Nancy Swerdlow Downs, M.D. 

H.S. Clinical Professor

UCSD HEAR Program for Suicide Prevention

UCSD College Mental Health Program

Contact Information

9500 Gilman Drive, 0957
La Jolla, CA 92093-0957
T: (858) 534-7792
F: (858) 534-8863


Dr. Nancy Swerdlow Downs is an H.S. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, and Section Chief of College Mental Health for UC San Diego Health System. Her clinical and academic work focuses on integrative treatments for depression and anxiety in primary care settings, and novel interventions for suicide prevention.

Early in her career, she helped to fund, cofound and manage the UCSD Combined Family Medicine and Psychiatry Residency, based at St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Village, for which she shared the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation.

Currently, as the Section Chief of College Mental Health, Dr. Downs and her team provide consultation-liaison services to staff and faculty, and cost-effective mental health care for approximately 30,000 UC San Diego undergraduate and graduate students. She is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a reviewer for the journal, Academic Psychiatry, an Assistant Clinical Professor for the Yale Department of Psychiatry, and past Chair of the UC Office of the President Lead Psychiatrist Task Force. With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Downs continues to enjoy and appreciate working with patients, educating trainees, contributing to the academic literature and creating innovative, evidence-based programs, which enhance our community.

Research Interests

Research Focus

Dr. Downs’ academic work centers on developing integrative, evidence-based treatments for anxiety and depression, both for individual patients and practitioners, and the local community. Much of her research focuses on creating multi-disciplinary, culturally sensitive mental health teams who function to decrease stress and suffering and improve an individual’s quality of life and overall functioning. Current research projects include: 1) Developing and tracking outcome data for collaborative care mental health treatment for UC students 2) Assessing effectiveness of an anonymous, web-based interactive screening program (ISP) to decrease rates of depression and suicidal behaviors in health care providers.

Clinical Focus

Dr. Downs’ major clinical focus is providing comprehensive bio-psycho-social psychiatric assessments, followed by individualized, patient-centered care, with an aim to treat to full remission. She integrates psychotherapy, psychopharmacology and behavioral interventions such as exercise, diet changes, sleep hygiene and stress-reduction techniques to improve work, school and social functioning. Dr. Downs also enjoys teaching, supervising and collaborating with the next generation of mental health providers, including individuals who are balancing career and family roles.

Find more about Dr. Downs.


  • Adamson GD, Lamb EJ, Downs NS. Prognostic factors in tubal disease. Fertility and Sterility, 1980, 33:228.
  • Downs N, Britton K, Gibbs D, Koob G, Swerdlow N. Supersensitive endocrine response to physostigmine in dopamine-depleted rats : A model of depression? Biol Psychiat 1986, 21: 775-786.
  • Downs N, Zisook S, Swerdlow N. The relationship of affective illness and personality disorder in psychiatric outpatients: a retrospective study. Annals Clin Psychiatry 1992, 4:87-9.
  • Shuchter S, Downs N, Zisook S. Biologically Informed Psychotherapy of Depression, Guilford Press, 1996.
  • Downs N, McCahill M. Combined Residency in Family Medicine and Psychiatry. Am J Psychiat 1997, 154:9.
  • Zisook S, Downs N. Diagnosis and treatment of late life depression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1998, 59 suppl. 4: 80-91.
  • Zisook S, Downs N. Death dying and bereavement. Kaplan HI, Sadock BJ (eds) Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry VII, Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins Co, 2000, p. 1963-1981.
  • Zisook S, Downs N, Moutier C, Clayton, P. College students and suicide risk: prevention and the role of academic psychiatry. Academic Psychiatry 2012; 36: 1-6.
  • McGuire T, Moutier C, Downs N, Zisook S. In response to “Details on suicide among US physicians: data from the national Violent Death Reporting System.” Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2013 Jul-Aug; 35(4):448.
  • Downs N, Feng W, Kirby B, McGuire T, Moutier C, Norcross W, Norman M, Young I, Zisook S. Listening to depression and suicidal risk in medical students: the healer education assessment and referral (HEAR) program, Academ Psych, April 2014.