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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 09/20/05
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Awarded $2.5 Million for Women's Health Research

The UC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has received a $2.5 million grant to foster women’s health research, with an emphasis on mentored, interdisciplinary collaboration.

The five-year grant, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), will allow UC to establish a program called Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH).

The program will identify and train junior faculty members to develop research techniques and skills so they can become independent investigators and mentors.

The grant will make it easier for physicians to pursue research in women’s health, says BIRCWH program director Ken Clark, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC. 

“One of the challenges of doing research in women’s health,” said Dr. Clark, “is that young physicians entering private practice have to spend so much time simply earning a living. And if they stay in academics, they either have to struggle to find funding for research or become clinicians who generate money by seeing patients.”

Thanks to the BIRCWH program, however, scholars’ salaries will be covered, so they can spend most of their time in the lab learning women’s health research skills, Dr. Clark said.

Scholars will be paired with 24 mentors at UC and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in a variety research areas, including cardiovascular science, environmental health, molecular genetics, pathology and laboratory medicine, neonatology, endocrinology, and pulmonary and developmental biology.

Spending time in the lab is important, said Dr. Clark, because progress has been lacking in women’s health research.

“Currently we don’t understand the underlying mechanisms of diseases like preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure in pregnancy), and this is why we need additional clinician scientists and basic scientists to be trained to help study these diseases,” he said.

“The BIRCWH grant is a wonderful award for the University of Cincinnati,” said Sandra Degen, PhD, UC’s acting vice president for research, “since it recognizes our research programs in women’s health and our ability to train young faculty to perform research in these areas.

“Our senior faculty will be mentors in this program to train junior faculty to become outstanding basic and clinical researchers. The award is very competitive at the national level, since only 11 grants are awarded. It’s a great achievement for UC to become part of this select group.”

Two basic scientists and two clinicians can participate in the BIRCWH program each year. Scholars will be recruited internally and externally to secure strong participants.

After three or four years, said Dr. Clark, the BIRCWH scholars will have developed their skills and expertise and will be able to secure their own research funds, allowing new candidates to enter the program.

The BIRCWH funding is the second major women’s health training grant received by UC’s obstetrics and gynecology department recently. The first, for women’s reproductive health research, was awarded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in 1999 for five years, and then refunded for an additional five years in 2004.

Leslie Myatt, PhD, interim director of UC’s obstetrics and gynecology department, is program director and principal investigator for the women’s reproductive health grant and will also lead the BIRCWH program.

Since the BIRCWH program began in 2000, 24 centers have been established. Institutions receiving BIRCWH grants this year, in addition to UC, include Harvard University, the University of California at Davis, Los Angeles and San Francisco, University of Kansas, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, University of Texas Medical Branch and Washington University.


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