Kathleen (Kathy) M. Carroll, PhD, a clinical scientist in the Yale Department of Psychiatry who made seminal contributions to improving treatments for addiction, died unexpectedly after a brief illness on December 28, 2020 at the age of 62. Dr. Carroll was a Principal Investigator of the CTN New England Consortium Node.
Dr. Carroll's tremendous academic and scientific accomplishments were unparalleled, but she's even better known amongst her friends and colleagues by her kind, generous, and playful spirit. From the Yale School of Medicine's In Memoriam piece about her:
"She had an amazing ability to find joy in everyday situations, especially in life's most difficult moments. She loved swimming, art history, architectural history, hiking, and reading. Kathy was an expert on the works of Shakespeare and opera. She also had a fine sense of humor and loved a good prank. She was a lifelong progressive with great compassion for social justice and coupled anti-racist principles with her recent academic work on identifying and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in substance use treatment outcomes."
Kathy’s family and team are planning to erect the Kathy Carroll Memorial Playground for children staying in temporary housing in her honor. You can support this project here.
Gathered below are thoughts and stories from the CTN family to show how valued and loved she was.
Betty Tai, PhD, Director, Center for the Clinical Trials Network, NIDA
With profound sadness and a heavy heart, I am sending this message to you: The Co-PI of the New England Consortium Node, Dr. Kathleen Carroll, who has been with the CTN since 1999, our beloved friend and an accomplished scientist, has passed away.
John M. Roll, PhD, CTN Pacific Northwest Node
It is with the most profound sadness that I write this brief reflection on Kathy Carroll. Kathy was a colleague and friend, although not a close friend. Our interactions were mostly, although not entirely, centered around professional activities.
I had tremendous respect for her from the beginning of my career. She was kind and encouraging and nurturing to junior investigators. When our mutual friend Nancy Petry died several years ago, Kathy and I, along with Maxine Stitzer, organized the CPDD Memorial symposium. Upon learning of Kathy’s death, I rewatched that symposium. Kathy was an eloquent discussant and when I rewatched her comments, my tears flowed again -- this time for Kathy. Below are some of the comments she made about Nancy. I think they are equally applicable to Kathy.
"I am still stunned by her death and I am not going to stop being stunned."
"Her scientific achievements were nothing compared to the woman that this lady was."
"We can only honor her by continuing her incredible work."
The memorial symposium was quite emotional. At one-point Kathy gave me her glasses cleaning cloth to dry my tears. A few weeks later I sent her a replacement cleaning cloth thinking she certainly did not want a cloth stained by my tears. Below are excerpts of an email correspondence we had about the replacement cloth. I believe it nicely captures Kathy and poignantly mentions her plans to start retirement.
Kathy: I just stopped howling after opening your wonderful gift -- when I first got it, I had no idea what was inside and thought "oh, no, he sent more pictures to make me cry" and then I started laughing hysterically when I figured out what it was and why you sent them. So sweet and thoughtful, and you know you really didn’t have to. I for one was honored to be able to be of service; moreover, I was delighted to be able to so slyly capture your DNA so I can cleverly blackmail you at some point.
I shall greatly enjoy my new home and office glass cleaners and think of you fondly often! And, yes, looking forward to collaboration.
Thanks again. Kath
John: Thanks Kathy. Are you going to APA?
Kathy: Nope. Trying to get myself off the tour and on the long slow happy glide to retirement.
Her sense of humor, her empathy, her kindness, and her hopes for the future all come through for me in this exchange.
The last personal email I received from her was about research issues during covid and was signed, "See you on the other side." I hope someday I will see her on the other side because I know I never told her how influential her career and life were to many of us and I would like that opportunity.
Ned Nunes, MD, CTN New York Node
Kathy and I were once sitting together outside an NIH review committee meeting on which we were serving. We were both in conflict on whatever poor grant proposal was getting worked over in the next room. It was a time when funding had gotten tight in general for treatment research. She said to me "Maybe we should forget about all this research and start a treatment program, apply everything we've learned, and deliver the very best treatment." She was a brilliant researcher and inspiration to all of us. She was also a clinician at heart.
