Apr 25, 2024

In Memoriam: Dr. Mary V. Seeman

Dr. Mary Seeman

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Mary Seeman on the morning of Tuesday, April 23. Mary was Professor Emerita of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, whose work deepened our understanding of schizophrenia.

As the inaugural Tapscott Chair in Schizophrenia Studies, she led research that revealed the biological mechanisms underlying anti-psychotic drugs, informing drug development and guiding treatment. Her research into gender differences in schizophrenia shaped treatment guidelines and opened new avenues for clinical research.

Mary helped bring the benefits of her discoveries directly to patients, establishing the first outpatient clinic dedicated to women affected by psychosis at CAMH. In addition to her prolific academic publications, she wrote about schizophrenia for a general audience to ensure accessible information was available to the public.

During her long career she served as the head of the Active Treatment Clinic of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, head of the ethics committee of the Clarke Institute and of the Ontario Psychiatric Association, and President of the Ontario branch of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Mary’s legacy lives on at U of T through the Dr. Mary Seeman Lecture, which will be presented later this week as part of the U of T Future of Psychotherapy Conference. And her memory will always live on through the magnitude of her contributions in psychiatry, in particular, as a pioneer in the field of women’s mental health.

Dr. Mary and Philip Seeman
Dr. Mary V. Seeman pictured with her husband Dr. Philip Seeman, who was also a professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

Tributes to Dr. Mary Seeman

“Mary was a hugely important mentor for me as a resident in the late 1990s.  She was a high powered researcher and was well respected in many different leadership roles, but she took education seriously and always wanted to promote interest in Schizophrenia. She took me under her wing, and I felt so lucky to be there in my final year of training, even though I was not a researcher. She taught me the importance of being authentic, with patients, and making people feel heard and respected.  

We stayed in touch, talking about cases and dilemmas, and went for the occasional lunch. I was looking forward to discussing retirement issues with her at our next lunch, recalling how she had talked about them with me years ago.  

I will miss her very much.” 
- Dr. Patricia Cavanagh 

“Mary was ahead of her time. She pioneered research specifically into women and schizophrenia and detailed all the important considerations when caring for women living with this condition. She was also a wonderful person and a joy to work with.”
-Dr. James Kennedy

“Mary was a deeply-loved member of our Department. She and her husband, Phil, were a remarkable power couple who together made a remarkable impact on our understanding of schizophrenia.

Mary was a pioneer in drawing attention to the impact of schizophrenia, including how the illness impacts differently on women. Work in this field continues to cite her work. As recently as last month when I attended our international schizophrenia research meeting, she continues to be cited and identified as a leader as well as pioneer in this field.

I should add that this area of research is now being embraced as a critically important area for future research. Her lifetime contributions to this field will undoubtedly continue to have a major impact on the field.”
- Dr. Bob Zipursky