This is an exciting time for women's health research in our country. New opportunities for research and funding have emerged in the last decade and continue to grow.
Women’s health research at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) continues to flourish. Investigators are pursuing groundbreaking research in cancer prevention in women, pregnancy, impact of Zika infections on the fetus and newborn, sexual transmitted infections, and violence
and gender differences. Using an interdisciplinary approach, investigators have been highly successful in obtaining extramural funding and continue to publish exciting papers which are changing the standard of care in medicine.
CIRWH is the home of the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Program (BIRCWH K12). This career development program for junior faculty was initially funded in 2005. We are thrilled to announce that the NIH renewed
the program for a 4th cycle of funding in August 2020. This program provides 75% salary support and protected time for 3 assistant professors to participate in mentored research experiences in women’s health. Unlike the other K12 programs at
UTMB Health that limit eligibility to candidates with MD degrees or from a single discipline, the UTMB Health BIRCWH program accepts faculty applicants with MD, MD/PhD, and PhD degrees from a wide range of disciplines. The BIRCWH program seeks to
develop investigators from many training backgrounds, who will be comfortable and productive in interdisciplinary research teams. Using the mentoring team approach, the program has trained 27 BIRCWH Scholars to date and is in its 19th year of funding.
The current scholars have appointments in Internal Medicine - Geriatrics; Obstetrics/Gynecology; Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS); Basic Science and Translational Research; and Behavioral Science.
Additionally, CIRWH has trained 21 postdoctoral fellows since 2008. Our program in women’s reproductive health supports postdoctoral fellows for a 2-year appointment. Most of this program’s former participants have advanced in academic standing
and many have achieved sponsored support for their research activities. Of the 20 former postdoctoral fellows who participated in the program from 2008-2017, 65% remain in academia and 50% have obtained tenure-track faculty positions at UTMB Health,
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHSC), University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), University of Florida Jacksonville, University of Illinois Chicago, Perdue University, Iowa State University, and Xavier University of Louisiana.
Overall, 90% advanced in research related positions in industry, academia, and medicine. In addition, 75% of former postdoctoral fellows trained from 2008-2013 who are now in faculty positions have been successful in obtaining extramural funding as
Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator. Equally impressive is that, during the 11 years of the program, 21 postdoctoral fellows trained between 2008-2019 produced 82 unique manuscripts in 41 peer-reviewed journals, with 57/82 (70%) first author
positions filled by a postdoc. In addition, they presented 73 unique abstracts at national meetings. This high level of productivity is exemplary and helped trainees obtain their subsequent research or research-related positions. This shows that productivity
has flourished under the team mentoring approach.
The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health is committed to training the next generation of investigators, developing new collaborations of scientists, and providing awareness of funding opportunities in women's health.
Abbey B. Berenson, MD, PhD
CIRWH was inaugurated in February 2002. The mission of this center is
to promote, stimulate, and support interdisciplinary research related
to the health of women across the life span. Such research includes
- Unique to women or a subgroup of women;
- More prevalent in women than men;
- Where the intervention/care of women is different from that of men.
Furthermore, the center promotes interactions between investigators
from different backgrounds who can contribute different perspectives,
training, and expertise to collaborative efforts. To that end, the
- Designs and seeks funding for collaborative grants;
- Partners with existing programs to encourage investigations of sex/gender differences in health and disease; and
- Provides structured mentoring to motivated junior investigators who are committed to women's health.