Memorial symposium honoring Jim Sorensen to be held Jan. 10

The UC San Francisco Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences will host a special academic symposium—"The State of the Science of Addiction"—in honor of James L. Sorensen, PhD, a longtime UCSF faculty member, researcher, educator, and mentor who passed away earlier this year. The event, which will be held on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, at the UCSF Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building in San Francisco, will also feature a post-symposium reception for attendees on the building's garden terrace deck.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, will deliver the symposium's keynote address virtually. The event will also feature remarks and presentations from nearly a dozen of Sorensen's colleagues highlighting his remarkable career, as well as ongoing NIDA-funded research at UCSF related to addiction and substance use disorders.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. It will also be streamed live via Zoom.


About James L. Sorensen, PhD


James "Jim" L. Sorensen, PhD

James "Jim" L. Sorensen, PhD, was an incredible man with a warm heart and gentle spirit who made a profound impact on the field of addiction and a major contribution to our understanding of treatment for individuals with HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders. In recent years, his research focused on linking research and practice in the addictions and studying ethical issues faced by staff when providing treatment for substance use disorders. He mentored many trainees over the past 45 years who can attest to his generous and influential mentorship. Notably, Sorensen made significant efforts to remove the barriers that women and people from racial/ethnic minoritized groups faced in clinical and health-services research, and encouraged the development of researchers from underrepresented populations. He was regarded fondly by those who worked with him, especially in the San Francisco Bay area addiction treatment community.

Sorensen obtained his PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Rochester in 1975. He then spent three years at Bowling Green University as an assistant professor before taking a postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF in 1978. He built his career at UCSF—including service as Chief of Substance Abuse Services at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG, then known as San Francisco General Hospital) from 1982 to 1995—and recently retired as professor emeritus, continuing to work part-time.

An experienced investigator, Sorensen published over 250 articles, chapters, and books, and led numerous NIH R01 research grants. He directed the NIDA-funded San Francisco Treatment Research Unit (1989-1994), along with several other NIH and non-governmentally supported research and training programs, including the California-Arizona Node and Western States Node of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network. Sorensen was also a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Community-Based Drug Treatment, which produced the report that led to development of the Clinical Trials Network, and he made the linking of research and practice his major area of focus.

Sorensen was highly dedicated to training future clinicians and researchers, and a valued faculty mentor at UCSF and ZSFG. He directed the NIDA-funded UCSF Postdoctoral Traineeship in Substance Use Disorders Treatment and Services Research for many years, was a co-director of the CAPS Visiting Professor R25 program, and led the Public Service and Minority Cluster of the UCSF Clinical Psychology Training Program He was program director and co-director for the Learning for Early Careers in Addiction & Diversity (LEAD) Program at UCSF. Over the last decade, he also taught a course on ethical and legal issues to students in the UC Berkeley Extension addiction counseling certification program.

In addition to his service to UCSF, Sorensen was an active member of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD). He was also a founding member and Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Division 50 (Society of Addiction Psychology), and a founding consulting editor of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

In 2012, Sorensen received the George Sarlo Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the highest teaching honor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and in 2013, he received the annual Mentorship Award of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. Sorensen was honored in 2015 with the Miracles Tribute Award for lifetime achievement and outstanding service in the treatment of addiction and co-occurring disorders by Constellation Behavioral Health's Alta Mira Recovery Programs in Sausalito. He was also a Fulbright Scholar in Calgary during the 2018-2019 academic year, where he focused on the ethical issues that confront addiction treatment staff.

Tax-deductable donations can be made to the UCSF Foundation in Sorensen's honor to support the UCSF-based training programs that were so important to him:

  • Donations may be made online at Click "Direct Your Gift to a Specific Area" and specify the James Sorensen Training Endowment in the "Other" category.
  • Checks made payable to the UCSF Foundation can be mailed to Alyssa Snyder, UCSF Foundation, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA, 94145-0339. Please include "James Sorensen Training Endowment" in the memo line.
  • For assistance with making a donation, please refer to the FAQs at or contact Alyssa Snyder at [email protected].

About UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute are among the nation's foremost resources in the fields of child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health. Together they constitute one of the largest departments in the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, with a mission focused on research (basic, translational, clinical), teaching, patient care, and public service.

UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences conducts its clinical, educational, and research efforts at a variety of locations in Northern California, including the UCSF Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry BuildingUCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital; UCSF Medical Centers at Parnassus Heights, Mission Bay, and Mount Zion; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland; Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; the San Francisco VA Health Care System; UCSF Fresno; and numerous community-based sites around the San Francisco Bay Area.

About the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, established by the extraordinary generosity of Joan and Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, brings together world-class researchers with top-ranked physicians to solve some of the most complex challenges in the human brain.

The UCSF Weill Institute leverages UCSF’s unrivaled bench-to-bedside excellence in the neurosciences. It unites three UCSF departments—Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery—that are highly esteemed for both patient care and research, as well as the Neuroscience Graduate Program, a cross-disciplinary alliance of nearly 100 UCSF faculty members from 15 basic-science departments, as well as the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center focused on finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

About UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.