Abelson/Curtis Legacy Fund for Anxiety Disorders

Supporting the clinical, educational, and scientific excellence of the U-M Anxiety Disorders Program

Dr. Sarah Bommarito and Dr. Jim Abelson

To honor Dr. James Abelson’s nearly three decades of leadership, the Department of Psychiatry is pleased to announce the establishment of the Abelson/Curtis Legacy Fund which benefits the Anxiety Disorders Program while paying tribute to the founder of the program, George Curtis, M.D., and to Dr. Abelson for his many accomplishments over the years. 

As Dr. Abelson steps down as Anxiety Program director in 2023, he wishes to help the clinic’s third director, Sarah Bommarito, M.D., launch her leadership career with a legacy fund, mirroring the one bequeathed to him when he became the program’s second director. This fund will entwine the Abelson and Curtis names in a lasting way to support the clinic’s ongoing educational missions. 

Program alumni, faculty colleagues, staff, patients, families, and friends - join Dr. Abelson to help continue the Anxiety Disorders Program's national prominence in developing and disseminating neurobiologically grounded, empirically proven, individually tailored, optimally effective treatments for anxiety and stress disorders.

George Curtis, M.D

"Your support will accelerate continuous education for faculty and staff, seed innovative and clinically relevant research ideas, help procure state-of-the-art technology for training and treatment, and more. Help us reach our $100,000 goal to create an endowed legacy fund that will keep us on the national forefront of the anxiety field, as the country’s first anxiety clinic that fully integrated psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and neuroscience to better treat anxiety disorders and optimally train the next generation of providers." - Dr. James Abelson

  

  

Read more about the history of the Anxiety Disorders Program and this new fund that will support it.

 

About Sarah Bommarito, M.D., Third Director of the Anxiety Disorders Program

Sarah originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but experiences as a hospital volunteer at age 15 helped her discover the impact of simple human caring on people in crisis, and began her shift towards a career in medicine.

She earned a B.A. in English at U-M, discovering a knack for and love of writing, but also discovering knacks for and love of mentoring, community building, going “above and beyond” and for connecting deeply with people. She earned her M.D. from Wayne State, where her emerging interests and talents made her a perfect candidate for psychiatric residencies, and she was thrilled to return to U-M for her post-graduate training.

As a resident, Sarah developed two primary, intersecting interests – in mental health / wellness for medical trainees and in anxiety disorders. She loved two rotations in Anxiety Clinic, embracing our “take the risk” mantra, our “fight through fear” approach to ourselves and our patients, the value we placed on psychotherapies, the way in which we created a safe space within which people could take risks, and the ways in which fighting through fear with people you trusted at your side was incredibly empowering. 

Sarah also resonated with our inclusivity, interdisciplinarity, and interest in both psychology and biology. We saw her growing talents for making others feel safe, for becoming everyone’s trusted confidante, for building community, for seeing and hearing people at deep levels, forging intense connections, empowering, and helping people face fears and overcome them. 

Recognizing that we had found a real “gem” (not a flashy stone that dazzles with reflected light, but a diamond whose intricate and complex beauty only reveals itself if you study it closely), we invited her to join our faculty, to work in the Anxiety Clinic and to lead wellness programming for our medical trainees. 

Sarah has flourished as a faculty member and as a member of our Anxiety Team and quickly became a full partner in psychiatric leadership of the clinic. She has quietly and with amazing comfort and grace stepped into a growing leadership role, demonstrating her ability to step up as Clinic Director, to carry this program into the future in the spirit in which it was created.   

When introduced to Dr. Curtis in July, 2023, Sarah clearly revealed herself as someone who liked to see people fully and deeply, mobilizing them to embrace and fully utilize their strengths. She described herself as open and adventurous, yet careful and cautious. She identified her professional ideology as the integrated use of psychological, pharmacological and neurobiological knowledge to help people recover, grow and thrive.

Sarah fully embraces the founding ideology of our Anxiety Program and embodies it in her breadth of clinical skills, her commitment to growth and empowerment, and her personal investment in doing everything that she does as well as she can possibly do it. 

“I will endeavor to maintain the legacy I’ve come to know in this clinic— recognizing the unique contributions every team member brings to our work and empowering all to grow toward their full potential, while steadily improving our collective knowledge and skills, to provide the highest quality care in the state to patients with anxiety disorders." - Dr. Bommarito

“I hope to find new ways to meet the increasing demands of our changing world over time while maintaining the welcoming, nurturing environment we in this team have come to know as our clinical home. I am honored by the opportunity to grow into the type of leader befitting such an extraordinary team.” - Dr. Bommarito

 

On July 20, 2023, the department hosted a leadership transition event for the Anxiety Disorders Program. You can watch a recording of the event here. Consider downloading the presentation given by Dr. Abelson, full of historical facts and photos: U-M Anxiety Disorders Program - 45 Years of Excellence