Skip Over Navigation Links

Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH)

Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH)

FY 2010-FY 2014 Program Abstracts

The Office of Research on Women’s Health, together with 7 NIH Institutes, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, supported 13 new and continuing BIRCWH programs. Nine of these programs were competitively renewed and 4 were new centers providing for a total of 29 active awards during FY 2009-2010. The BIRCWH 2010 programs will receive funding through FY 2014. Detailed BIRCWH 2010 program descriptions are provided by state. For additional information, contact the principal investigator or visit the individual BIRCWH program Web site.


University of California, Davis
Principal Investigator: Claire Pomeroy, M.D., M.B.A.

Over the past 4 years, the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) BIRCWH program has trained a cadre of diverse interdisciplinary researchers in women’s health and raised the stature of women’s health research at our university. We now are building on this strong foundation to create a next-generation BIRCWH program that will further increase the innovation and impact of this initiative. The goal of the UC Davis BIRCWH program is to create an academically stimulating and nurturing environment for women’s health researchers that facilitates career development and encourages paradigm-shifting interdisciplinary collaboration and research approaches. We are building on the best practices of our well-received curriculum, which combines: (1) mentored research and career development support, (2) core didactic courses, (3) supplemental didactic training tailored to the individual scholar’s needs, and (4) special interdisciplinary BIRCWH experiences. The innovative aspects of our BIRCWH program include journal clubs and work-in-progress meetings that are integrated with other training programs, monthly breakfast meetings with the VC/Dean for BIRCWH mentors, and scholars to review progress, and a biannual symposium of Northern California BIRCWH programs. New advances in this renewal include our proposed BIRCWH Mentoring Academy to optimize the mentoring experience for both mentors and scholars, and expansion of our faculty mentors to additional campus disciplines. Scholars are supported in developing a unique research experience using our matrix approach to women’s health research, with four research focus areas: neurosciences/behavioral; musculoskeletal/aging; nutrition and metabolic/ inflammatory syndromes; and cancer. These focus areas intersect cross-cutting themes: lifespan continuum; sex/gender determinants; health disparities/differences and diversity and interdisciplinary research, and embrace prevention and treatment and the biological and behavioral bases of sex and gender differences. Our scholars and mentors are defining transformative interdisciplinary approaches to women’s health research, allowing new insights into the lifelong continuum of sex and gender determinants of illness and wellness, and reduction of health disparities. For more information, visit the UC DAVIS BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy

University of California, San Francisco
Principal Investigator: Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, Pharm.D.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) BIRCWH program is multidisciplinary, including scholars and faculty mentors from each of the UCSF schools and Kaiser DOR. It emphasizes novel interdisciplinary approaches to a wide range of women’s health issues. The program is continuing its strong initiatives in women’s cancer, bone disease, and menopause. New foci draw upon the unique strengths of UCSF and Kaiser DOR and include occupational and environmental health; addiction, violence and traumatic stress; aging and dementia; autoimmunity; metabolism and obesity; maternal health and child outcomes; and muscular and skeletal health. A multidisciplinary advisory committee oversees the program in partnership with leadership, and selects new BIRCWH scholars. The program emphasizes multidisciplinary mentoring teams that cross disciplines and research methodologies. The diversity of scholars, in terms of fields of interest, background, training, ethnicity and gender is a priority. A special emphasis for this renewal is placed on the cultural and ethnic diversity of scholars and affiliated faculty. BIRCWH scholars participate in program-specific seminars, assessments of progress and mentoring activities. In addition, the program integrates in UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute career development and training programs. This renewal features a new emphasis on leadership development that will assess the academic progress of BIRCWH alumni and facilitate leadership training for those who qualify. For more information, visit the UCSF BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


Yale University
Principal Investigator: Carolyn Mazure, Ph.D.

Addictive behaviors are linked to nearly half of all causes of mortality and disorders involving these behaviors represent the top three causes of preventable disease in the United States. Addictive behaviors in women (particularly involving tobacco, alcohol, overeating, and illicit drugs) currently rank among our most prevalent public health concerns. Emerging data suggest that sex and gender differences in these addictive behaviors and their biological substrates have important implications for the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies. Our innovative research career development program trains junior faculty scholars to respond to the need for interdisciplinary research on women’s health and addictive behaviors. A team of 25 mentors with multiple ongoing interdisciplinary projects focused on addictive behaviors using basic, translational, and clinical research approaches has been assembled. Our leadership team and advisory committee directs a program that emphasizes four core career development components individualized to meet the needs of each BIRCWH scholar. These components include: (1) interdisciplinary research mentoring on study planning, implementation, completion, and dissemination of results; (2) coordinated professional coaching focused on the preparation of grant applications, manuscript writing, and faculty career planning; (3) structured experiences in interdisciplinary team science, and its development and evaluation; and (4) a didactic curriculum on women’s health, addictive behaviors, and academic mentoring. Our long-term goal is to generate independent investigators with the skills necessary to sustain academic productivity, grant support, collaborations across disciplines, and effective mentoring of their own future trainees. Annual medical, social, and productivity costs of addictive behaviors linked to tobacco, alcohol, overeating, and illicit drugs in the United States alone exceed $600 billion. Sex and gender differences in the etiology, course, and prognosis of these addictive behaviors have clear implications for prevention and treatment. Our innovative research career development program will train junior faculty scholars in interdisciplinary research designed to make enduring contributions to the field of women’s health and addictive behaviors. For more information, visit the Yale University BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


University of Kansas Medical Center
Principal Investigator: Patricia Thomas, M.D.

Scientists at the University of Kansas pursue women’s health research in the schools of Allied Health, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Engineering. This research base in women’s health ignited the interest of our leadership and resulted in the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) BIRCWH Faculty Development Program (2005–2010) to formally establish and strengthen the women’s health research enterprise at the University of Kansas. All four schools and others on the main campus are partners in this renewal. The KUMC Schools of Allied Health and Nursing are strong partners with Medicine and Pharmacy, ranking 12th and 31st, respectively, in the Nation for NIH funding. Mentors are in five thematic areas related to women’s health: (1) women’s reproductive health; (2) maternal health; (3) pathogenesis of diseases prevalent in women; (4) drug design, drug delivery, and pharmacogenomics; and (5) prevention, intervention, and health disparities. The BIRCWH program has fostered new women’s health research collaborations among established faculty and heightened awareness of the need for women’s health research at our institution. For more information, visit the KUMC BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy

New York

University of Rochester Medical Center
Principal Investigator: Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D.

Concerns about the potential impact of environmental chemicals on human and environmental health have increased greatly in the past 10 years. Environmental chemicals can differentially affect females because of the chemicals’ effects on hormonal pathways, particularly at critical periods across the lifespan. Particularly vulnerable life stages include fetal development and older age, for example, midlife and into later life, major, and during stages of rapid cell proliferation and growth, such puberty and lactation, for example, in addition to fetal development). The Women’s Health and Environment across the Entire Lifespan (WHEEL) program at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has as its focus interdisciplinary research specific to women’s health, the environment, and health issues specific to life stages. WHEEL will build on graduate training programs already in place at URMC and complement these programs with educational training and research experiences designed to meet the needs of scholars within the program. This program will train interdisciplinary women’s health research scholars from a spectrum of disciplines and ultimately promote research and translation of findings that will benefit women’s health, particularly in the area of women’s environmental health across the lifespan. Our long-term objectives are to (1) “graduate” scholars who go on to successful careers in interdisciplinary research in women’s environmental health; (2) establish a successful and sustainable training program in women’s health research; (3) create an environment at URMC conducive to interdisciplinary research in women’s health; (4) develop researchers who provide positive feedback to the research environment and the fields of women’s health research; and (5) build in continuing mechanisms to effectively translate results of women’s health research to health professionals and the broader community. Results of this research will provide a strong foundation for risk assessment and regulation, when appropriate, thus decreasing risks to public health. For more information, visit the URMC BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Principal Investigator: Jill Goldstein, Ph.D.

Women and men are at different risks for the onset, expression, and treatment response in a number of disorders that occur at different stages of development and throughout aging. The mechanisms that explain these sex differences or disorders specific to women are still unclear. The mission of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)/Harvard University BIRCWH is to develop the next generation of scientist-clinicians as leaders in the field of women’s health who will contribute to understanding sex-specific vulnerabilities to clinical disorders and those disorders specific to women. This integrated interdisciplinary training program is based on a translational approach to understanding differential incidences of specific disorders important for women’s health. The program is modeled in the context of a lifespan perspective to identify etiologic mechanisms during fetal development, puberty, adulthood, and aging, with some focus on female-specific periods such as child-bearing years and menopause. Further, an underlying assumption of our BIRCWH program is that an understanding of the role of hormones and genes will provide the basis for understanding sex-specific vulnerabilities to clinical disorders. The Connors Center for Women’s Health & Gender Biology at BWH is and will continue to be the home site for this endeavor, in the broader context of a Harvard-wide training program. Each scholar is assigned a team of mentors in order to operationalize the concept of training scholars to think in a translational manner. The BWH/Harvard BIRCWH program focuses on the following disorders, given either the known higher incidence in women than in men and/or differential expression in women, or the strengths of the Harvard community in women’s health: cardiovascular disorders; reproductive endocrine and neuroendocrine disorders; neuropsychiatric disorders; autoimmune disorders; and female cancers (e.g., breast, ovarian, and uterine). Their research programs will provide scholars with the basis for the development of sex-specific treatment approaches and public awareness as to the importance of these sex-specific health issues for families and society. For more information, visit the BWH/Harvard BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


Michigan State University
Principal Investigator: Mary Nettleman, M.D., M.P.H.

The goal of the BIRCWH program at Michigan State University (MSU) is to increase the number and diversity of researchers in women’s health by providing an inspiring and supportive environment for accomplishment and advancement. The University and the College of Human Medicine (lead college) have pledged matching funds to allow recruitment of additional scholars and to encourage participation by physician-scientists. The MSU BIRCWH program is founded on key strengths of the institution, including the Center for Breast Health and the Environment and the Center for Women’s Health and Reproduction, both of which will provide mentoring and a supportive environment for scholars. BIRCWH mentors are internationally recognized senior researchers, who are experienced and skilled mentors. The mentors have been chosen to reflect the overarching theme of health across the lifespan and the dimensions that influence health: biology, environment, and behavior. The MSU Office of Inclusion has agreed to partner directly with the administrative team to ensure that the program is attractive to women and minority researchers. Each scholar will work with a primary research mentor and a secondary mentor. Each of the mentors has a defined role to ensure an organized, interdisciplinary research experience. The mentored research training and the curriculum are designed to give scholars the skills to compete for external grant funding. The MSU BIRCWH program will support scholars at a time in their careers when they are at highest risk to leave research. For more information, visit the MSU BIRCWH Web site. page.html External Web Site Policy

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Principal Investigator: Timothy Johnson, M.D.

The goal of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, BIRCWH is to develop new junior faculty scholars through a mentored scholarly research experience leading to independent scientific careers addressing interdisciplinary women’s health concerns. The University of Michigan has a broad interest and significant expertise in women’s health exemplified by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG). We propose to train a total of four scholars with a minimum of two clinician scientists and one or two nonclinical postdoctoral scientists per year for a minimum of 2 years each. Recruitment and selection will focus on identifying scholars with superior academic potential and scientific skills with special attention to achieving a diversity of scholars and scholarship. Each scholar will have an assigned research mentor: an established, independent investigator with a proven track record who has been selected for his/her commitment and support of junior colleagues in their development to independence. We will target scholars’ four areas of special interest: (1) pelvic floor/urogynecology research; (2) health services research; (3) reproductive science and women’s medicine; and (4) biobehavioral and aging research. An individualized career development plan will be developed with each scholar and their primary research mentor along with a departmental/disciplinary mentor, and a third senior interdisciplinary mentor. All scholars participate in the monthly “First Tuesday Women’s Health” interdisciplinary research seminar series at the IRWG. Access to faculty career development programs, advanced courses in biomedical research, biostatistics, epidemiology, and research methodology assistance will be available as appropriate for individual scholar needs. For more information, visit the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


The Mayo Clinic
Principal Investigator: Rebecca Bahn, M.D.

Embedded in the design of the Mayo Clinic Interdisciplinary Women’s Health Research (IWHR) Program are each of the overarching themes of the BIRCWH program, including interdisciplinary research in women’s health; genetic, hormonal, and environmental determinants of sex/gender differences; and health conditions disproportionately affecting women across their lifespan. A special strength of the Mayo Clinic is the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of our clinical, educational, and research activities that form the core of our patient-centered institution. Thus, the theme of our IWHR program is interdisciplinary research. This theme is exemplified by the diversity of research topics and mentors, many of whom have established collaborations with other IWHR faculty and across disciplines and departments. The scope of our program includes research training in basic and clinical sciences centered on the prevention and treatment of conditions or diseases (1) unique to women; (2) disproportionately impacting women; or (3) expressed differently in women compared with men. Within this scope lie our specific areas of research focus: autoimmunity, cardiovascular diseases, endocrine/metabolic, gastrointestinal, neuro/musculoskeletal, reproductive/gynecologic disorders, and pain management/quality of life/outcomes. Members of the IWHR program faculty were selected for their existing collaborative research programs both within and outside of Mayo, the excellence and significance of their programs to advancing women’s health, and their interest and success record as a mentor/educator in interdisciplinary research. For more information, visit the IWHR/Mayo Clinic BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


Washington University in St. Louis
Principal Investigator: Clay Semenkovich, M.D.

The mechanisms underlying the unique course of several diseases affecting women remain unclear in part because of longstanding impediments to research efforts involving different disciplines. The long-term objective of the BIRCWH program at Washington University is to produce independent investigators conducting interdisciplinary research in women’s health. The program has a single specific aim: to identify outstanding young scientists committed to women’s health who have completed fellowship training, match them with mentors working in an environment that promotes interdisciplinary research, and provide them with career development experiences leading to their career independence. We are working to extend the foundation of success by refining the didactic portion of the experience to make it more relevant for scholars by coordinating the coursework with coursework offered by the NIH Institutional Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) at Washington University; reshaping our mentor pool to enhance the interdisciplinary character of the program; integrating the program with the newly created Center for Women’s Infection Disease Research at Washington University; and adding a peer-to-peer mentoring component. Our program has the potential to help fulfill the mission of NIH and ORWH by continuing to train outstanding scholars and serving as a setting for paradigm-shifting research in women’s health.