Keith Humphries, PhD, Stanford
Kathy was one of the greatest addiction treatment scholars of her generation, and I learned enormously from her in our collaborations. The intellectual loss to the field of her passing is incalculable. Yet the thing about her that comforts my spirit the most as I grieve her loss is that during stupid, interminable, meetings or long-winded speeches, there was simply no one who was more fun to sit in the back of the room with and pass snarky notes with than Kathy. She was a leader, she was serious about the things one should be serious about, yet she was also a mischievous wit who could crack everyone up or deflate pomposity at her whim. If I had a dollar for every time she made me or someone else laugh, I'd be a rich man (but I feel rich anyway, because I had the privilege of having a colleague like Kathy).
Dennis Donovan, PhD, CTN Pacific Northwest Node
I am terribly saddened by this news. I go way back to 1989 when I first met and began working with Kathy on Project MATCH and had the good fortune of continuing to work with her in the CTN. She was a warm, caring, kind, funny (even laughing at my puns) individual and a thoughtful, creative, and brilliant researcher. It is a tremendous loss on so many levels....
John Rotrosen, MD, CTN New York Node
I often find myself thinking of Kathy, and particularly in these dark days of COVID and a corrupt, dysfunctional and dangerous White House, her memory makes me happy, sometimes needing to suppress a chuckle when that’s not in order. When I think of her, it’s mostly not of her as a scientist, but rather, the in-between-sessions-, end-of-the-day- Kathy with her quick cheerful walk, slightly high pitched, slightly raspy but always crystal clear voice, in the hallways or at the pool at CPDD or at the bar at the Marinelli Road Marriott (the "CTN Hotel"). What Kathy had to say was always as crisp and clear as was her voice, and she was laser focused on whomever it was she was speaking with, her eyes didn’t wander to glance at all of the activity in the periphery once she was engaged.
Of course, I’d known of Kathy’s work and had met her a few times, but I really owe the CTN for the privilege of getting to know her better and working closely together on so many projects over the past twenty years. The CTN was different then, only six Nodes, Steering Committee meetings every two months, some of them in Bethesda, but most of them at the Nodes so we could really get to know our sites and get to know each other, break bread together, baseball games, hikes, and a lot of schmooze-time, much more intimate. More than most of us, Kathy had already embodied the spirit of doing academic research in real community-based settings and she came to our meetings dragging Patrick McAuliffe, Paul McLaughlin, John Hamilton and others who knew more about addiction, drugs, alcohol, treatment, treatment systems, treatment funding, state and local regulation, than any of the rest of us.
The CTN grew out of the IOM report on the research-to-practice gap in the addictions and SAMHSA’s concern that this gap and the isolation of addictions treatment from mainstream healthcare contributed to a burned-out workforce and sub-par care. To the contrary, Pat, Paul and John, and their CTP colleagues from around the country brought with them a level of dedication and expertise and a palpable hunger to bring science-based interventions into day-to-day, real-world practice, and now looking back at two decades of work, I don’t think there was anyone in the CTN whose work better embodied that spirit and that experience than did Kathy’s. She was a real pioneer in that domain, her work laying out a roadmap for the rest of us and for the early CTN MI and MET trials. Kathy was a terrific scientist, working at the interface of behavioral and pharmacological interventions at a time when for most of the field it was one or the other, sometimes dogmatically so. She saw that the brain was the substrate for effective intervention, and had the smarts and the foresight to recognize that you could get to the brain either way and that they might be synergistic. Others were beginning to do this, but it was Kathy, in my opinion, who brought a rigor to this, particularly a rigor to the behavioral side, bringing a deep understanding of “cognitive” and the biology of cognition to CBT. She was insightful and brilliant in her ability to contextualize things and to frame good research questions, and she had a healthy skepticism without being cynical. Kathy also saw the big picture and played a key role with Ron Jackson in proposing a "CTN registry" and later leading a fabulous multidisciplinary workgroup to develop a CTN/NIDA phenotyping battery, neither of which has yet seen the full light of day, but hope springs eternal.
Most of all, I’ll miss Kathy because she cared so much about her work, her friends and her family (and even the Red Sox), I loved her laugh, I always learned new things, and it was always fun to be around her.
