Volume 75, Number 4 | June 15- 21, 2005


Mary Ann Richardson, 67, treated movement disorder

Dr. Mary Ann Richardson, a research scientist and professor of psychiatry at New York University who developed and patented an innovative treatment for Tardive Dyskinesia, a stigmatizing and incurable movement disorder, died at the age of 67 on June 9 in her home in the Village.

The cause was breast cancer, said her son Dr. Justin Richardson.

“My mother would often point out that my father, Dr. John Richardson, was the fifth generation in his family to live in Greenwich Village and that I was the sixth. She was terribly proud of our connection to the neighborhood,” said her son.

Tardive Dyskinesia afflicts many severely ill psychiatric patients with uncontrollable jerking movements of the hands and mouth and is caused by medications prescribed for those patients with psychotic illnesses, according to her son.

Dr. Mary Ann Richardson devised a special high-protein breakfast rich in branched chain amino acids that prevented high levels of phenylalanine from reaching the brain.
The hearty breakfast substantially reduced abnormal movements and Dr. Richardson then devised a powdered substance containing the same amino acids found in the breakfast. The compound proved to be effective and in 2002, the treatment, under the name Tarvil, was distributed to patients.

Dr. Richardson was born Maria Sanchirico in the Bronx, the youngest of a large family who had emigrated from southern Italy. Her father died when she was 2 and the family was supported by the work of her mother, a seamstress, and the numerous odd jobs of her brothers.

She began working as a filing clerk at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company but soon entered the field of television advertising in the 1950s.

Following the birth of her first child, she interrupted her work and her college education. When her children entered grade school, she returned to school herself, taking one course at a time until she earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Yeshiva University in 1984.

While still a student she began to work at the Rockland Research Institute — now the Nathan Kline Institute of the New York State Office of Mental Health — where she first learned about Tardive Dyskinesia.

She was the author of many research publications, lectured internationally, ran a movement disorders clinic for 14 years and was honored with the state Office of Mental Health Award for Research Excellence in 1989.

“She was quick to point out that her proudest and most satisfying accomplishment was the raising of her two children, a responsibility which despite the demands of her career remained her top priority for over four decades. It was not a surprise that the treatment she created for Tardive Dyskinesia was born of a nutritious breakfast cooked up in the kitchen of her research lab,” said her son.

“She battled an aggressive form of breast cancer with the same determination that she brought to her work and with the help of her husband, Dr. John J. Richardson, extended her expected one year of survival after diagnosis to 16 years. During those years, she saw the release of her treatment for Tardive Dyskinesia, the graduation of her two children from medical school and the birth of her first grandchild,” her son said.

In addition to her husband and son, her daughter Dr. Martine Sacks and granddaughter Lita Sacks of Portland, Ore., her sister Santa Clark of Bricktown, N.J., and 18 nieces and nephews survive. A memorial service will be announced later.

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