The Psychoanalyst Hears, the Dermatologist Sees: 2021 Sigourney Award Winner


One Sigourney Award winner discusses the wide reach of his work.

Anna Efetova/AdobeStock

Anna Efetova/AdobeStock

My work has expanded psychoanalysis in Latin America, Spain, and Russia, and revitalized psychosomatic research, theory, and practice. It also revives interest in this vital area, promoting awareness of the importance of psychoanalysis in the treatment of somatic diseases; encouraging doctors and patients alike to accept working with psychoanalysts; and advancing psychoanalysis in the understanding of emotional engagement expressed by the body and especially by the skin.

I foster the psychoanalytic knowledge at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in the Medicine and the Psychology Schools, where I am a professor. I teach in 3 Russian institutions, reaching students from Siberia to Moscow, and St Petersburg to Ekaterinburg, with 2 biannual courses and supervisions, as part of the activities of Euro Latin-American Psychosomatics School (EULAPS), an institution of which I am cofounder and currently chair.

My work has also reached many European countries—Spain in particular, where I have lectured in more than 15 different cities. I also was invited to speak in New York, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Israel, and many countries in Latin America.

I have also expanded the psychoanalytic perspective in the medical field. With cineforums and activities directed at general public, I was able to develop points of view of undoubted originality, contributing a lot to the dissemination of psychoanalytic knowledge outside the usual institutional scope, as well as to the deepening of study and knowledge from the area of psychosomatics.

My work with skin patients enriches previous developments. Working in an area that few analysts are familiar with, I have helped pioneer the psychoanalytic exploration and understanding of skin disease. This work continues upon previous research and has led to the effective dynamic treatment of thousands of patients suffering from skin diseases. Many of these patients had been treated unsuccessfully with standard dermatologic approaches.

My clinical work has taken place in psychosomatic clinics that I initiated. These first-of-their-kind clinics in my country combine the efforts of dermatologists and psychoanalysts to provide invaluable treatment to patients suffering from serious skin diseases. My involvement in these pioneering analytic studies has been translated into practical treatments that have helped a great many patients.

My book Skin in Psychoanalysis is about the analytic understanding of skin diseases. It was translated into 4 languages and published in 5 countries, and even had 3 Spanish editions. One edition was distributed by one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Argentina. I am proud to say that it has gained worldwide recognition in my specialty. It is studied at universities, and it has been an important reference for students completing their graduate and PhD theses, not only in Argentina, but in other countries, too.

I believe that the recognition of The Sigourney Award-2021 will enable us to break barriers and continue building bridges between psyche and soma that can be crossed by physicians and patients, thus achieving a closer, more humane, and personalized medical practice and a greater well-being in patients and their families.

Healing is a difficult challenge that general practitioners and dermatologists usually face alone, but they do not have to. There is a relationship between what the psychoanalyst hears and what the dermatologist sees.

Dr Ulnik is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst (Asociación Psicoanalítica Argentina), president of EULAPS and associate professor of pathophysiology and psychosomatic diseases, and adjunct professor of mental health at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina.

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