Memorial Sloan Kettering Psychiatrist William S. Breitbart

William S. Breitbart, MD

Psychiatrist

My Role at MSK

Areas of Expertise

My Specialties

  • Management of Depression, Anxiety, Delirium, Pain, Fatigue, and Existential Distress
  • End-of-Life Care
  • Coping with Pancreatic Cancer

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About Me

What I Do at MSK
  • Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Jimmie C. Holland Chair
Get To Know Me

I am a triple board-certified psychiatrist and psycho-oncologist whose expertise focuses on the psychiatric aspects of a cancer diagnosis. This includes:

I see patients, couples, and family members on an individual basis at MSK. As the psychiatric liaison to the hepatopancreatobiliary (HPB) disease management team and the Supportive Care Service, I specialize in providing support to people affected by cancers of the pancreas, liver, and bile ducts, as well as other gastrointestinal cancers. I am also a member of the Brain Tumor Center faculty.

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I have been at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) since I completed my fellowship training in consultation-liaison psychiatry/psycho-oncology from 1984-1986. I served as Chief of the Psychiatry Service at MSK from 1996-2017, and Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences from 2009-2014. In 2014, I was appointed Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Since 2002, I have led the Psychotherapy Laboratory within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. This laboratory offers novel counseling interventions to people with cancer of all types and stages, as well as to couples and families.

Most notably, I developed meaning-centered psychotherapy (MCP) for people with cancer. MCP is a brief, structured psychotherapeutic intervention to help patients experiencing loss of meaning around illness. It is designed to help reduce the feelings of despair that can come with a cancer diagnosis by helping people with cancer focus on the importance of creating, reconnecting with, experiencing, and sustaining meaning in the face of illness. The National Cancer Institute has recognized MCP as a research-tested intervention that benefits patients with cancer. MCP has been translated and used in more than 12 languages and countries.

Beyond MCP, my research interests have included:

  • Fatigue related to cancer and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Depression in terminally ill people with AIDS and cancer
  • Inflammatory depression in people with pancreatic cancer
  • MCP for people with advanced cancer
  • Delirium research

Outside of MSK, I helped to establish the American Psycho-Oncology Society (APOS). I also assisted in the foundation of the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) and served as its President. Additionally, I am the past President of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine.

I am a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and was a faculty scholar of the Project on Death in America. I have authored more than 500 peer reviewed publications, chapters, and review papers, as well as 13 textbooks. I currently serve as Editor-in-Chief of Cambridge University Press’ international journal, Palliative & Supportive Care

My Role at MSK

A psychiatrist (sy-KY-uh-trist) is a doctor with special training in mental, emotional, and behavioral health. They can prescribe medication to help with these conditions.

Areas of Expertise

My Specialties

  • Management of Depression, Anxiety, Delirium, Pain, Fatigue, and Existential Distress
  • End-of-Life Care
  • Coping with Pancreatic Cancer
Education & Honors

Education

  • MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Residencies

  • Bronx Municipal Hospital Center

Awards and Honors

  • Castle Connolly: America’s Top Doctor (2024)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Palliative Care, MD Anderson Cancer Center (2023)
  • Jimmie Holland Award for lifetime contributions to psychiatric oncology, IPOS (2019)
  • Trish Greene Quality of Life Award, the American Cancer Society (ACS, 2017)
  • Distinguished Leadership Award, the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS, 2013)
  • Hackett Lifetime Achievement Award, Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine (2011)
  • Sutherland Lifetime Achievement Award, International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS, 2009)
  • Willet F. Whitmore Award for Clinical Excellence, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2009)
  • Top Doctors New York Metro Area, Castle Connolly (2001-2023)
  • Castle Connolly: America's Top Doctors (2001-2023)
  • Castle Connolly: New York Magazine Top Doctors (2001-2023)

Fellowships

  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Board Certifications

  • Internal Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychosomatic Medicine/Consultation – Liaison Psychiatry/Psycho-Oncology

Insurance Information

Understanding your insurance options is an important part of managing your cancer care. We have relationships with many common healthcare providers and plans.

Aetna

In Network Coverage Type
HMO, EPO PPO, POS, Transplant

Aetna Medicare Advantage (MTA retirees only)

In Network Coverage Type
PPO

Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program

In Network Coverage Type
HMO, PPO

Blue Cross Blue Shield New York

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, EPO, HMO

Blue Cross Blue Shield states outside of NY/NJ

In Network Coverage Type
HMO, EPO PPO, POS

Blue Cross Health Plus

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

Carrum Health

In Network Coverage Type
Supplemental

Cigna

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, HMO

MSK has a tentative agreement with Cigna to continue coverage in 2024.

Connecticare

In Network Coverage Type
POS, EPO, HMO

Emblem

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, EPO, HMO

Offers a qualified health plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Call Emblem to learn more.

