Public Release: 

University of Pittsburgh focuses on building careers in women's health

NIH provides $2.2 million grant to foster development of research and training programs

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 14 - The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Magee-Womens Research Institute are among a dozen institutions nationwide to share in an innovative effort to foster the expansion of women's health research and training through the National Institutes of Health's Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program. The Pittsburgh team is receiving a total of $2.2 million in government support spread over five years.

"This grant will help to formalize relationships among women's health investigators throughout the University of Pittsburgh, who are coming together for this opportunity to train future researchers in women's health," said James M. Roberts, M.D., director of the Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and professor and vice chair of research in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Mentors and leadership for this initiative come from four schools and eight departments within the university."

Dr. Roberts is principal investigator for the effort. He will work alongside Melissa McNeil, M.D., who is women's health program director for the University of Pittsburgh Physicians and professor of medicine at the university's School of Medicine. Dr. McNeil will serve as program director for the grant project. The money will be used to provide career development for junior faculty planning careers in fundamental, clinical, epidemiological or health services avenues of women's health research. The program touches many areas of women's health throughout the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Health System by incorporating four themes, which span women's health for all ages. These themes are:

· "Gender Specific Developmental Medicine: From Gametogenesis to Birth" recognizes that gender specific differences in health predate even conception, beginning with the female gamete, or egg. The formation of these cells is strikingly different from that of males, beginning in the womb and ending at menopause. Gerald Schatten, Ph.D., director of the Pittsburgh Development Center, leads this team of mentors to spearhead research that includes work on assisted reproductive technologies, the cell biology of fertilization and intense study of stem cells.

· "Research in Female Reproductive Health: Prevention of Adverse Reproductive Outcomes" focuses on issues related to female reproductive health including preterm birth, sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, abnormal pregnancy and pelvic floor dysfunction. Richard Sweet, M.D., the Lawrence Milton McCall Professor and chairman of the university's department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, is team leader.

· "Women's Behavioral Health" recognizes that mind and body are inextricably linked in women's health. Areas of research, led by Harold Pincus, M.D., professor and executive vice chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, range across a variety of behavioral health issues, including depression, substance abuse and domestic violence.

· "Gender Specific Issues of Aging and Chronic Diseases" takes its mandate from the fact that the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population is women over the age of 65. Susan Greenspan, M.D., director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center and professor of medicine at the university's School of Medicine, leads this team in the investigation of chronic diseases in elderly women, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, diabetes and urinary incontinence.

The BIRCWH program, which initially began in the fall of 2000, seeks to increase the number of researchers working on women's health issues by pairing junior researchers with senior investigators to work in mentored, interdisciplinary scientific settings. The Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) at NIH leads the BIRCWH initiative, which is administered by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

"The BIRCWH program offers tremendous opportunities to advance women's health research and to allow those at the beginning of their careers to gain valuable research experience and career mentoring by working with more experienced scientists in a variety of areas - basic, clinical, behavioral, health services and public health research - while approaching a scientific question from different perspectives," said ORWH director Vivian Pinn, M.D.

The BIRCWH program's ultimate goal is to promote the transfer of research findings to clinical care that will benefit women's health.


Additional Contact Information:
Michele D. Baum
Kathryn Duda
PHONE: (412) 647-3555
FAX: (412) 624-3184

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