University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
Ellen Frank is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the former director of the Depression and Manic Depression Prevention program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. She is a co-founder of HealthRhythms, a biotech start-up focused on mobile technology related to mood disorders.
For more than 30 years Prof. Frank and her colleagues studied interventions for mood disorders and the pathophysiology underlying response to those interventions. These studies are notable for their emphasis on sleep and circadian rhythms as mediators and moderators of treatment response. Her 1990 study of maintenance therapies in recurrent unipolar depression, in which both EEG sleep and 24-hour cortisol were evaluated as treatment moderators and mediators, is now considered a classic in the field. She and her colleagues then developed interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), a treatment for bipolar disorder that is based on a specific hypothesis regarding the impact of social routines, as measured by the Social Rhythm Metric (SRM) on circadian function and mood in this illness. They demonstrated the preventive efficacy of IPSRT and, consistent with their social zeitgeber hypothesis, found that the prophylactic efficacy of IPSRT was significantly related to the degree to which participants increased the regularity of their social routines. IPSRT has now been validated in several other studies of bipolar disorder in both adults and youth.
In the course of her research and through workshops at national and international meetings, Professor Frank has trained hundreds of clinicians in IPT and its various adaptations.
An expert in mood disorders and their treatment, Prof. Frank was Chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Panel. She is a former member of the U.S. National Advisory Mental Health Council. She served on the Mood Disorders Workgroup of the American Psychiatric Association Task Force on DSM-5 and is an Honorary Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. In 1999, Prof. Frank was elected to the National Academy Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine).