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Dr. Pamela Sklar, scientist who studied the genetics of mental illness

Dr. Pamela Sklar, a physician and scientist who studied the genetics of mental illnesses, died of cancer Nov. 20 at her New York City home. She was 58 and formerly lived in Baltimore.

Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Marvin Sklar, an attorney, and Eleanor Sklar, former associate director of the Maryland Humanities Council.

She was a Pikesville High School graduate and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in classics and philosophy at St. John’s College. She earned a medical degree and a doctorate at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She did a residency in psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A psychiatrist and neuroscientist, she studied schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While working at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr, Sklar co-founded the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research.

She also served as chair of the department of genetics and genomic sciences and professor of psychiatry, neuroscience and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

“She and her team found that there is a link genetically between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” said her husband, Dr. Andrew Chess.

She edited the textbook “Neurobiology of Mental Illness” and published more than 140 scientific papers.

She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2013.

Services were held Nov. 22 in New York.

Survivors include her husband of 22 years, a specialist in molecular biology and genetics at the Icahn School of Medicine; a son, Michael Chess, and a daughter, Isabel Chess, both of New York City; her mother, who lives in Pikesville; and a sister, Brooke Sklar, of Manhattan Beach, Calif.


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