School of Medicine

Obituary: Barbara Geller, professor emerita of child psychiatry, 81

Barbara Geller, MD

Barbara Geller, MD, an emerita professor of child psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, died Friday, May 8, 2020, in hospice in St. Louis after a brief illness. She was 81.

A leading researcher in manic and depressive disorders in children, Geller was the recipient of the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant award to study mania during childhood. She also was the lead investigator on the multisite project Treatment of Early Age Mania (TEAM), the first large-scale, federally funded study of drug treatments for childhood mania.

“Barbara was widely respected as an innovator in child mental health research, as well as a very careful scientist,” said Charles F. Zorumski, MD, the Samuel B. Guze Professor of Psychiatry and head of the Department of Psychiatry.

“She was a fiercely independent woman and a strong-minded thinker who achieved great academic success at a time when not many women had significant positions in science,” said Joan L. Luby, MD, the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry and director of the university’s Early Emotional Development Program. “Her discoveries will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of children for many years to come.”

She pioneered studies of the effects of antidepressant drugs on children and adolescents, as well as pharmacologic studies of lithium for bipolar disorder in childhood. More than 100 researchers from universities around the world trained with Geller to learn about her research methods for diagnosing mania in childhood, as well as to learn how to use her adapted version of a standardized, child psychiatric interview.

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