Albert J. Stunkard

Mickey Stunkard, Dean of Obesity Research (1922-2014)

Albert J. Stunkard, known affectionately as Mickey, is described as the “worldwide dean of obesity research.” Stunkard, 92, died Saturday at home in Bryn Mawr after a recent bout of pneumonia.

Stunkard began his obesity research in 1955 with night eating syndrome, a subject he continued pursuing late in his career. He joined the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychiatry in 1957 and became its chairman in 1962. He left in 1973 to chair psychiatry at Stanford University, and returned to Penn in 1977. As Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, Stunkard was a passionate researcher who continued his work at Penn until he was 90.

Stunkard’s research was funded continuously for five decades by the National Institutes of Health, yielding pivotal findings on the genetic basis for obesity, obesity treatment strategies, binge eating disorders, and night eating syndrome. These are part of a body of research too great to fully enumerate here. He is one of few medical researchers whose works have been cited in more than 10,000 papers in their lifetime.

Wadden and StunkardStunkard was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988. The University of Pennsylvania honored Stunkard in 2007 with the creation of the Albert J. Stunkard Weight Management Program. Thomas Wadden, the Director of Penn’s research program in weight and eating disorders, is the Albert J. Stunkard Professor of Psychology at Penn. Wadden first described Stunkard as the dean of obesity research and it stuck. The lifetime achievement award of the Obesity Society is named for Stunkard.

Many of today’s eminent experts in obesity are the product of Stunkard’s encouragement and unfailing mentorship.

Click here and here to read more in the Philadelphia Enquirer. Click here to read more from Thomas Wadden and Margaret Maurin.

Photograph: Albert J. Stunkard

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4 Responses to “Mickey Stunkard, Dean of Obesity Research (1922-2014)”

  1. July 15, 2014 at 7:56 am, mary-jo overwater said:

    When I was an undergrad at Immaculata, I read everything he wrote. His work inspired me to concentrate on obesity research and clinical. May he rest in peace.

  2. July 18, 2014 at 8:17 am, Harriet E. Hollander, Ph.D. said:

    I particularly remember a cartoon he showed at a conference. The cartoon was an answer to the query about the contribution of genetics to obesity. The cartoon showed a royal family–a fat king, a fat, queen, fat children–and a fat dog. He was extraordinary and will be missed and remembered.

  3. July 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm, michele levine said:

    Dr Stunkard introduced me before I gave my first paper in graduate school. He introduced me—we did the session and then he took me and bought me a beer afterward with the other presenters. I felt so grown up and honored that day in March, 1993!

  4. July 21, 2014 at 10:49 am, David Green said:

    I have fond memories of playing volleyball with Mickey when we were Fellows at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 1971-1972. His sunny disposition and unfailing good humor were a constant source of delight. My heartfelt condolences to his widow and family.