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Promoted - Dr. Ben Handen

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Promotes Dr. Benjamin Handen to Professor of Psychiatry

The Department of Psychiatry is pleased to announce the promotion of Benjamin Handen, PhD to the rank of Professor of Psychiatry.  Dr. Handen is a leader in the development of clinical services for children with autism and developmental disabilities, and an internationally recognized researcher in the field of autism and developmental disabilities.

After obtaining a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Handen completed his clinical psychology internship at Brown University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1985 he began his career at the University of Pittsburgh as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and joined the Department of Psychiatry as an associate professor in 1993.  Dr. Handen also currently holds secondary appointments in Pitt's departments of Pediatrics and Learning and Instruction.  

Dr. Handen is responsible for many notable contributions in the clinical area.  He oversaw the opening of two new partial hospital programs and an outpatient autism diagnostic clinic at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), and was instrumental in developing wraparound services that provide practical help to families experiencing severe psychosocial stressors, such as those with childhood psychiatric disorders.  Dr. Handen also spearheaded the adaption of evidence-based diagnostic and psychosocial treatments for populations with autism spectrum disorder at the Merck Child Outpatient Clinic. For example, he introduced the use of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (a gold-standard autism diagnostic tool),   added Parent-Child Interaction Training as a standard treatment for families of young children with autism, and recently included family navigator services for families of children newly diagnosed with autism.  Dr. Handen also created a parent advisory board and primary care pediatrics advisory board for the Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders (in which he serves as Director of Research and Clinical Services).  He continues to actively see patients at the Merck Child Clinic, proving both diagnostic and treatment services. 

As a researcher, Dr. Handen’s work focuses on children and adults with developmental neuropsychiatric disorders, with thoughtful evaluation of psychopharmacologic and psychosocial treatment.  His most recent activities include collaborating with Dr. William Klunk to evaluate a novel PET imaging study to identify amyloid plaques in individuals with Down syndrome.  In addition to serving as the Principal Investigator for studies supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration, Dr. Handen also receives funding from the foundation Autism Speaks and is a co-investigator for projects led by his colleague, Dr. Cynthia Johnson. Dr. Handen is the first or corresponding author for 37 of 85 peer reviewed publications and has co-authored numerous book chapters.  

Dr. Handen’s service to the academic community includes serving on the review board for the Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities and as a reviewer for such important journals as the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Biological Psychiatry.  In addition, he has reviewed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development.  A dedicated educator and mentor, Dr. Handen is a popular teacher and has also served on the faculty of the US Department of Health and Human Services Maternal Child and Health Bureau’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Other Related Disabilities Program since 2009, and as a member of the National Advisory Board of the Postdoctoral Training Program in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research.