Ted J. Kaptchuk is Professor of Medicine and Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Harvard-wide Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photograph by Jim Harrison
As a leading figure in placebo studies, a scholar of East Asian medicine, and an academic authority on medical pluralism, Professor Kaptchuk's career has spanned multiple disciplines, drawing upon concepts, research designs and analytical methods from the clinical, basic and social sciences, and the humanities.
In collaboration with his colleagues, Professor Kaptchuk has made significant contributions to the field of placebo studies through his investigations of the impact of placebos in various illnesses, the neurobiology of placebo effects, the experience of patients being treated by placebo, and various psychological, cultural, sociological, ethical, and philosophical dimensions of placebos.
His team has pioneered the idea of 'open-label placebo', demonstrating that honestly prescribed placebos can still evoke placebo effects.
Professor Kaptchuk received a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Columbia University in 1968 and graduated with a degree in Chinese medicine from the Macao Institute of Chinese Medicine (Macao, China) in 1975. He was recruited as researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 1990 and became full Professor of Medicine in 2013. In 2015 he received an additional appointment as Professor or Global Health and Social Medicine. He has over 300 publications with an h-index of 100 and an i10-index of 274.
Professor Kaptchuk entered the field of placebo research after spearheading the study of East Asian medicine in the United States and Europe and establishing himself as a scholar of multiple healing traditions. He is the author of The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, a classic textbook that has been translated into 13 languages. The World Health Organization (WHO) engaged him as a senior editor and translator (from Chinese to English) for its International Classification of Disease 11th Revision (ICD-11) chapter on Traditional Medicine, published in 2019.
Other appointments and honors include:
Senior writer and researcher for 9-hour BBC TV documentary on healing practices around the world; 1983.
National Advisory Council of NCCIH; 1999-2010.
Expert panelist for the FDA; 2001-2005
Research deemed among “The Most Notable Medical Findings in 2015” by The New Yorker Magazine.
Prof. Kaptchuk’s awards include:
Lifetime Achievement Award: The Society of Acupuncture Research (2015)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies (2021)
William Silen Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award: Harvard Medical School (2022)