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In Memoriam: Dennis Owens (1953-2021)

Dennis Owens, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, passed away March 18 after a brief illness.

Dennis Owens, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Kansas Medical Center, died March 18 after a brief illness. He was 67.

The Kansas City native was a driving force in research and clinical trials aimed at discovering new and more effective treatments for depression, addictions and other psychiatric conditions. An excellent teacher, he also worked with residents in the resident clinic.

Dr. Owens originally joined KU Medical Center in the 1980s before shifting to a local private practice. He returned in November 2018 to direct the department's clinical research trials. He also was director of The University of Kansas Health System's Comprehensive Depression Assessment and Treatment Center and treated patients at the Kansas City and Indian Creek campuses.

In a March 2020 profile by KU Medical Center, Dr. Owens discussed his passion for cutting-edge medical treatments for the mind, from pediatric Tourette syndrome and pediatric schizophrenia to new types of antidepressant drugs.

"With the conditions we treat, whether it's as a neurosurgeon, neurologist or psychiatrist, we're dealing with the most complex organ, far and away, and because of that, it's one we understand the least well," he said. "The frontier is very exciting in terms of what we can accomplish."

William Gabrielli, M.D., Ph.D., chair and clinical service chief for Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, recruited Dr. Owens to KU Medical Center not only to bring a portfolio of clinical trials with him, but also to attract more trials, adding an important element to an already thriving department.

"Dr. Owens was a special person," Dr. Gabrielli said. "He always cared for his patients and his colleagues. He never said no to a request for help. He spoke with wisdom. His generosity and kindness were unmatched. The benefits he brought to our programs will last and the success of what he started will be a part of his great legacy."

Philip Leese, M.D., a research assistant professor in the department, said he'll remember Dr. Owens' compassion for his patients and his vision, leadership, drive and dedication to search out new treatments for mental health disorders.

"He freely committed time to help staff clinics when the need arose, even when his own to-do list was full," Dr. Leese said. "He faced life's adversities with courage; I never heard him complain. He just remained focused on a commitment to excellence to all his assignments. Working with him gave many of us a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives. He will be missed, and our memories will be cherished."

Services will be March 27. Read his obituary.

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

University of Kansas Medical Center
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Mailstop 4015
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160
Phone: 913-588-6400
Fax: 913-588-6414