Donor Profiles

Read about supporters of Women's Health Research at Yale that have helped ensure that we continue to generate new research findings on women’s health and gender differences that can be translated into practical improvements in the well-being of women.

Testamentary Trust Prompts Creation of Legacy Society for Long-Term Support

One of WHRY’s original benefactors, Rosemary Hudson became the founding member of our Legacy Society in 2013, through which her testamentary trust will benefit the center’s long-term financial health.

Women’s Health Research at Yale established a Legacy Society in 2013 to celebrate the Center’s 15th anniversary and allow those who wish to create living trusts, testamentary trusts or other instruments to benefit our Center’s long-term financial health.

“To be mentioned as its founder is a huge honor,” Rosemary said of the initiative, encouraging people to create living trusts and other instruments to provide lasting support of the center’s mission.

A former public school nurse, Rosemary established a health office at what is now Gateway Community College. She is a strong advocate for studies in women’s health, with a particular interest in studies in addictive behavior.

Advancing Women's Health is a Family Tradition

Giving to Yale and advancing women’s health and opportunities for females are family traditions for Susan Lustman Katz, J.D., and Jonathan D. Katz, M.D. 

Although they support a variety of organizations, Women’s Health Research at Yale holds a special place of importance in their giving. 

“For me, this program is not optional; it’s a necessity,” said Susan, a founding member and former chair of our Center’s advisory Council. “There are no programs quite like it. It’s a model. My hope is that eventually there are programs like this in every medical school in the country, and studying women’s health becomes a national priority.” 

Susan is part of a family with a rich history of advancing women. Her mother, Katherine Lustman-Findling, an early child educator at Yale, was the first woman master of a Yale residential college (Davenport), and a guide and mentor to the first undergraduate women at Yale College. Her father, Dr. Seymour L. Lustman, was a renowned Yale psychiatrist who, as Susan put it, “loved strong, smart women” and “believed in women in science.” 

After earning a bachelor’s degree at Sarah Lawrence College and a J.D. at the University of Connecticut Law School, Susan became a lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine, teaching research ethics to doctoral students. She also served as Director of the Human Investigation Committee at the medical school. In addition, Susan is a fellow of Davenport College, and chair of the board of directors of the Seymour L. Lustman Memorial Fund, which supports WHRY among other organizations and causes. 

Her husband, Jon, considers himself a “Johnny come lately” when it comes to the issue of women’s health research. A Yale School of Medicine graduate, class of 1970, and now Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology at the school, he explained his comment this way: “When I entered the medical school in 1966 it was almost entirely a male world; there were only eight women in my medical school class.” Women’s health issues at the time did not extend much beyond obstetrics and gynecology. 

But Jon’s perception changed dramatically, he said, after he heard Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., Director of Women’s Health Research at Yale, speak about the historical lack of data on women’s health and the need for information on gender differences across the full spectrum of health concerns. “It really awakened me to shortcomings within my own specialty I hadn’t previously thought about,” he said. “This program (WHRY) is what is bringing this to light.” 

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of receiving his Yale M.D., Jon dedicated a major portion of his class gift to Women’s Health Research at Yale. It is his hope that WHRY can become one of the standard options that a potential donor can choose for his or her class gift. 

And the family tradition of advancing women’s health and supporting Yale is continuing with a new generation. One of the couple’s daughters, Naomi Katz Tepper, M.D., M.P.H., is a Yale School of Medicine graduate who is a Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist. Naomi is Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Emory University and a Medical Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. At the CDC, she is currently engaged in such work as determining and implementing recommendations and monitoring safety of vaccination against H1N1 influenza among pregnant women and developing the first federal guidelines for contraceptive safety in women with medical conditions.

Mildred L. Cannon Trust Continues 14-Year Support

Focusing on Cancer and Heart Disease Research

Women’s Health Research at Yale is very pleased to announce renewed support from the Mildred L. Cannon Trust, continuing a much cherished 14-year partnership. 

