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Shaffer Named to Chafetz Professorship in Psychiatry

Honor marks first Cambridge Health Alliance endowed professorship

From left: Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility; professorship incumbent Howard Shaffer; Jay Burke of Cambridge Health Alliance; and HMS Dean Jeffrey S. Flier. Image: Gretchen Ertl

Howard Shaffer, Harvard Medical School associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance, has been honored as the first incumbent of the Morris E. Chafetz Professorship in Psychiatry in the Field of Behavioral Sciences.

The professorship was celebrated at a reception in the HMS Gordon Hall of Medicine’s Waterhouse Room on July 15, 2015.

“This day and this endowment is much more about mentors and colleagues than me,” Shaffer said. “I have had the finest mentors and colleagues. They shaped my work.”

Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of the faculty of medicine at Harvard University, said Shaffer is “an outstanding member of our faculty, an exceptional researcher and a very deserving inaugural incumbent for this great honor.”

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility funded the professorship, which honors the late Morris E. Chafetz, founding director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“If we were going to make a difference [in reducing repeat drunken driving], we had to be forward thinking, we had to be creative, we had to be innovative and we had to make a commitment to being thought leaders in our field. We found these traits in Howard and his team,” said the foundation’s president and CEO, Ralph Blackman.

Chafetz spent his career destigmatizing alcoholism and increasing the understanding of it as a disease. 

“This means more than anything to me,” said Adam Chaftez, Morris Chafetz’s son. “My father is from Massachusetts. He taught at HMS. To have a professorship named in his honor is incredible. I feel ecstatic.”

This is the first professorship established specifically for the benefit of the School’s faculty researchers and clinicians at Cambridge Health Alliance.

“It is a great day for Cambridge Health Alliance to be able to celebrate an endowed professorship for the first time,” said Jay Burke, HMS professor of psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance and head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Cambridge Hospital.

Shaffer, a member of the HMS community since 1978, has served as principal or co-principal investigator on a variety of government, foundation and industry-sponsored research projects.

His work currently focuses on the epidemiology of psychiatric co-morbidity among DUI offenders and the social perception of addiction and disease.

Shaffer said the honor recognizes the importance of the work that has been done in his field.

“It means the most to have the medical school and faculty paying attention to addiction and addictive diseases,” he said.