Skip to Main Content

Carolyn M. Mazure, PhD, Chair of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research

April 22, 2024
by Isabella Backman and Sara Luciano

In November, President Joe Biden launched the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research. This effort is led by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden in close collaboration with the White House Gender Policy Council. It is chaired by Carolyn M. Mazure, PhD, founder and director of Yale School of Medicine’s Women’s Health Research at Yale. Mazure is the Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor in Women's Health Research and a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale.

Historically, research on women’s health has been chronically underfunded, with often significant consequences for women’s health and health care. The White House Initiative seeks to increase and improve women’s health research and shed light on conditions that are specific to women, disproportionately affect women, or affect women differently.

“I have always believed in the power of research to save lives and to ensure that Americans get the high-quality health care they need,” President Biden said in a White House press release. “That’s why today, we’re establishing a new White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research so that my Administration—from the National Institutes of Health to the Department of Defense—does everything we can to drive innovation in women’s health and close research gaps.”

“Every woman I know has a story about leaving her doctor’s office with more questions than answers,” First Lady Jill Biden added. “Our new White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research will help change that by identifying bold solutions to uncover the answers that every woman and her family deserves.”

For 25 years, Mazure’s nationally recognized center, Women’s Health Research at Yale, has been leading innovative and interdisciplinary research on women’s health and on the influence of sex and gender on health outcomes.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see women’s health research become a recognized field of study that spans all health conditions experienced by women, its exponential growth in published data, innovations in care, and new careers in women’s health research,” says Mazure.

Nevertheless, women remain at higher risk for chronic disease and disability, for acute and chronic pain syndromes, and to die following heart attack. Women are also at higher risk for adverse effects of treatments and for co-occurring conditions. Mazure continues, “There is a tremendous need for science to move forward in supporting research that targets the health of women to improve outcomes.”

The Initiative’s Early Days

The White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research is pioneering the next generation of women’s health discoveries. The first step in the Initiative was to engage agencies across the federal government to generate concrete recommendations within 45 days from the signing of the Presidential Memorandum that will advance women’s health research. They are also deciding on priority areas of focus with these agencies and exploring new public-private partnerships that would spur further research.

“This initiative elevates the importance of women’s health research in the nation, which is really extraordinary,” says Mazure. “We have outstanding opportunities to make the progress that we need.”

Visiting Los Angeles, Chicago & Atlanta

In December, Mazure, the First Lady, and long-time women’s health advocate Maria Shriver, among others, visited Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and toured facilities specializing in cardiovascular disease research. “We cannot answer questions of how to treat women medically if the research doesn’t match up,” said Shriver.

The Initiative’s work continued, with a January visit to the University of Illinois-Chicago campus to hear about research on menopausal symptoms and the way scientists can monitor women’s hot flashes and the effect on their brains. “Every woman will be affected by menopause; yet there’s a stunning lack of information about how to manage and treat its symptoms. UIC is working to change that,” said Dr. Biden who was accompanied by actress and women’s health advocate Halle Berry.

In February, the team visited SteelSky Ventures’ Atlanta headquarters, a venture capital firm that focuses on investing in women’s health and femtech. There, Mazure facilitated a roundtable discussion focused on public-private partnerships.

During her opening remarks, Dr. Biden underscored, “We have a clear goal: to fundamentally change how we approach and fund women’s health research. Together, we will build a future where…health care meets the needs of everyone.”

“It was tremendous to hear from this panel and learn about innovations in research, in collaboration with community and corporate efforts, all centered on improving the health of women. New public-private partnerships can spark the innovation needed to improve the health of all women,” said Mazure.

A Transformational Investment in Women’s Health Research

At the end of February, an unprecedented announcement was made: $100 million in federal funding over the next year was committed to forward women’s health research. This marked the Initiative’s first deliverable and comes from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, within the Department of Health and Human Services. The announcement officially launched ARPA-H’s “Sprint for Women’s Health.”

“Somewhere … may be the idea that will cure cancer, cure heart disease, cure Alzheimer’s. Heart health, brain health, chronic diseases – you might just have the answers if we only dissolve the barriers standing in your way,” said Dr. Biden. “Together, through our White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, we will write new stories about women’s health care. We will accelerate your ideas and change women’s lives. We will build a health care system that puts women and their lived experiences at its center.”

“In just 100 days from the start of the Initiative, it is tremendously meaningful to be able to announce this investment in women’s health research,” said Mazure. “This kind of commitment, spurred by the First Lady and the Presidential Memorandum, will generate research to improve women’s lives.”

Major Action During Women’s History Month

During a Women’s History Month reception at the White House on March 18, President Biden signed an Executive Order “Advancing Women’s Health Research and Innovation,” solidifying women’s health research as a priority for the federal government.

“With the Executive Order I’m about to sign, I’m directing the most comprehensive set of executive actions ever taken to improve women’s health…And I’m going to ensure women’s health is integrated and prioritized across the entire federal government,” said President Biden during the event.

The new Executive Order integrates women’s health across the federal research portfolio, prioritizes investments in women’s health research, galvanizes new research on women’s midlife health, and directs the federal government to assess unmet needs in relation to women’s health.

Federal agencies also announced new actions they are taking as members of the initiative in five key areas. These areas include prioritizing and increasing investments in women’s health research; fostering innovation and discovery in women’s health; expanding and leveraging data collection and analysis related to women’s health; strengthening coordination, infrastructure, and training to support women’s health research; and improving women’s health across the lifespan.

“For too long women’s health research has been underfunded and understudied,” said Mazure. “We have made great progress in the last two decades, yet we still need to know much more about how to effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat a wide array of health conditions in women.”

“Today, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s write a new future for ourselves, and for the girls and women who will follow. A future where women leave doctors’ offices with more answers than questions,” said Dr. Biden.

Submitted by Sara Luciano on April 16, 2024