Over the years, generous annual gifts from the Mildred L. Cannon Trust, based in Suffield, Connecticut, have helped WHRY initiate and support studies on breast, ovarian and lung cancer, and the effects of gender on cardiac health and recovery after bypass surgery. 

“Our longstanding partnership with the Mildred L. Cannon Trust has been and remains extremely important to us as we advance women’s health in cardiac care and cancer interventions,” said Dr. Carolyn Mazure, Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, and Director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “We will continue to honor the legacy of Mildred L. Cannon’s commitment to research by generating findings with practical benefits, for example, that women and men can have differing heart attack symptoms, or that treatment-resistant tumors can be targeted and destroyed with specially tailored, ultra-tiny nanoparticles.” 

Kevin McCann, Trustee of the Mildred L. Cannon Trust and member of Women’s Health Research at Yale’s advisory Council, said “The Mildred L. Cannon Trust has continually supported WHRY because its research fills a void on studies of the two health conditions that were most important to Mrs. Cannon.”

The Gift of Life: How a Daughter’s Generosity Allowed a Mother’s Love to Live On

One of Lois Frane’s last wishes embraced life and hope.

Stricken with terminal breast cancer, just weeks before her death at the age of 62, she allowed doctors to draw her blood and bank it so that someone in the future might benefit from the genetic information encoded in the blood cell DNA.

“We have no way of knowing who could be helped by this,” she told her daughter, Ann Baker Pepe.

That was in 1995. When Pepe discovered a lump in her right breast in 2011 that eventually tested as non-cancerous, her doctors suggested she retrieve her mother’s blood to see if it contained the abnormal mutations on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that are associated with breast cancer.

Testing the blood of an affected family member for the mutations allows for the most accurate available assessment of a relative’s cancer risk. Of those with a harmful BRCA1 mutation, 55-65 percent develop breast cancer by age 70 as opposed to 12 percent of those in the general population. Inheriting a harmful BRCA2 mutation leads to breast cancer in 45 percent of women.

But when Pepe contacted the DNA bank for her mother’s sample, the company could not produce it. Pepe started a class action lawsuit with her husband, attorney Greg Pepe, on behalf of anyone in a similar situation. And in January, the company settled without admitting any wrongdoing.

As part of the settlement agreement, the court allowed a payment to a nonprofit organization. Ann Baker Pepe chose Women’s Health Research at Yale, embracing her mother’s attitude toward helping others.

“My mom was always interested in having an impact,” Pepe said. “That always stuck with me. It’s something really special for me to be able to do that.”

Pepe was no stranger to the concept of giving to an organization. She’s the Director of Development at The Foote School, a private K-9 day school in New Haven.

“I always joked that the reason I’m in this line of work is someday I’m going to win the lottery, and I’m going to really know how to give a gift,” Pepe said. “You would love to be on the other side of the table some time. I feel really happy I got that chance.”

Pepe had attended a WHRY workshop in the early days of the Center and followed its work closely. When faced with her unexpected funding opportunity, she didn’t hesitate to choose WHRY as the beneficiary.

“It’s hard for me to believe that until the 1990s all research was basically being done on men,” Pepe said. “No one realized that was a huge flaw in the whole scientific process. Just a jolting concept.”

Pepe praised WHRY Director Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., for seeing what needed to be done and acting with urgency. Not only to fund needed research on women’s health and sex and gender differences, but to share the findings with the community so the people most affected could benefit.

“I tell this story to everybody I talk to,” Pepe said. “I have faith and confidence in the quality of the work. It’s not just going to end up on a shelf somewhere.”

Pepe believes that like The Foote School, Women’s Health Research at Yale represents what’s best about her adopted hometown.

“I love New Haven,” she said. “Women’s Health Research at Yale is just a really good, important part of New Haven. People thinking in creative ways about the health of the community. And really getting the word out.”

Pepe feels confident that her family’s gift, in the name of her mother and stepfather Alan Frane, will offer the next generation new hope for better health.

“I don’t know who, I don’t know exactly how,” Pepe said. “But getting that research done and out there so people can act on it will have an impact on somebody’s life. And maybe many, many lives.”