A special issue of the Journal of Women's Health (JWH) examines the necessity for robust training and support to strengthen the science and research of sex and gender as it relates to cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, immune, mental health conditions, and addiction. In 2018, ORWH published the Specialized Centers of Research Excellence (SCORE) on Sex Differences request and has since funded 11 centers to conduct “synergistic research” to support and train the future generation of scientists.1
The journal's special issue is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Rebecca DelCarmen-Wiggins, who co-led the SCORE on Sex Differences program and devoted her career to researching and promoting women’s health, specifically mental health.
Each SCORE is required to establish a Career Enhancement Core (CEC) to help shape the future of scientists in studying sex and gender differences. Articles in the issue highlight CEC contributions to and strategies for overcoming possible barriers to improving the training and conduct of sex and gender research.
Career development is crucial and there is a strong need to develop a well-trained workforce that is dedicated to the further study of sex as a biological variable (SABV). In 2016, National Institutes of Health (NIH) implemented a policy that requires consideration of SABV in all research studies to promote better research quality and scientific studies of sex and gender differences. Several articles analyze how the implementation of this policy encountered challenges since it took effect, which was highlighted in a study funded by the Emerson University SCORE.2 While overall sentiment toward the study was positive, raising awareness of available core facilities remained a challenge.
SABV research is needed to address knowledge gaps in the health of women through further study around salary support, translational mentorship, education curriculum, pilot project funding, and professional development. One article described the University of South Carolina SCORE Core CEC training program’s success in sharing resources, enhancing mentorship opportunities, and facilitating cross-disciplinary interaction which reduced the burden on training program leaders.3 Several articles also note that career development is crucial for the retention of early career scientists and the upward movement to faculty member and beyond. Various career scientists participated in NIH-funded Mayo Clinic SCORE in Sex Differences CEC and Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) K-12 programs from 2020 to 2022. Another study found that 75% of participants were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the mindful leadership training program.4
ORWH Director Janine A. Clayton, M.D., FARVO, said, "This is a fantastic follow through of changes we made to the SCORE program, including to promote dissemination of SABV and provide pathways for application of its principles to the science and bring along more scientists and trainees on the journey." The special issue demonstrates the important work that SCORE CEC programs are doing to shape the future of women’s health and sex and gender research training.
The articles that appear in the special issue of JWH are available through the publisher’s website.
1 Bennett, W.L., McRae-Clark, A.L., Morrow, M.M.B., (2023). Mechanisms of Career Enhancement at Specialized Centers of Research Excellence (SCORE) on Sex Differences. Journal of Women’s Health. 840-842.
2Maney, D.L., Karkazis, K., Sessions Hagen, K.B., (2023). Considering Sex as a Variable at a Research University: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices. Journal of Women’s Health. 843-851.
3 McRae-Clark, A.L., Brady, K.T., Lee-Chavarria, D., McGinty, J.F., Gray, K.M., Wrangle, J., Chimowitz, M., (2023). Novel Collaborations Across Training Programs to Support Mentoring in Sex Differences Research. Journal of Women’s Health. 865-868.
4 Morrow, M.M.B., Schafer, M.J., Kantarcia, K., Mielke, M.M., Vachon, C.M., Winham, S.J., (2023). Leadership Development in Early Career Scientists: Themes and Feedback from Executive Coaching and Mindful Leadership Training. Journal of Women’s Health. 877-882