Paula J. Clayton (b. 1934)

Paula J. Clayton
(Photo courtesy Paula J. Clayton, M.D.)

Paula J. Clayton, a native of St. Louis, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1956. She was one of four women to earn a medical degree from the Washington University School of Medicine in 1960. After an internship at St. Luke’s Hospital, Clayton was a resident in Psychiatry at Barnes and Renard Hospitals in St. Louis, serving as chief resident in 1964-65. In 1965 Clayton was appointed an instructor in Psychiatry at Washington University. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1967, to associate professor in 1972, and finally to full professor in 1974.

An internationally recognized researcher in psychiatry, Clayton became known for her studies on mood disorders and bereavement. She was the first to define mania and schizoaffective disorders. In 1967 Clayton and her mentor, George Winokur, were the first Americans to describe the separation of mood disorders into unipolar and bipolar illnesses. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clayton published landmark research on the symptoms and normal course of bereavement. Clayton co-authored the first textbook on mania, Manic Depressive Illness, in 1969. Her publications to date include over 160 papers, three additional books, and 20 book chapters.

In 1980 Clayton left Washington University to head the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, thus becoming the first woman to chair a department of psychiatry in the U.S. and the first woman to head a department in the medical school of the University of Minnesota. After almost 20 years in Minnesota, Clayton retired as professor emeritus of Psychiatry. She then joined the faculty of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, where she is currently a professor of Psychiatry.

Dr. Clayton has been an active member and leader of many psychiatric societies, including the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. She has served as president of the Psychiatric Research Society (1977-78), the American Psychopathological Association (1981), and the Society of Biological Psychiatry (1986-87).

In 1985 Clayton received the Athena Award from the University of Michigan as the outstanding alumna of the year. That same year she received a Distinguished Alumnae Award from Washington University. Dr. Clayton received a Lifetime Research Award from the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association. In 1993, Clayton was one of eight women honored with the Aphrodite Jannopoulo Hofsommer Award from Washington University.