Emblem Essential

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

Emblem Medicare Advantage

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, HMO

Empire Blue Cross Medicare Advantage

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, HMO, DSN

Empire Essential

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

Empire Plan / NYSHIP (Blue Cross/UnitedHealthcare split plan)

In Network Coverage Type
PPO

Fidelis

In Network Coverage Type
HMO, EPO

Offers a qualified health plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Call Fidelis to learn more.

Fidelis Managed Medicaid & HARP

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

Fidelis Medicare Advantage

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

First Health

In Network Coverage Type
PPO

Healthfirst

In Network Coverage Type
EPO, HMO, PPO, POS

Offers a qualified health plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Call Healthfirst to learn more.

Healthfirst Managed Medicaid

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

Healthfirst Medicare Advantage

In Network Coverage Type
HMO, PPO

Healthsmart

In Network Coverage Type
PPO EPO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey (HMO)

In Network Coverage Type
HMO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey (PPO)

In Network Coverage Type
PPO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey Omnia Tier I (EPO)

In Network Coverage Type
EPO

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey Omnia Tier II (EPO)

In Network Coverage Type
EPO

Horizon Medicare Advantage

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, HMO

Husky CT Medicaid

In Network Coverage Type
State Government

Magnacare

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, EPO

Straight NJ Medicaid

In Network Coverage Type
State Government

Straight NY Medicaid

In Network Coverage Type
State Government

Medicare Part A&B (traditional Medicare)

In Network Coverage Type
Federal Government

Multiplan/Beech Street/PHCS

In Network Coverage Type
Supplemental

MVP

In Network Coverage Type
PPO/OAP

Non-Participating Plans with Out of Network Benefits

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, EPO, HMO

NYC Medicare Advantage Plus for City Employees

In Network Coverage Type
TBD

Oscar

In Network Coverage Type
HMO/EPO

Oxford

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, EPO

World Trade Center Health Program (WTC)

In Network Coverage Type
State Government

Qualcare

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, HMO

Tricare

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, HMO

UMR

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS

United Healthcare

In Network Coverage Type
PPO, POS, HMO

Don't see your carrier or plan? We can help you understand your coverage.

If you don't have health insurance or are worried that your care may not be fully covered, our financial assistance programs may be able to help.

If you have questions about insurance, call us at 646-497-9176.

Make an Appointment

Current Patients

Request an appointment by logging on to MyMSK or calling your doctor’s office. If you aren’t registered for MyMSK, call 646-227-2593 for your Enrollment ID.

Contact and Location

Dr. Breitbart sees patients at one location.

Office Phone
Location
New York, NY
160 East 53rd Street New York NY 10022

Looking to see a doctor at a different location? See all MSK locations.

Colleagues

Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering work as teams, with specialists from all different areas. This allows us to consider all your needs together, and to give you the best possible care.

See all Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences doctors

See all Affiliated Faculty doctors

See all Psychiatry Service doctors

See all Psychiatry doctors

Clinical Trials

Smiling doctors in the lab
Find a Clinical Trial for You

Memorial Sloan Kettering's doctors and scientists are constantly developing new treatments for cancer. MSK is typically running hundreds of clinical trials at a given time.

You may be able to participate in a clinical trial even if you are new to MSK. Search our online directory to find trial information and see more about who can participate.

Search clinical trials

Research and Publications

Dr. Breitbart has authored 13 textbooks, including:

  • Psycho-oncology - 1st , 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Editions
  • Psychosocial Palliative Care; Handbook of Psychiatry in Palliative Medicine – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Editions
  • Treatment manuals for:
    • Meaning-Centered Group Psychotherapy in Advanced Cancer Patients
    • Individual Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy for Advanced Cancer Patients
    • Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy in the Cancer Setting from Oxford University Press
Publications on PubMed

Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Breitbart’s journal articles. Pubmed is an online index of research papers and other articles from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

See all on PubMed

Disclosures

Doctors and faculty members often work with pharmaceutical, device, biotechnology, and life sciences companies, and other organizations outside of MSK, to find safe and effective cancer treatments, to improve patient care, and to educate the health care community.

MSK requires doctors and faculty members to report (“disclose”) the relationships and financial interests they have with external entities. As a commitment to transparency with our community, we make that information available to the public.

William S. Breitbart discloses the following relationships and financial interests:

  • Blue Note Therapeutics, Inc.
    Intellectual Property Rights; Professional Services and Activities
  • Cambridge University Press
    Professional Services and Activities
  • Oxford University Press
    Intellectual Property Rights
  • Reset Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
    Professional Services and Activities

If you’re a patient at MSK and would like more information about your doctor’s external relationships, please talk with your doctor.

The information published here is for a specific annual disclosure period. There may be differences between information on this and other public sites as a result of different reporting periods and/or the various ways relationships and financial interests are categorized by organizations that publish such data.


This page and data include information for a specific MSK annual disclosure period (January 1, 2022 through disclosure submission in spring 2023). This data reflects interests that may or may not still exist. This data is updated annually.

Learn more about MSK’s COI policies here. For questions regarding MSK’s COI-related policies and procedures, email MSK’s Compliance Office at [email protected].


View all disclosures