Keck School of Medicine of USC leaders honored the memory of one of the founders of psychoanalytical and psychosomatic medicine recently, and continued a tradition of innovation in the field by installing Steven Siegel, MD, PhD, as Franz Alexander Chair in Psychiatry.

“(Franz Alexander) left a remarkable legacy as a revered clinician, educator, researcher and trailblazer. With this legacy in mind, it is particularly appropriate that Steve Siegel occupies the chair named in Dr. Alexander’s memory,” Keck School Dean Laura Mosqueda, MD, said during the Jan. 31 ceremony held on the Health Sciences Campus.

Siegel is a physician-scientist who specializes in the treatment of people who have schizophrenia and psychosis, and through his research has contributed to understanding the basic neurobiology of major health problems in people with schizophrenia, autism, drug abuse and nicotine dependence. As chair of the Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the Keck School since July 2016, Siegel has doubled the size of the department and expanded and improved the availability and quality of mental health services across Keck Medicine of USC, Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He also led the incorporation of student mental health services under the Keck School and Keck Medicine, and serves as co-director of the KL2 Mentored Career Development Program in Clinical and Translational Science, which supports early-career researchers.

“Dr. Siegel’s dedication and vision for not only the Keck School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences but our USC community as well, is truly inspirational,” Mosqueda said. “He is truly qualified to continue the legacy of Dr. Franz Alexander.”

Born in 1891, Franz Alexander received his medical degree in 1912 and enrolled as the first student at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. He was the founding director of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute and founding editor of the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine. He had been preparing to assume a professorship named in his honor at USC before his death in 1964. The Franz Alexander Chair fund was established in 1964 through the donations of friends, who felt it would be fitting to honor Alexander’s memory through an endowed chair, Mosqueda shared.

“It’s really an honor to be named the Franz Alexander Chair as a symbol of integrating the department’s history with our current spirit of innovation and improvement, to create a beacon of excellence for faculty members, trainees and patients who want to be part of something greater than ourselves,” Siegel said.

— Melissa Masatani