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Psychiatry Newsletter - From Donor to Catalyst: Gruss Knows How to Help

Hopkins Brain Wise Summer 2009

From Donor to Catalyst: Gruss Knows How to Help

By: Marjorie Centofanti
Date: July 30, 2009


Audrey Gruss didn’t begin to make her mark on depression until she lost Hope.

An international philanthropist, she and husband Martin have for years underwritten anything, really, that lifts the human spirit: supporting theater, music, art, offering scholarships, improving hospitals, preserving architecture. But it was the death of her mother, Hope, that galvanized Gruss’s giving in a new way.

“Trauma early in my mother’s life must have brought out her depression,” says Gruss. Hope Butvydas, a sensitive, artistic woman, fled from post-war Communist Lithuania to America with two young children in tow. She fell ill. And for some 40 years, she was periodically hospitalized with a depressive illness that seared the meaning of suffering in her daughter’s mind.

Gruss studied biology at Tufts University. A cum laude graduate, she worked for the research arm of Revlon, then, after studies in economics, began a 25-year career in marketing and advertising. She headed creative services worldwide for Elizabeth Arden and had her own successful international firm offering science-based skin care products. Her marriage flourished; her philanthropy grew.

But in 2005, when her mother died of medical causes, giving became more personal as a bereft Gruss searched for a memorial. And at one of those peak moments where interest, curiosity and experience overlap—as though Gruss had been in lifelong training for it—the way became clear. In 2006, after consulting some of the nation’s best minds on mood and emotional disorders, she founded the Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF), an organization that underwrites targeted, gutsy studies with high potential to advance diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these mind-brain disorders.

By giving serious support to top international scientists—those whose work shows how neurobiology drives the psyche—the HDRF joins Hopkins in looking for both cure and prevention.

Irving Reti’s HDRF grant enables him to help patients as it advances understanding (see story, left). With his supported work, Hopkins has become one of a handful of sites testing the next generation of TMS devices. HDRF is specifically funding a pilot study using TMS for adolescents—currently the only trial that focuses on this vulnerable group most in need of an alternative to antidepressants.

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