In Memoriam: Dr. Athanasios (Thanasis) Zis, Professor Emeritus and Former Head




Dear Colleagues,

It is with profound sadness that I share the news that Dr. Athanasios (Thanasis) Zis passed away on Wednesday September 1, 2021, surrounded by his family.

As many of you are aware, Dr. Zis served as the Head of the UBC Department of Psychiatry from 1997 to 2006, and as the Interim Head from 2010 to 2011. In addition to being a brilliant scientist and an outstanding psychiatrist, Thanasis will be fondly remembered for his friendly and personable nature, his lively story-telling, and his charismatic presence in every setting. He will be deeply missed by his many friends and colleagues at UBC and the broader psychiatry community.

Born in Corfu, Greece in 1945, Thanasis obtained his medical degree from the National University of Athens Medical School in 1969. While at the university in Athens, he met the love of his life and best friend, Katerina. They married in 1971 and immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, shortly after. He completed his psychiatry residency training at UBC, after which he completed a three-year fellowship in Psychobiology of Mood Disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, under Dr. Frederick Goodwin. In 1979, he was appointed to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, where he remained until 1985, when an opportunity to join our academic faculty in the UBC Department of Psychiatry brought him back to Vancouver and UBC. He served as the Head of the Mood Disorders Program from 1993 until 1997, when he became the Head of Psychiatry.

Over his long and distinguished career spanning four decades, Thanasis made important contributions in the areas of the natural course of bipolar disorder, neuroendocrinology and other biological aspects of mood disorders, electroconvulsive therapy, and the effects of electroconvulsive shock, authoring or co-authoring more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. During his tenure as the Department Head, UBC Psychiatry saw a period of significant growth and a number of important milestones, including the establishment of the UBC Institute of Mental Health, for which he served as Director in 2011.

Thanasis was a man of many interests, a true renaissance man. He had a great passion and deep appreciation for classical music, opera and musicals. He was instrumental in providing the support of the UBC Department of Psychiatry for the successful co-production of the “Dream Healer”, an opera in two acts, by the UBC Opera Ensemble in 2008. Thanasis was an ardent gardener, a photographer and a fly fisherman. He loved reading and poetry and had a lasting interest in politics. He enjoyed walking and spending time with his family, particularly hiking and berry picking at the local mountains and fishing at Spider Lake.

Thanasis is survived by his wife of 50 years, Katerina; children, Thalia (Todd), Fanie and Odysseas (Sarah); grandchildren, Oliver and Theodore; brother (Vasilis); as well as numerous extended family members and friends in Greece and Canada.

The news of Thanasis’ passing will no doubt come with a deep sense of loss to all who had the privilege of knowing and working alongside him. If you wish to send a message of condolence to the family, please do so by visiting his memorial page here. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to St. John Hospice. Donations can also be made through: While a visitation and memorial service will be held on September 9th and 10th, respectively, there will be limits to the number of attendees due to COVID-19 restrictions. The family has plans to hold a Celebration of Life with a wider attendance in the future, when circumstances allow, and we will share news regarding this event as the details become available.

The BC, Musqueam and UBC flags at the North Plaza of UBC campus will be lowered on Friday September 10th 2021, in honour and remembrance of Thanasis.

On behalf of the UBC Department of Psychiatry, I send my heartfelt condolences to his wife Katerina, children, and the rest of the Zis family during this most difficult time.



Dr. Lakshmi N. Yatham, MBBS, FRCPC, MRCPsych (UK), MBA (Exec)
Professor and Head, UBC Department of Psychiatry
Director, Institute of Mental Health, UBC
Regional Head and Program Medical Director, VCH/PHC
Editor in Chief, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry
President, World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry