Psychiatric Times October 2005
The complex nature of genetic and environmental influences in alcoholism has intrigued Marc Schuckit, M.D., for 40 years. Schuckit, distinguished professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the San Diego Veterans Affairs Hospital, was a member of Psychiatric Times' first editorial board and one of its first columnists, often writing about alcohol and other drugs. He also was among the first presenters at the U.S. Psychiatric & Mental Health Congress. In 2000, John Schwartz, M.D., Psychiatric Times' founder, presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his "exemplary career as an outstanding innovative researcher and extraordinary teacher."
Much of that career has centered on understanding the genetics of alcoholism susceptibility and protection, identifying relevant environmental factors, and training clinicians to recognize and treat substance use disorders. At the San Diego VA Healthcare System, Schuckit directs the Alcohol Research Center and the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program where he supervises residents, medical students and staff. Additionally, he serves as a major contact person regarding alcohol and drug problems for the faculty and staff at UCSD and the San Diego VA. From 1989 to 1994, Schuckit chaired the DSM-IV substance disorders work group and has published papers about the optimal diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders.
Schuckit's interest in psychiatry and substance use disorders began early.
"As a kid in high school, I always liked to hear peoples' stories. So I read novels, and people seemed to like to talk to me about their problems," Schuckit said. "I seemed to have some decent common sense in helping people solve their problems, so it was natural once I decided to go to medical school that psychiatry would be one of the things I would want to do."
After receiving his bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin, he enrolled in Washington University's Medical School in St. Louis, in 1964.
"When I was deciding to go to medical school, I picked the school that had the best reputation and gave me the highest scholarship. By pure luck, I picked the only school that was doing solid, evidence-based research psychiatry. There may have been some other schools doing it, but I didn't know of them. Had I gone to another school, maybe I wouldn't have gone into psychiatry, because other approaches are not as challenging and rewarding to me," Schuckit said.