May 19, 2009 – More than two decades ago, Dr. Bankole Johnson pioneered the theory that certain medications could treat addiction – a theory that transformed the way many scientists would think about how the brain's mechanisms are involved with addiction. Since that time, his clinical and laboratory studies have made significant progress in the development of medications to treat a variety of substance addictions.
In recognition of his cutting-edge work in the field of psychiatry and substance abuse, the American Psychiatric Association honored Johnson, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, with the 2009 Solomon Carter Fuller Award.
"Dr. Johnson's groundbreaking work, which was featured on the HBO special 'Addiction,' raised a great deal of awareness among the African-American community and the general public about the cause and treatment of substance use disorders," said Dr. Michele Reid, chairwoman of the association's Committee of Black Psychiatrists. "We feel that Dr. Johnson exemplifies many attributes of the Fuller Award in the areas of research, scholarship, teaching, administration and patient care.'
Initiated in 1969, the annual award honors an African-American who has pioneered in an area that has significantly benefited the quality of life for African-Americans. The award is named for the first African-American psychiatrist, Solomon Carter Fuller (1872-1953), who taught pathology, neurology and psychiatry at Boston University for more than 30 years.
Johnson received the Fuller Award and presented an invited lecture, "Pills to Treat Alcoholism," at the APA Annual Meeting on May 18 in San Francisco, Calif.
"This is a wonderful honor," Johnson said. "My team and I shall continue to do all we can to help those with addictive disorders."
Previous Fuller Award recipients include: actor and activist Bill Cosby; Dr. David Satcher, former US. surgeon general; Andrew Young, the first African-American to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.
In 2006 at the U.Va. Health System, Dr. Johnson and colleagues launched a first-of-its-kind program to offer comprehensive and uniquely adaptive pharmacological and psychological treatment for addiction to a variety of substances, including alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine. His ongoing research has appeared in more than 200 publications and has been featured in highly acclaimed documentaries on both HBO and CNN.