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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

In Memoriam - Enoch Gordis, MD


NIAAA and the scientific community mourn the death on April 5th of Enoch Gordis, M.D., who served as the NIAAA director from 1986 to 2001.

Dr. Enoch Gordis

Dr. Gordis emphasized science as a way of understanding alcohol use disorder (AUD). He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at Columbia University in New York City. Trained in internal medicine, Dr. Gordis conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. Solomon Berson and Nobel laureate Dr. Rosalyn Yalow during his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Subsequently he worked in Dr. Vincent P. Dole’s research laboratory at New York's Rockefeller University, where he began his career in the study of addiction. Dr. Gordis would go on to work with psychiatric researcher Dr. Ruth Fox, who had helped introduce disulfiram in the United States as a medication to treat alcohol problems. 

In 1971, Dr. Gordis founded and directed a new alcohol treatment program at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY. He remained there until his appointment as NIAAA Director in 1986.

During his tenure as NIAAA Director, Dr. Gordis oversaw the launch of innovative, major initiatives, including the Collaborative Project on the Genetics of Alcoholism, the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiological Survey, the Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions clinical trial, and the NIAAA Task Force on College Drinking. 

Dr. Gordis’s commitment to the next generation of researchers is reflected in the RSA Enoch Gordis Research Recognition Awards and the symposium that showcases their work at the annual Research Society on Alcohol conference.  Dr. Gordis’ leadership embodied his love of science, his compassion as a clinician, and his demeanor as a gentleman. He inspired many and left a lasting impact on NIAAA, NIH, and the alcohol research field.

NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D., said, “Alcohol research owes a great debt to Enoch Gordis. He helped transform NIAAA into a vibrant research entity by ensuring that alcohol research reflected the highest standards of biomedical and behavioral science. He was a rare blend of a great scientific leader who was revered for his kindness and warmth. I am grateful to have counted Enoch as a mentor and as a close, personal friend. We are all richer for having known him.”


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