Not long after Dhikshitha Balaji began her fellowship with Women’s Health Research at Yale in the fall, she kept asking herself the same question over and over again.
“Why didn’t I know this?”
She asked this when she learned it was only in 1994 that the federal government implemented a requirement that researchers seeking grants with the National Institutes of Health — the single largest funder of biomedical research in the world — include women in clinical trials.
She asked this when she learned it was only in 2016 that NIH studies required the use of female tissues and cells.
And she asked this question when she learned that even when studies include women in adequate numbers, the results are not often analyzed by sex or gender, leaving any potential differences and their impact on health outcomes unknown.
“It was hard to believe this took so long and that the historic gap continues to influence women’s health,” Balaji said. “I quickly realized I wasn’t alone in what I didn’t know.”
Now, she hopes to do something about it.
This winter, Balaji launched “Why Didn’t I Know This?” — WHRY’s first blog, hosted on the social publishing platform Medium. Every week, she will share her thoughts on women’s health and sex and gender differences. She will write about the history behind the current gap in knowledge and how that gap is narrowing thanks to the latest research at WHRY and elsewhere.
Balaji, a senior in Pauli Murray College majoring in English Language and Literature, wants to pursue a career as a doctor and a writer. She hopes to help shepherd the blog after graduation and has plotted out blog posts covering the importance of including females in research, why women historically were left out of medical research, the definitions of sex and gender, spotlights on WHRY’s other fellows, possibilities for the future of research, and more.
“I’m so excited to have this opportunity to reach out beyond Yale and share all of the important work we do here,” Balaji said. “We definitely will not run out of subjects to discuss.”
Her goal is simple: help more people understand the importance of including all types of people in health research while sharing her curiosity and her experiences so that more people are better informed and able to make better decisions about their health.
“I want to go to medical school and treat diseases and promote health,” Balaji said. “But I also believe in the power of knowledge, and I want to communicate new health information to people so that they can use it to help themselves and the people they love.”
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