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October 19, 2006

U-M opens new building for Depression Center and psychiatry/substance abuse research and care

$41M Rachel Upjohn Building on east medical campus provides light-filled new home for outpatient care and a broad variety of studies

ANN ARBOR, MI – A stunning new home for research and care aimed at helping people with depression, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses has opened at the University of Michigan. It may be the first of its kind in the world.

Rachel Upjohn BuildingLast week, the first patients entered the new $41-million Rachel Upjohn Building on the U-M Health System’s east medical campus, for their appointments with U-M specialists who treat adults and children for everything from depression and bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) to alcoholism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Tomorrow, the U-M Depression Center’s national and scientific advisory boards will meet in the building’s conference center, to plan strategy for the Center’s effort to create a national network of centers focused on depression and bipolar disorder. The Depression Center was founded in 2001 as the first of its kind in the nation, and now makes its home in the Upjohn Building — along with many of the treatment and research personnel of the U-M Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and faculty members from an array of other schools across the university.

Over the coming weeks, many of the U-M’s psychiatry and addiction specialists will move their programs to the building. There, they will be able to cooperate on research like never before, and conduct clinical trials with the help of volunteers from the community. The U-M Addiction Treatment Service will also move to the building, bringing it physically closer to the Depression Center and enabling new studies of the co-occurrence of these problems. Many faculty members will also continue to work in research laboratories in other areas of the main medical campus.

The general public will be able to see the building, and learn about all that will take place within its 112,500 square feet, at a free open house on Sunday, Nov. 12 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. More information is available at

Already, the Rachel Upjohn Building is living up to its original vision of being a place where patients can find hope, researchers can find answers, clinicians can provide improved treatments, and the broader community can learn more about how these common illnesses impact society, says John Greden, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry and executive director of the Depression Center.

Rachel Upjohn Building“The building itself was designed to be full of light and comfort, but even more importantly, to generate new knowledge, new breakthroughs, and even new preventive strategies,” says Greden. “Even in these early days, we can see that happening.”

The Upjohn Building was designed by architects at Albert Kahn Associates and built in exactly two years by a construction team led by Devon Industrial Group. Private donations, funds from the financial reserves of the U-M Health System, and a $4 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Research Resources paid for the building’s construction.

The three-story building has a glass-enclosed entrance lobby, an atrium topped by a massive skylight, and a rear façade made entirely of sheet glass – all designed to bring light into the building throughout the day. The lower level features a 120-seat auditorium and suite of meeting rooms, and opens onto a patio that faces a small forest.

Separate clinical areas for children and adolescents, adults, and substance-abuse patients make up most of the first floor, with 335 offices and outpatient treatment rooms where psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and some primary care clinicians can meet with and treat patients and families. The first-floor also atrium houses a patient and visitor education and resource center funded by the Friends of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers volunteer group. U-M providers will also be able to provide their expertise to patients around the state of Michigan and beyond, using two telemedicine rooms.

The second floor — Depression Center research space — Is devoted entirely to research of depression, bipolar and related illnesses, with laboratories, offices and open areas called “collaboratories” where researches can gather informally to exchange ideas. Soon, a Sleep & Chronophysiology Laboratory will open, with 6 beds for overnight sleep studies. An MRI simulator will be installed, to help patients and research volunteers become accustomed to the experience of being in an MRI before they actually have their scans at University Hospital. Other research features include observation rooms, freezer storage for genetic samples, and computer rooms for scientific data and brain-imaging analysis.

The building is named for Rachel Mary (Upjohn) Meader of Kalamazoo, who with her husband Edwin gave $10 million toward its construction. It’s also named for Mrs. Meader’s grandmother, Rachel Upjohn, who was the first wife of William E. Upjohn, M.D. Dr. Upjohn was a U-M Medical School alumnus in the late 19th century and the inventor of the first pill that dissolved easily in the human body. He co-founded the Upjohn Pharmaceutical company with his brothers.

