2024 Distinguished Service Award

Eric Yu Hai Chen Named the 2024 Distinguished Service Awardee

Eric Chen (EC), Professor of Psychiatry at the LKC School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University and Senior Consultant, Institute of Mental Health, Singapore; and Former Chair Professor of Psychiatry and Head of Department, University of Hong Kong.

Eric (EC) is Professor of Psychiatry at the LKC School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University and Senior Consultant, Institute of Mental Health, Singapore. He was former Chair Professor of Psychiatry and Head of Department, the University of Hong Kong.

EC and his team have been pioneering early intervention for psychosis and youth mental health in Hong Kong. They have demonstrated that early intervention in the first few years (the critical period) can lead to better long-term outcomes in psychosis. They have also studied how anti-psychotics maintenance or discontinuation may impact long-term outcomes. EC and his team have been studying brain and cognitive mechanisms underlying psychosis. They have also investigated the role of mind-body exercise and other psychosocial interventions to improve cognitive functioning in psychosis and other mental health conditions. EC and his team has been have undertaken many innovative studies on the nature of neurocognitive dysfunctions in psychosis.

The recent Hong Kong youth epidemiological study led by EC has also yielded insights into the impacts of the pandemic and socio-political changes in the population.

Research findings from EC’s team have been reported in over 400 academic publications, book chapters, and books. EC is a recipient of the Richard Wyatt Award from the International Association for Early Intervention in Mental Health (IEPA).

EC was elected President of the Asian College of Schizophrenia Research (2021). He is also Chair of the Communication Committee in the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS). EC served as the IEPA's vice president and was the Founding Chairman of the Asian Network for Early Psychosis (ANEP). EC was Visiting Professor at the Harvard Medical School, and the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore.

EC was former President of the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists. EC has also founded an influential non-profit body (the Early Psychosis Fund, EPISO) and co-founded MIND-HK for mental health advocacy in Hong Kong. In the Hong Kong Government, EC has been serving in the Advisory Committee on Mental Health, the Family Council and the Rehabilitation Commission. As Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Hong Kong from 2013 to 2021, EC has mentored junior academics and developed the Department to enjoy a leading ranking in Asia.

EC has founded a successful Master-degree program in Psychological Medicine which has been in operation since 2010. Some of EC’s work has been summarised in a series of books: Early Psychosis Intervention: A Culturally Adaptive Clinical Guide (2013); Case Studies in Psychotic Disorders (in Chinese, 2014); Coaching Intervention for Psychosis: A Lifestyle Redesigning Approach (2018); Early Intervention in Psychiatric Disorders Across Cultures (2019); Rethinking psychopathology: creative convergences (2021). His recent book on Psychopathology (Psychopathology, an empathic representational approach, Hong Kong University Press, 2022) is a unique attempt to integrate cognitive science, humanistic and phenomenological aspects of psychopathology. His latest work (Psychosis and Schizophrenia in Hong Kong: Navigating Clinical and Cultural Crossroads, Hong Kong University Press, 2024) provided a unique perspective of psychosis based on decades of clinical research, service, and public health efforts.

I am honoured to be the recipient of a SIRS Honorific Award in 2024. My team and I have been studying schizophrenia and related psychotic conditions in an Asia Pacific context over the last few decades. Our objectives have been to understand what determined long-term outcomes, and then find ways to improve them. We have demonstrated that a population approach to early intervention with more focused clinical care in the first few years after the first psychotic episode can lead to better long-term outcomes. Our data has led to the development of specialised early intervention services for psychosis, as well as advocacy and community public awareness work in an Asia Pacific context. We have also studied how early anti-psychotic discontinuation or maintenance may impact long-term outcomes, informing directions for relapse prevention strategies, and fostering a longitudinal mindset for managing psychotic disorders. In parallel, we have been conducting studies focusing on understanding the psychopathology and cognitive dysfunctions in psychosis, which leads to the question of how various forms of physical exercise may improve cognitive outcomes. We believe that an unrelenting wish to attain better outcomes for our patients, together with robust studies to provide evidence, is necessary for progress. We are grateful and excited that this effort has been recognized by the international research community.

It has been a blessing that we have been able to pursue these efforts in the company of a cohesive and supportive scientific community (represented by the Schizophrenia International Research Society). The community has provided continuity in fostering collaboration and friendship, as well as platforms for high-quality scientific sharing. In the Asian Pacific region, we have likewise gathered interested colleagues to form the Asian Network for Early Psychosis and the Asian College of Schizophrenia Research. After looking back with gratitude for the substantial progress in the field which has been made in the last few decades, we can look ahead with eagerness to confront the emerging research questions and clinical needs.  

A Message from Christy Hui

Dr. Eric Yu Hai Chen, M.D., is formerly the Chair Professor and Head, and currently an Emeritus Professor of the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Hong Kong. He is also the Professor of Psychiatry and Senior Consultant at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. In addition to his academic roles, Dr. Chen has served as the former Chair of the Communications Committee and is currently the Co-Chair of the 2024 Program Committee of the Schizophrenia International Research Society.

Dr. Chen received his medical degree from The University of Edinburgh and completed his medical and specialized psychiatry training at the University of Oxford, Nottingham, and Cambridge. His research interests primarily focus on applying cognitive neuroscience approaches to better understand psychiatric disorders, specifically schizophrenia and psychosis. Dr. Chen’s investigations into the neurological manifestations of psychosis and development of the Cambridge Neurological Inventory have significantly contributed to the field's understanding of this disorder. Furthermore, Dr. Chen and his team have conducted extensive research on early intervention of psychosis and youth mental health in Hong Kong. To enhance the long-term outcomes in psychosis, Dr. Chen developed the Early Assessment Service for Young People with Early Psychosis (EASY) in 2001, which stands as one of the pioneering comprehensive early psychosis intervention programs in Asia. He also established and led the Jockey Club Early Psychosis Project (JCEP) in 2009. Additionally, Dr. Chen and his research team have initiated the Hong Kong Youth Epidemiological Study of Mental Health since 2019. Concurrently, they have collaborated with various local non-governmental organizations to establish mental health service platforms tailored for youth in the community.

Dr. Chen also founded The Early Psychosis Foundation (EPISO), a non-profit organization dedicated to raising public awareness and eradicating the associated stigma of psychosis. Additionally, Dr. Chen established the Master's degree program in Psychosis Studies at The University of Hong Kong, which is among the first of its kind in Asia, providing aspiring professionals with comprehensive and profound knowledge of psychotic disorders.

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