By bridging fellowship training and independent faculty status, the BIRCWH program has the potential to significantly impact women’s health by increasing the number of outstanding scientists utilizing novel and cooperative approaches to address problems that include depression, osteoporosis, lupus, type 2 diabetes, urinary tract infections, heart attacks, certain cancers, and infertility. For more information, visit the Washington University, St. Louis, BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy

North Carolina

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Principal Investigator: Eugene Orringer, M.D.

This program seeks to identify, train, and mentor exceptional junior faculty members with the potential to conduct innovative women’s health research. The goals of our BIRWCH program are to: (1) facilitate the mentored career development of junior investigators pursing research of women’s health or sex/gender factors; (2) promote interdisciplinary team science that will enhance all types of women’s health research; and (3) facilitate the translation of these research findings to improve community health. All scholars participate in selected didactic programs including: the BIRCWH/KL2 Seminar; the BIRCWH Women’s Health Seminar; and training in the responsible conduct of research. Other components of the curriculum are tailored to the background and training of the individual Scholar, each of whom also takes part in our Women’s Health Research Day and the national BIRCWH meeting. Finally, each scholar has an intensive research experience with mentors drawn from multiple disciplines. Our program focuses on eight research themes: (1) cancers affecting women; (2) nutrition, obesity, and eating disorders; (3) bone and joint health; (4) cardiovascular disease/vascular biology; (5) HIV/sexually transmitted diseases; (6) alcohol and substance abuse; (7) mental health; and (8) pain. These themes were selected because they are all highly relevant to women’s health, well suited to interdisciplinary collaboration, and major strengths and areas of research emphasis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). In addition, each has theme has numerous, nationally recognized mentors who are willing and available to work with selected BIRCWH scholars. The goal of the UNC-CH BIRCWH program is to create a training program that will prepare promising junior investigators to conduct innovative research in women’s health. Through their mentored, interdisciplinary training, these scholars will be ideally positioned to make important new observations and then translate them into advancements that will improve the health of women throughout the community. For more information, visit the UNC-CH BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


University of Cincinnati
Principal Investigator: Joel Tsevat, M.D., M.P.H.

The mission of this program is to identify and train junior faculty members within the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). The two institutions are in close proximity and share faculty, with all CCHMC faculty having appointments at UC. The two institutions also share a common NIH Institutional Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), funded in April 2009. The academic home for the CTSA is the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training (CCTST). Our first BIRCWH award was based in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, but we trained scholars from many departments, including internal medicine, psychiatry, surgery, cell biology, and pediatrics. Thus, for the renewal, we are housing the BIRCWH K12 program in the CCTST, through which BIRCWH K12 scholars have access to administrative support and a vast array of research resources, including study design, database management, data analysis, pilot funding, research education, and regulatory support. The CCTST also runs the CTSA KL2 Research Scholars program and has a very successful K23 preparation process. We have assembled mentors with mentoring experience in women’s health and have time to dedicate to mentoring. We plan to institute a mentor-in-training program for midcareer faculty who are beginning to mentor others. Nationally, there is a major unmet need for training clinical and basic science trainees and faculty to conduct research in women’s health. Through mentored research and coursework, the Cincinnati BIRCWH K12 program will continue to train leaders in women’s health research. For more information, visit the UC/CCHMC, BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy


University of Texas Medical Branch
Principal Investigator: Abbey Berenson, M.D.

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UT MB) program includes 17 experienced senior investigators as mentors from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions, and Biomedical Sciences. Research focus areas reflect the strong interdisciplinary infrastructure at UTMB and include: health disparities, adolescent health, infectious disease, reproduction, and aging, especially as related to the health needs of underserved women. The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health provides forums for interdisciplinary endeavors and administers the program. Multiple formal and informal venues provide ample opportunities for developing skills and collaborative interdisciplinary networks. Scholars may also obtain an M.S. or Ph.D. in clinical science. The UTMB BIRCWH program recruits, trains, and retains early career investigators from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds in a variety of disciplines related to women’s health. The program provides interdisciplinary mentored research experiences to promote the BIRCWH scholars’ involvement in investigations aimed at improving health care and health of women across the lifespan. For more information, visit the UTMB BIRCWH Web site. External Web Site Policy

Additional Information

For more information about ORWH Interdisciplinary Initiatives, contact Joan D. Nagel, M.D., M.P.H., Program Director, Interdisciplinary Research Programs; Director, BIRCWH Program; Coordinator, SCOR;

This page last reviewed on December 31, 2013

Social Media Links