Press Release

Irving S. and Betty Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute Opens at UMass Medical School

Facility dedicated to biological research into chronic and serious mental disorders

May 5, 2000

WORCESTER, Mass.—The University of Massachusetts Medical School opened its new 32,000 square foot Irving S. and Betty Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, a state-of-the-art research facility devoted to biological research into the causes, diagnoses, and treatment of chronic and serious mental disorders, with a symposium and dedication ceremony on Monday, May 1.

"As one of only a handful of facilities in the country devoted to studying the biological causes of mental illness, the Brudnick Institute will have a major impact on mental health research and care. It will bolster the Medical School’s growing reputation for cutting-edge research and will attract more top-notch scientists to Central Massachusetts," said Aaron Lazare, MD, Medical School Chancellor and Dean.

Under the leadership of director Edward Ginns, MD, PhD, an internationally renowned neuroscientist and geneticist, researchers at the $12 million facility will utilize the tools of neuroscience, behavioral science, imaging, genetics, cell biology and molecular biology to advance the treatment of people with serious and persistent psychiatric disorders.

"Our focus is on identifying genetic and environmental factors that predispose an individual to mental disorders, as well as those components that might protect individuals from developing these devastating illnesses," said Ginns, the chief of the Clinical Neuroscience Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health."Thanks to individuals like Irving and Betty Brudnick, there is also a strong link between the public, patients, scientists and clinicians," he added.

The Brudnick Institute is named for Irving S. and Betty Brudnick of Weston, whose gift of $2.5 million helped fund construction of the building. "Because of my own personal history, Betty and I have long wished to establish such a facility that would have as its mission the objectives of not only seeking the causes of and cures for mental illness, but also providing the latest in effective treatments for patients and their families," said Brudnick, who has fought a lifelong battle with depression. In 1997, the Brudnicks endowed the Irving S. and Betty Brudnick Chair of Psychiatry at UMMS, which is held by renowned psychiatrist Anthony J. Rothschild, MD.

The Brudnick Institute adjoins the Bryan Building at Worcester State Hospital, one of the oldest public psychiatric hospitals in the country. The Commonwealth contributed $7.8 million on behalf of the Department of Mental Health to help fund construction of the institute, which is operated by the Medical School through its Department of Psychiatry.

With the opening of the Brudnick Institute, the DMH builds upon its Research Center for Excellence, already established on the UMass campus. In addition to facilitating research, the institute serves as a resource for promoting excellence in clinical care of people with mental illness and for the education of mental health professionals.

"Mental health affects one in five Americans each year," said DMH Commissioner Marylou Sudders. "Four of the ten leading causes of disability for those aged five and older are psychiatric disorders. Yet most people never seek treatment because of ignorance, fear of discrimination and stigma. Many do not realize effective treatment exists, or they fear the consequences that reaching out for help might bring. Today’s clinical services, while much more advanced than what was available even a few years ago, are not enough. They must be supported by the state-of-the-art research being conducted at the Brudnick Institute, the Center for Excellence at UMass, and elsewhere," she said.

Speakers at the May 1 opening symposium included Kathy Cronkite, daughter of famed newsman Walter Cronkite, and an author of a well-received book on battling depression, On the Edge of Darkness: Conversations About Conquering Depression. Ms. Cronkite, who now writes and lectures on the subject, was awarded the Texas Psychological Association’s citation for outstanding public contribution to psychology in 1999 and is a member of an advisory board to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Also addressing the symposium audience was Rex Cowdry, MD, MPH, Medical Director and Deputy Executive Director for Research for the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill, a grassroots organization of individuals with serious mental illnesses and their families. Dr. Cowdry previously was a researcher with the National Institutes of Mental Health, serving as clinical director and CEO of the NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital.

The symposium featured remarks from Moe Armstrong, MA, MBA, director of consumer affairs and co-director and co-founder of the Peer Educators Project for Vinfen, a non-profit organization providing mental health services through the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. Armstrong is a proud recipient of mental health services and believes in the mental health system and in the recovery and rehabilitation of those with mental illness.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. UMass Medical School and its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care, attracts more than $93 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. Research funding enables UMass researchers to explore human disease from the molecular level to large-scale clinical trials. Basic and clinical research leads to new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.