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Mazure chairs new White House initiative

Yale Medicine Magazine, Spring 2024 (Issue 172) Women's Health Special Report
by Isabella Backman


LAST FALL, PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN ANNOUNCED the first-ever White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research. Carolyn M. Mazure, PhD, founder and director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Women’s Health Research at Yale, was named chair of the initiative.

Led by first lady Jill Biden and the White House’s Gender Policy Council, the initiative draws on Mazure’s decades-long work in the field of women’s health to advance research into health issues that are unique to women, affect women disproportionately, or manifest differently in women than in men.

Looking back, biomedical research grew exponentially in the last half of the 20th century. Researchers, however, largely excluded women from clinical trials, believing that their hormonal fluctuations would complicate studies of the outcomes of clinical interventions. Instead, researchers assumed that the data generated from men could also be applied to women.

“There was a paradox embedded in this way of thinking,” says Mazure, who is the Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor in Women’s Health Research and professor of psychiatry and of psychology at YSM. “If women are ruled out because we’re different from men, how could we apply the findings of men to help women?”

In 1986, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established a guideline recommending that women be included in clinical trials. But in 1990, an investigation found little evidence that women were being included in research despite the new recommendation. As a result, a provision was placed in the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 and signed by President Bill Clinton that required—not recommended—that women be included in clinical research. By 2000, the number of published articles in the scientific literature that included women, as well as men, began to increase.

Women’s health research today is still a young field, but substantial progress has been made. “Sometimes, I hear people saying, ‘We don’t know anything about women’s health.’ But that’s not true at all,” says Mazure. “For too long,the knowledge base was so low that sometimes we didn’t recognize the gains being made.”

Even though there is still a long way to go in advancing the health of women, the increased recognition of the importance of women’s health will spur more research.

In February, the initiative announced its first major accomplishment—securing $100 million in federal funding to support scientists engaged in breakthrough women’s health research. “The fact that this has been elevated to a national level by the president and first lady of the United States is an extraordinary event,” says Mazure. “I’m both privileged and honored to be a part of it.”

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