José Szapocznik, PhD, CTN Florida Node Alliance
She was such an exceptional person and professional. I always had the greatest admiration for her. I worked closest with Kathy when we co-led CTN 0021- MET for Spanish Speakers. I learned first hand how amazingly respectful and humble she was, yet a firm, constant and trustworthy leader. I admired Kathy in so many ways: her scholarship, her contributions to our field, her wisdom, her centeredness, her succinctness, and her inner and outer beauty.
Kathleen Brady, MD, PhD, CTN Southern Consortium Node
This is heartbreaking -- sad beyond words. I have such fond memories of our brilliant, generous and compassionate colleague and her wonderful sense of humor.
Roger Weiss, MD, CTN New England Consortium Node
Although Kathy performed her brilliant work at Yale, she lived for many years in Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston; Newton is also my hometown. Therefore, after merging the once-separate New England and Northern New England Nodes into the New England Consortium Nodes, Kathy and I met approximately once a month at Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton Centre for breakfast, to discuss Node business. We met early on Friday mornings; I was on my way to work at McLean Hospital, and she was on her way to swim. She would order banana bread, and I’d get crunchy French toast; it was a tradition. We talked about our families, books we were reading, travel plans, opera (she was a major opera fan), projects and papers we were working on, our mentees, academic politics, and gossip. We each faced major losses and threatened losses during this time, and we comforted each other through these terrible times. Toward the end of each meeting, one of us would inevitably say, "We should talk about Node business"; that part of the conversation was typically short, because working with Kathy was so easy. I don’t remember any conflicts; quite the opposite. Example: we wrote a review paper together a few years ago, agreeing ahead of time to be co-first authors. When it came time to decide whose name would be listed first on the paper, we flipped a coin, and Kathy won. Even so, she said, "Are you sure you don’t want to be first? It’s fine with me if you do." I declined, but that was typical, generous Kathy. Kathy Carroll was not just my colleague and fellow Node PI; she was my friend, and I will miss her terribly.
Jeffrey Selzer, MD, CTN New York Node
Kathy made a lasting, beneficial impression on so many of us. As a CTP person, I remember how patient and clear she was when explaining a scientific concept, particularly as it applied to research. The few times she showed any frustration when explaining something, it was always about her wanting to make it clearer, never about one’s difficulty understanding. Not too many people are so accomplished but also so approachable and down to earth. We were always proud to call her one of ours.
Connie Weisner, DrPH, LCSW, CTN Health Systems Node
My special memories of Kathy come from being on a Center Advisory Board and some other workgroups with her. She always energized these groups and could be both funny and also starkly serious. She always had wise things to say, and particularly for me, she was a great bridge between clinical and health services research at a time when health services research was just finding its sea legs.
Shelly F. Greenfield, MD, MPH, CTN New England Consortium Node
I met Kathy in the early 1990’s. We would meet in a local lunch place and she advised me on one of my first grants. That meeting, and all the times I subsequently was fortunate enough to be with Kathy, were characterized by her sincerity, brilliance, warmth, excellent advice, and great sense of humor. Through many years I feel privileged to have enjoyed her friendship and her warm, generous, and caring spirit along with her thoughtfulness, wonderful smile, and sense of humor. She was a supportive and caring friend and colleague. Her impact on our field was tremendous through her research as well as the countless people she mentored. It is hard to imagine a world without her in it. I know that I will miss her greatly and I know she will be deeply missed by so many whose lives she touched.
George Woody, MD, CTN Mid-Atlantic Node
My latest of many recollections is the outstanding talk she gave at Herb Kleber's memorial service. It was full of facts, humor and good will.
Ron Jackson, MSW, CTN Pacific Northwest Node
What incredibly sad news and what a great loss to her family, friends, colleagues and the science of addiction treatment! I was privileged to serve with Dr. Carroll on the CTN’s Executive Committee for a number of years. While I had worked with her earlier on a marijuana treatment project led by Dr. Roger Roffman I got to know her much better through our work in the CTN. While I deeply respected her scientific expertise about behavioral treatments for addiction, what struck me most about her professionally was that she was one of the few Node Principal Investigators in the early years of the CTN who understood and actively supported the role of Community Treatment Programs (CTPs) in setting and enacting the research agenda of the CTN -- a great ally of the CTPs. Kathy was a caring, gracious and witty woman in addition to being a world renowned researcher and academician. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
Mary Hatch-Maillette, PhD, CTN Pacific Northwest Node
Although I've been part of the CTN since 2003 and had seen Kathy regularly at meetings, I did not know her personally and had not worked with her professionally. Despite this, at one meeting several years ago, I found myself seated next to her at a social dinner outing. By the end of evening, she had offered me some of the soundest career advice, one woman to another, that I had ever received, and it still rings in my head many years later. That was the first of many conversations with Kathy but definitely the one I will remember clearest. I continue to follow that wise advice. Thank you, Kathy.
