Third annual Prechter Lecture delves into risk factors and preventive measures for suicidal behavior in those with bipolar disorder

The July 10 lecture features bipolar expert Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., as speaker at the U-M Depression Center

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Minimizing suicide risks for any of the 5.7 million Americans with bipolar disorder can pose a serious challenge. As part of the third annual Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund Lecture at the University of Michigan Depression Center, risks and prevention measures will be discussed by Maria A. Oquendo, M.D. a national expert on suicidal behaviors in bipolar patients.

The lecture is free and open to the public, and will take place at 12 p.m., Friday, July 10 at the University of Michigan Depression Center.

Oquendo is a professor of Clinical Psychiatry, vice chair for education, residency training director, and director of clinical studies in molecular imaging and neuropathology at the NYS Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University.

Her areas of expertise include suicidal behavior and the diagnosis, pharmacologic treatment, and neurobiology of Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression, as well as Cross Cultural Psychiatry. 

Oquendo graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Tufts University in 1980. She received her M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1984. She completed her residency in Psychiatry at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

Oquendo is the principal investigator on a NIMH funded prospective study of suicidal behavior in patients with affective disorders. She is the Co-Principal Investigator on a NIAAA funded Developing Center for Interventions to Prevent Suicide. She is also a co-investigator on four other NIMH-funded research studies examining the neurobiology of suicidal behavior. She is the recipient of a grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for the study of serotonin transporter binding using PET in bipolar suicide attempters, non attempters and healthy volunteers and of an NIMH grant to study high-risk suicide attempters with Bipolar Disorder.

This year’s lecture is one of several initiatives created by Heinz Prechter’s wife, Waltraud “Wally” Prechter after his death.

Another is the world’s largest private Bipolar genetics repository, housed at the U-M Depression Center, which contains DNA samples from people with Bipolar disorder, and from people without the disease who act as comparison subjects. Launched at U-M in 2005, the repository is a collaboration of U-M scientists and colleagues from Stanford, Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University.

The lecture series is named for automotive pioneer Heinz C. Prechter, whose life was cut short by Bipolar disorder in 2001.

The series is sponsored by Comerica Inc., Chrysler Corp., Dearborn Sausage Company, the General Motors Foundation, Neiman-Marcus, Scott Snow Financial Services and Ernst & Young.

For more information on the Prechter Fund and Genetic Repository, or to donate to support the research project, visit To learn more about the need for volunteers for the genetics project, call toll-free, 1-877-UM-GENES.