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WHRY Sparks Action in an International Effort to Improve the Health of Women

March 17, 2020

Twenty-two years ago, Women’s Health Research at Yale began to lead national efforts to transform medical research and practice. The goal: incorporate the health needs of women and investigate sex-and-gender differences for the benefit of all.

Since then, these efforts have snowballed, gathering enthusiastic supporters and gaining momentum. Now, WHRY continues to move forward, working across the country and abroad to make lives better through better science.

“The more people I meet to discuss this issue, the more it becomes real for them,” said WHRY Director Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D. “These interactions spark their interest and produce new ideas, and people start to take action.”

Influencing behavior and building a network of collaborators starts locally. For example, Dr. Mazure collaborated last year with the American Heart Association in Connecticut to champion the importance of grassroots efforts in accelerating the change of medical research and practice at an exciting, inspiring “Go Red for Women” event at the New Haven Lawn Club. This evening drew much-needed attention to the different ways in which women can experience a heart attack compared with men as part of a national campaign to help end heart disease and stroke in women.

In addition, Dr. Mazure has expanded her efforts to confront the opioid crisis, collaborating with Dr. Jill Becker, Chair of the Biopsychology Area of the University of Michigan Psychology Department, to publish a commentary calling on a federal task force to better account for sex and gender differences in coordinated responses to the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Mazure followed this effort with an appearance on NPR’s “Morning Edition” radio program about the differences between how women and men experience pain and addiction and how these differences can have serious consequences for the health of women. She also collaborated with WTNH News 8 in New Haven on a story about the unmet needs of women suffering from opioid addiction and with Time magazine on a story about sex differences in the brain.

Last September, Dr. Mazure flew to France to discuss the state of women’s health research with current and potential collaborators at The University of Bordeaux and Sorbonne University, where two of her former mentees, Dr. Mathilde Husky (at The University of Bordeaux) and Dr. Joel Swendsen (at both universities) now teach and conduct research as full professors.

“The French motto, translated as 'liberty, equality, fraternity,' dates back to the French Revolution,” Mazure said. “I found myself discussing this in the context of biomedical science, how investigating and discovering sex-and-gender differences does not detract from equality. Because biological differences are not fundamentally better or worse. This work is not about making value judgments but uncovering aspects of health, disease, and treatment that can help people live better lives.”

In November, Dr. Mazure was invited to give the keynote address at the University of Colorado Medical School’s Women’s Health Research Day. And this year, she has been invited to speak at Yale’s pulmonary Grand Rounds on sex and gender differences, at New Haven’s North End Club, and at the Women’s Physicians Conference at St. Luke’s Hospital in Missouri.­

“Change is here,” Mazure said. “The faster and farther we spread the word, the faster and farther more change arrives to improve more lives.”

Submitted by Rick Harrison on March 16, 2020