Jack Blaine, MD, NIDA Center for the Clinical Trials Network
I have had the good fortune to know Kathy personally and work with her professionally for many years. I met her when she was a young investigator working with Bruce Rounsaville at Yale. Lisa Onken and I were fortunate to benefit from Kathy’s knowledge and experience as we formed the Behavioral Therapies Development Program to facilitate and expand psychotherapy, behavioral therapy and counseling research at NIDA. She was the most productive and influential research in this field. Kathy was a Principal Investigator for one of the original CTN Nodes and a major proponent and contributor to psychotherapy research conducted in the CTN. She was an amazing person, and she had a major influence on the field. She will be missed personally and professionally by so many of us.
From all of Team Carroll
Where to begin . . . there are no words to describe the full and remarkable Kathy Carroll. She is uniformly recognized as a brilliant scientist and generous mentor, but to those who knew her well she was so much more. Her loss is felt deeply by those of us who worked with her in New Haven. Kathy had a personal connection with each and every one of us, she knew our birthdays, the names of our family members, even our pets. She was the first one ready to celebrate a special accomplishment or life event, and a supportive shoulder to lean on during hard times. She kept her team together by being a humanitarian, meeting people where they are, understanding that life happens to each of us at a different rate and allowing every person to unfold while fostering individual strengths. In her way, she knit together a tight work family, Team Carroll.
One memorable item in Kathy’s daily work life with Team Carroll was her To Do List, a.k.a. "Blonde Ambition," which was a large ream of paper held together by rubber bands and the biggest binder clip she could find. Throughout each day, Kathy would add notes with circles and arrows all over the top page. To look at it, you would think that one person could not possibly keep track of it all. But she did. Regardless of the tasks and looming deadlines, every meeting began with a check-in, a sharing of stories, triumphs, laughter, and sometimes tears. The transition to work was seamless and her commitment to the highest level of methodological rigor was unparalleled. At the end of each day, items on Blonde Ambition moved closer to completion. Her team has been proud of each accomplishment that originated from Blonde Ambition knowing full well that Kathy’s brilliance led the way, even when she tried to distribute the credit evenly.
Some of us worked with Kathy for over 30 years, and in that time, we had five different office locations. No matter the location, from a the cramped 3rd floor converted bedroom of a multifamily home with a conference room in the kitchen to the top floor suite of a medical building, Kathy’s energy and spirit made each one feel special. One move, to the lower-level (i.e., basement), of a building on the West Haven VA campus, aptly named ‘the Bunker’, was met with some resistance from Kathy’s team. She decided that we might be more willing to make the move if our dogs could come to work with us. How she convinced Tom Kosten and Bruce Rounsaville that this was a good idea remains a mystery. We quickly learned that Tom and Bruce did not make the rules at the VA, but for a period of time a happy pack of dogs roamed the halls of the Bunker. She would do anything for us, and we for her. We adored her.
One thing not everyone got to see was her compassion. Early in the 90's, Charla Nich, a long-time team member and friend saw junior faculty Kathy Carroll quietly kneeling in her pencil skirt (they were in back then) to be at eye level with a client's 4-year-old. The child had a tracheotomy -- and was not verbal. Kathy was rushing to a meeting and ran into the wandering child in the hallway where she knelt and admired the girl's bag of Barbie arms and legs, while the child played with Kathy's necklace. Whether quietly sponsoring homeless kids by purchasing their school clothing, or picking up a single mother at the shelter to take her Christmas shopping to make sure Santa delivered exactly what the kids wanted, Kathy led with her heart.
In honor of her father, Kathy practiced the "John Carroll" religion. Every day, perform at least one random act of kindness.
Kathy’s family and team are planning to erect the Kathy Carroll Memorial Playground for children staying in temporary housing in her honor. You can support this project here.
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