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Remembering Dr. Anthony Kales, founding chair of Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Anthony Kales, founding chair of Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, passed away in Florida on Dec. 18, 2023.

Dr. Kales was internationally recognized for his research in sleep medicine. He co-created the sleep scoring system that is still used today, and was one of the first to move the field of sleep from a research activity to a discipline within clinical medicine.

Dr. Kales was only 37 years old and already well known when he arrived in Hershey in 1971 as the inaugural chair of Psychiatry. Dr. Erika Saunders, Robert Y. Tan and Gerald B. Shively Professor in Biological Psychiatry and current chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, says:

“Dr. Kales has had a very long-lasting impact on the department by fostering a deep expertise in translational sleep medicine in the department that has continued – the group remains a top sleep program in the country. Additionally, Dr. Kales’ deep dedication to the department and institution can be seen today in commitment to excellence in the intersection of patient care, education, research and community.”

As two examples, he created an institute that delivered educational courses, seminars and workshops in mental health to professionals throughout central Pennsylvania and, every summer, his sleep center hosted diverse students and scientists from around the world.

“He was an exemplary clinician and teacher … and he himself taught and supervised many residents and faculty,” said Dr. Alexandros Vgontzas, staff physician, Sleep Study Psychiatric Program, noting that he published more than 300 papers in sleep and sleep medicine, including his most famous one, “A Manual of Standardized Terminology, Techniques and Scoring System for Sleep Stages of Human Subjects,’ which he co-authored with the late professor Allan Rechtschaffen.

His 1984 book, “Evaluation and Treatment of Insomnia,” written with his wife, Dr. Joyce Danielski Kales, one of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s founding psychiatrists, became a classic on its own for combining research findings and clinical guidance that have passed the test of the time, Dr. Vgontzas said.

Within the College of Medicine, there are two endowed chairs supporting international leaders in psychiatry that honor Dr. Kales and his wife. Dr. Vgontazs holds the Anthony Kales, MD University Chair of Sleep Disorders Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health; Dr. Elisabeth Kunkel holds the Dr. Joyce Kales University Chair of Community Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.

He is survived by his wife and children, Dr. Stefanos Nicholas Kales, Dr. Helen Christine Kales and James Kales.


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