computer Science and MS in Data Science from Brown University. He is especially interested in suicide prediction and interventions and hopes to earn his PhD in psychiatric epidemiology in the future.
Rebecca Luh earned her BA in biology from Carleton College where she worked in a behavioral neuroscience lab investigating interactions between hormones and the brain that occur during puberty. This research led her to PNGU where she is excited to learn more about genetic determinants of brain function and structure as well as predictive modeling of psychiatric disorders.
Emily Madsen graduated from SUNY Stony Brook University with a BS in biology specializing in developmental genetics. She previously worked closely with the clinical interpretation team of a clinical genetics laboratory focused on rare pediatric disorders. She is excited to learn more about complex trait genetics and psychiatric disorders.
Eugene is currently working in the Smoller lab as a clinical research coordinator. Prior to joining the Smoller Lab, he graduated from Williams College with a BA in Chemistry and Chinese and worked as a counselor for adolescent psychiatric patients. He hopes to learn more about the widespread factors influencing psychiatric disorders and the innovative tools that can address them.
Pioneering Psychiatry Research
The integration of patient care and clinical research has been a hallmark of the Department of Psychiatry for more than 30 years. Today, the department has the largest clinical research program in the hospital, with studies at the forefront of neuroscience, molecular biology and genetics.