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November 2009

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Dr. Kathleen Brady
Written By: 
Stephanie Hunt
Photographs By: 
Joshua Drake

Top R&D Doc


Age: 54
Home: Sullivan’s Island
Profession: Specialist in addiction psychiatry and clinical researcher
Passions: Swimming, biking, outdoor adventure, travel, and her new Kindle
Find Kathleen: musc.edu/psychiatry/faculty/bradyk.htm


With her bright eyes and easy smile, Dr. Kathleen Brady certainly doesn’t look old enough to have been publishing scientific research for 45 years, but don’t be fooled. “My first publication was in 1964, in fourth grade,” says this MUSC psychiatrist, avid swimmer, and Sullivan’s Island mother of three, who got her start by running hungry mice in a maze. “I liked experimental paradigms from an early age.”

Today, Brady has turned her passion for scientific inquiry into a robust career as an internationally renowned substance-abuse specialist and leading clinical researcher. After earning her doctorate in pharmacology, Brady went on to medical school, and since completing her psychiatry residency at MUSC in 1989, she’s been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research, much of which focuses on how anxiety, affective disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorders affect substance-use disorders, particularly in women. “I’m fascinated by the effects drugs can have on neurotransmitters, and seeing how this can be applied clinically led me to psychiatry,” says Brady, who was featured on the 2006 HBO special Addiction and has won a Betty Ford Award for her contributions to research on women and substance abuse.

Brady’s warmth and humor downplay the fact that she’s an intellectual force. For the last decade, she has been the top NIH-funded investigator at MUSC and ranks in the top five percent nationally. Most recently, Brady helped MUSC win a significant $20-million award from NIH to fund the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute (SCTR), which she now directs. Translation? “Basically, we’re working to bridge the disconnect from ‘bench to bedside,’ to interpret what’s learned in a university-based research hospital more directly and quickly into clinical practice,” she explains. “I’m committed to science and research, but my interest lies in how these improve the lives of patients.”

Receiving the NIH award for the SCTR was like winning the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, aligning MUSC with the best research institutions in the country. “It opens inroads to collaborate across disciplines on innovative therapeutic projects, such as developing home messaging devices to monitor patients with chronic illness,” she says. And for Brady, collaboration is key. In addition to her patient load, research, and administrative responsibilities, she’s a gifted mentor. “I’m focused on helping the next generation of scientists get a foothold,” she says. “It’s a tough environment these days; I don’t want them to get discouraged.




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