Meet a PennMedicine Researcher


Charles P. O’Brien, M.D, Ph.D.Charles O'Brien, MD, PhD

Charles P. O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., is the Kenneth Appel Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, the vice-chair of Psychiatry at Penn, and the founder and immediate past director of the Center for Studies in Addiction. Dr. O'Brien received his MD and PhD degrees from Tulane University, and received residency training in psychiatry, neurology, and medicine at Harvard, the University of London, Tulane and the University of Pennsylvania. He also has an honorary doctorate from the University of Bordeaux Segalen in France. He is board-certified in psychiatry, neurology and addiction psychiatry.

Dr. O'Brien has made many important discoveries and contributions over the past 30 years that have become the standard of care in addiction treatment throughout the world. Aside from developing medications to treat alcohol, opioid, and cocaine dependence, his work has also increased the understanding of the clinical aspects of addiction and the neurobiology of relapse.

In 2013, Dr. O’Brien was selected to receive the Medal of Chevalier (Knight) of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor, one of the country’s highest honors. He received the honor during the 2013 European and International Congress on Addiction, Hepatitis, AIDS in Biarritz. Dr. O’Brien was bestowed the honor because of his personal commitment to French-American relations as symbolized by his exceptional cooperation in science and public health. The partnerships he has established with French research units were described as a blueprint for French-American scientific exchanges, a priority for the government and source of hope for the caregivers who will benefit from it.

Among his other numerous honors, Dr. O'Brien was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1991, and received the Nathan B. Eddy award for research from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in 2003. In 2013 he received two international awards for discoveries in the treatment of alcoholism: the Jellinek Award in Canada and the Isaacson Award in Japan. He has advised our national government on drug policy for decades, and was the President of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease.