Dr. Scott A. Mackler, professor of medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine, passed away November 13 at home, after a 15-year battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease); he was 55.

A clinician/scientist in the area of addiction, Dr. Mackler served on Penn’s faculty from 1992 until his passing, where he directed his lab in the John Morgan Building. He coupled clinical practice in the area of general medical care to those with substance abuse problems with basic science research. His research focused on identifying which mRNAs have their levels regulated by cocaine in order to better define the molecular basis of the self-administration of addictive drugs. Dr. Mackler taught medical students, residents, post doctoral fellows, nurses and other Penn faculty in many different departments in the area of substance abuse. He also had appointments in the departments of pharmacology and psychiatry as well as the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences.

Dr. Mackler received several awards for his successful research on drug addiction, which focused on a protein in the brain that he and his colleagues discovered. He spent later years of his research studying that protein’s possible connection to ALS. The Scott Mackler Award for Excellence in Substance Abuse Teaching was established in 2000 by the Penn/VA Center for Studies of Addiction and the department of psychiatry. In addition, he was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and recipient of the Order of the First State, Delaware’s highest civilian honor.

Dr. Mackler used a brain-based communication device known as a brain-computer interface (BCI) to communicate letter-by-letter. He was featured in many news articles and magazines, including CBS News’ 60 Minutes in 2008 ( and in the Pennsylvania Gazette’s July/August 2009 issue (

The Scott A. Mackler, MD, PhD Assistive Technology Program, overseen by the ALS Greater Philadelphia Chapter, provides technological equipment to ALS patients to improve their quality of life. It loans out communication devices such as computers with voice output; control units for hands-free access to TVs and CD players; and remote door-chimes to call for help. Fundraising for the program includes the Scott Mackler 5K Run/Walk, held annually in Newark, Delaware.

Born and raised in Bloomfield, NJ, he was a  Penn alum who earned four degrees here: a BS in physical therapy and a BA in biology, both in 1980. Six years later, he earned both his PhD in anatomy and his medical degree.

Dr. Mackler is survived by his wife, Lynn Snyder-Mackler, PT’80, G’84; sons, Alexander, C’05 and Noah, C’07, G’08, Gr’12; brother, Harvey Mackler, W’75; and a sister, Randi Windheim, C’77. 

Donations may be made to the Scott A. Mackler, MD, PhD Assistive Technology Program at the ALS Association of Greater Philadelphia, 321 Norristown Road, suite 260, Ambler, PA 19002. See