In addition to the Meaders, notable donors include Phil Jenkins, an Ann Arbor businessman who gave $2 million toward construction and another $2 million toward a Depression Center professorship and research; and Waltraud (Wally) Prechter, who gave $3.5 million to fund the new Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Genetic Repository, a national research effort to determine the genetics of bipolar disorder.

All three major donors to the building’s missions were motivated by their personal experience: Mrs. Meader’s own lifelong struggle with depression and successful treatment; Mr. Jenkins’ late wife Lyn’s battle against the same disease; and Mrs. Prechter’s tragic loss of her husband Heinz to suicide in 2001, driven by his bipolar disorder. 

The building’s opening coincides with several major anniversaries at U-M: the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Psychiatry and the opening of the university’s first psychiatric facility, both of which were among the first of their kind in the nation; the 5th anniversary of the founding of the Depression Center; and the 20th anniversary of Greden’s appointment as chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

It also follows on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, formerly the Mental Health Research Institute, where much of the U-M’s basic laboratory research on the origins of mental illness is performed; and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry division and the opening of its first inpatient facility – the first in the country devoted solely to children.

Facts & Figures: The U-M’s new Rachel Upjohn Building

  • Total square footage: 112,500, including 54,000 square feet devoted to research
  • Total cost: $41 million (more than one-quarter of which came from donors)
  • Ground broken: October 2004
  • Named for: Rachel Mary (Upjohn) Meader, who with her husband Edwin gave $10 million toward its construction; and for Mrs. Meader’s grandmother, Rachel Upjohn, the first wife of William E. Upjohn, M.D., a U-M Medical School alumnus, the inventor of the first pill that dissolved easily in the human body, and co-founder of the Upjohn Pharmaceutical company.
  • Built using 675 tons of steel, 83,000 bricks, 8,500 square feet of glass curtain windows, and 567 doors
  • Designed by: Albert Kahn Associates
  • Construction led by: Devon Industrial Group
  • Location: 4250 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor, at the corner of Plymouth and Earhart on the U-M Health System’s East Medical Campus. Connected to the U-M’s East Ann Arbor Health & Geriatrics Center, and located near the East Ann Arbor Surgery and Medical Procedures Center. Convenient to US-23.
  • Three levels: first floor for clinical care, offices and administration, second floor for research and offices, garden (lower) level for conferences, education and research
  • What’s inside: The offices, clinics and research space of the U-M Depression Center, as well as most of the U-M Department of Psychiatry’s outpatient clinics and clinical research, including the U-M Addiction Treatment Service (formerly Chelsea Arbor Treatment Center) and the U-M Addiction Research Center.
  • Clinical space: 335 offices and outpatient treatment rooms for Depression Center clinics, adult psychiatry, child/adolescent psychiatry, and addiction treatment. Plus two telemedicine rooms where patients who live in remote areas can receive long-distance care
  • Education space: 120-seat auditorium and conference center, and a lending library of resources for patients and families
  • Research space: offices and collaboration space for mental health researchers who study addiction, mental health care, depression, bipolar disorder, brain imaging, sleep and chronophysiology, stress and neuroendocrine responses, placebo responses, and more.
  • Special research features: A sleep-research center where clinical trial volunteers will spend the night while their sleep is monitored; an MRI simulator to help patients and research volunteers become accustomed to the experience of having an MRI scan; and special rooms that will allow researchers to observe parent-child interactions for studies on depression
  • Nature: 1,054 trees native to the site were preserved during construction and 180 new trees were planted. Eventually, nature trails may be created in the forest behind the building.
  • Parking: 440 new parking spaces
  • Other mental health care and research locations at U-M include: the Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, the MBNI laboratories in the Biomedical Science Research Building, the Psychiatry Emergency Service in the U-M Emergency Department, the 15-bed Child & Adolescent Psychiatry inpatient unit in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the 22-bed Adult Psychiatry inpatient unit in University Hospital, and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s inpatient, outpatient and high-intensity hospital-outpatient psychiatry services.

Written by Kara Gavin

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