Happy Anniversary, Women’s Health Research at Yale

Reflecting on 20 Years of Progress and Promise

Twenty years ago, Dr. Carolyn M. Mazure was awarded a generous grant by The Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation with which she founded Women’s Health Research at Yale. This self-sustaining interdisciplinary research center within Yale School of Medicine rapidly became a national model for initiating and supporting research on women and the influence of sex and gender on human health.

In recognition of this anniversary, the center’s many supporters, scientists, students, and mentees offered their thoughts and feelings about the last two decades and the changes WHRY has made in leading us toward a healthier and happier future.

Linda Koch Lorimer 

WHRY Special Advisor and former Yale Vice President

"It is spectacular to see how Women’s Health Research at Yale has grown in stature and impact over its first 20 years. Its role is essential: If we want everyone to live healthier lives, we must have medical research that studies women and explores sex and gender differences. It has been an honor to be a cheerleader for WHRY since its inception and to witness the extraordinary work it has undertaken under the leadership of an exceptional director and council of advisors.”

Marc Potenza, Ph.D., M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine in the Child Study Center and of Neuroscience, and Director of WHRY’s Women and Addictive Disorders Core 

“Thanks to WHRY’s Addictive Disorders Core, we have discovered gender differences in problem gambling and substance use disorders that tell us how best to design treatments that really help. By bringing together researchers of different disciplines, we have created a unique opportunity to uncover the many ways in which men and women and boys and girls differ in regard to specific addictions.”

Elisa Spungen Bildner

Yale Class of ’75 and member of the Advisory Council for Women’s Health Research at Yale

“Women’s Health Research at Yale is the best of what the university represents. I’m proud to support this center’s innovative and practical work while also supporting my alma mater and staying informed about the latest developments in women’s health. I encourage others — both inside and outside our Yale community — to learn more about WHRY’s vital mission.”

Sanket Dhruva, M.D., M.H.S. 

Clinical Instructor in Cardiology at Yale School of Medicine

“WHRY’s mentorship and collaboration on a recent high-impact publication drew a meaningful response from the Food and Drug Administration regarding the importance of attention to sex differences in the approval process for medical devices. As a research fellow, this provided a real opportunity to learn more about and address continuing gaps in knowledge in women’s health, particularly in my field of cardiovascular disease, where women remain understudied.”

Megan Smith, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Yale Child Study Center, Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the Yale School of Public Health, and Founder and Director of Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership 

“I am extremely grateful to WHRY for providing me with the guidance and direction to launch my career and connect with other investigators — both at Yale and nationally —  who are focused on advancing women’s health and exploring sex and gender differences. Your leadership and this growing network have allowed me to advance a community care center that conducts and applies research to improve the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged pregnant and parenting women.”

Ann Baker Pepe

Member of WHRY's Society of Friends

“Attending a WHRY community workshop nearly 20 years ago, I learned of the center’s dedication to ensuring that all people are included in and benefit from medical research. Just a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to give a gift that was very important to me because it honored my mother. I chose WHRY. Your work sets the standard for a practical approach to getting the job done.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro

Honorary Member, Advisory Council for Women’s Health Research at Yale

“As a 30-year survivor of ovarian cancer, I know firsthand the importance of advancing medical research on women’s health. It is one of the many reasons I am so proud to work with Women’s Health Research at Yale and so grateful for this center’s leadership in this important field. As I continue to represent Connecticut’s Third District in Congress, WHRY helps provide me with the necessary data-driven information to make sure that we all can live healthier and happier lives.

Njeri Thande, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), Yale School of Medicine, Co-Director of the Homeostasis integrated course for first year medical students

“Thanks to WHRY, we are making excellent progress in guiding medical school curriculum reform so that our physicians and scientists investigate and account for important sex and gender differences. With your leadership, more and more medical institutions will continue to integrate these concepts into education and care to reduce health disparities and provide optimum interventions.”

Ryan Jensen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale School of Medicine

“When I first joined the Yale faculty in 2011, I had spent six years purifying the protein created by the BRCA2 gene that, when mutated, leads to breast and ovarian cancer in women. But we don’t know which types of mutations put women at higher risk for cancer and which aren’t dangerous. WHRY gave me my first grant at Yale, helping me to obtain larger external grants and launching my work into how these mutations function to better guide treatment and save lives.”

Peter Salovey, Ph.D.

President, Yale University; Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

“As an early awardee of one of WHRY’s pilot grants, I was able to develop and test public health messages that encourage women at elevated risk for breast cancer to use routine mammography screening. This work led to a longer-term program of research funded by the National Cancer Institute. Thank you for ensuring that Yale is at the forefront of understanding how gender and sex influence health and illness and for educating health professionals and members of the community. I wish you every success for the next 20 years and beyond!”

Carol Frost Ross 

Chair, Advisory Council for Women’s Health Research at Yale 

“The two-decade evolution of WHRY is a testament to steady, deliberate growth through careful planning and distribution of resources with an unwavering focus on improving women’s health. This has allowed us to add new, exciting programs — such as our Undergraduate Fellowship — while first ensuring we are ready to take them on and that they will grow and flourish. May you forever prosper, WHRY. You have most certainly been built to last.” 

Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D.

Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Yale School of Medicine

“WHRY’s Pilot Project Program offers researchers at Yale the opportunity to explore vital questions that would otherwise not receive funding. We used our WHRY grant to test a vaccine strategy against genital herpes, generating data that resulted in funding from the National Institutes of Health for more comprehensive work on the vaccine. We hope to soon have a treatment in clinical trials that we expect will benefit the millions of people who are suffering from this disease, a majority of whom are women. If you don’t invest in this type of early stage research, you won’t have any breakthroughs.” 

Azure Thompson, Dr.PH.

Assistant Professor, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, School of Public Health; Graduate of WHRY’s NIH-funded Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar Program

“Researchers often work in isolation, and they don’t necessarily know their work’s significance and impact. WHRY provided me with the assurance that my research on the smoking behaviors of women — particularly black women — is valued and contributes to a larger effort to investigate gender disparities and improve women’s health. You have given me the impetus to stay focused, move forward, and not give up. I still work with my WHRY mentor today, confident that the steps we are taking contribute to a larger effort.”

Suzanne Werth

Board Member, The Werth Family Foundation

“The Werth Family Foundation remains a committed partner with WHRY because of your ability to show concrete benefits and a plan for next steps in everything that you do. We are confident you will continue to improve health research and the practice of medicine for the benefit of women and men everywhere.”

Benjamin Fait

Doctoral student, The Rockefeller University; Former WHRY Undergraduate Fellow

“Thank you for instilling in me the value of thinking about the impact of sex and gender as an issue affecting both the practice of science and the health of women. I know these are lessons I will carry with me and seek to advocate throughout the rest of my career.”

William W. Ginsberg

President & CEO, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

“We are extremely proud of our longstanding support of WHRY and your role as a highly productive research engine that sparks innovation to improve lives and the economic future of the community. For 20 years, you have been an important leader attracting talent and delivering national and even global recognition to Yale and the Greater New Haven Area. Your commitment to advancing biomedical research and health equity for women improves lives while reinforcing our community’s greatest strengths.”

Some supporter comments may have appeared in earlier issues of our printed quarterly newsletter.

This article was submitted by Carissa R Violante on August 17, 2018.

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We’ve been sharing messages from our friends, partners, and supporters all year long.  

To contribute your own message, join us on Twitter @WHRYale or contact Rick.Harrison@yale.edu.