UCSF's Ford honored by VA with Middleton Award

UC San Francisco and VA researcher Judith M. Ford, PhD, has been named as one of two recipients of the 2022 William S. Middleton Award by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The Middleton Award is the highest honor awarded annually by the VA's Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development Service to senior biomedical research scientists in recognition of their outstanding scientific contributions and achievements in the areas of biomedical and behavioral research relevant to the health care of veterans.

The award was established in 1960 to honor William S. Middleton, MD, a distinguished educator, physician-scientist, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Chief Medical Director from 1955 to 1963, who was integral to the initiation and development of the VA medical research program. Middleton Award recipients have achieved international acclaim for research accomplishments in areas of prime importance to VA's research mission.

Ford is a senior research career scientist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, where she co-directs the UCSF Brain Imaging and Electroencephalography (EEG) Laboratory with Daniel Mathalon, PhD, MD. Prior to joining UCSF in 2007, she served as a faculty member at Stanford University and Yale University. She is also the former director of the Schizophrenia Biological Research Center at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.

Ford was recognized for her translational research in psychiatry, which has transformed the understanding of psychotic illnesses in veterans. She is credited with explaining the basic neural mechanism that enables animals to distinguish between "self-generated" and "other-generated" sensations. This finding facilitated groundbreaking research that found people with schizophrenia demonstrate altered responses to self-generated sensations like sound and speech, due to an inability to predict these sensations. Sensations that are not predicted may be attributed to external sources. In this way, thoughts may become audible. Her work has reassured patients and their families that their symptoms have a neurobiological basis.

"Dr. Ford's research has provided fundamental insights into the pathophysiology of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders," said VA Chief Research and Development Officer Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD. "She is a visionary scientist whose discoveries have assisted veterans and others diagnosed with mental health disorders."

Ford is the fifth UCSF researcher to be honored with the Middleton Award, joining fellow Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences faculty member Michael Weiner, MD (2006); gastroenterologist Young S. Kim, MD (1991); cellular biologist Albert L. Jones, MD (1985); and rheumatologist Norman Talal, MD (1980). Also named as a Middleton Award recipient for this year was Yale clinical epidemiologist Amy Justice, MD, PhD. 

"Dr. Justice and Dr. Ford have demonstrated an exemplary record of service to VA and the biomedical profession. Their expertise, dedication, and involvement has allowed them to make seminal contributions to the fields of clinical epidemiology and psychiatry, and to promote a better quality of life for veterans and others affected by HIV and mental illness," said Ramoni.

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.