NIH News Release
Office of the Director

Office of Research on
Women's Health (ORWH)

Monday, September 30, 2002
Mary Chunko
(301) 402-0362

NIH/ORWH Announces $6 Million in Grants to Foster Careers in Women’s Health
BIRCWH II Program Advances Research at 12 Institutions in 11 States

Bethesda, Maryland — In an innovative effort to foster the expansion of women's health research across a variety of disciplines, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it will award approximately $6 million to 12 institutions nationwide to support the development of new research and the training of junior faculty researchers in women's health. The program, Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH), which began initially in the fall of 2000, seeks to increase the number of researchers working on women's health issues by pairing junior researchers with senior investigators working in mentored, interdisciplinary scientific settings. The Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) at NIH leads the BIRCWH initiative, which is administered by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

List of Institutions Receiving BIRCWH Awards in FY 2002:

Boston University Oregon Health and Science University
Brown University University of Pennsylvania
Duke University Stanford University
Magee-Women's Health Corporation Tulane University
University of Maryland University of Utah
SUNY Downstate Medical Center Vanderbilt University

"The BIRCWH program offers tremendous opportunities to advance women's health research and to allow those at the beginning of their careers to gain valuable research experience and career mentoring by working with more experienced scientists in a variety of areas — basic, clinical, behavioral, health services and public health research — while approaching a scientific question from different perspectives," said Vivian Pinn, M.D., Director of ORWH.

In addition to ORWH, seven NIH institutes, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) co-sponsor this program.* By uniting cosponsors from a breadth of scientific areas, the program encourages researchers from different disciplines to apply their knowledge in new ways to study important topics in women's health, including sex and gender factors in health and disease.

“This major expansion of the BIRCWH program will substantially increase the attraction of scientists to address key issues in women’s health. By providing career development support that will bridge them from clinical training to independent research support, these grants will have a major impact on the numbers of trained researchers in women’s health” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of NICHD, one of the partners in this initiative.

The goal of the BIRCWH initiative is to promote research and the transfer of research findings to clinical care that will benefit the health of women. The program accomplishes these goals by allowing junior faculty, who have an interest in women’s health research, to bridge advanced training with independent research in areas that span scientific disciplines. It is hoped that such experience will increase the number and skills of investigators at awardee institutions and, through a mentored environment, lead them to independent scientific careers devoted to addressing women's health concerns.

Junior faculty members, without prior research grant support, may apply to the grantee institutions to become Interdisciplinary Women's Health Research (IWHR) Scholars. Those selected have the opportunity to expand their research skills by being mentored in a research setting for a period of two to five years. The Scholars learn not only research techniques, but also the skills to become independent investigators. The mentors at each site are established investigators, who have a commitment to fostering interdisciplinary approaches in women's health research. Mentors from collaborating departments are encouraged to provide needed expertise and resources, as long as the emphasis of IWHR Scholars' projects is on research relevant to women's health. Projects are basic, translational, clinical, or health services research, but must fall within the biomedical and behavioral purview of NIH and/or the health services research purview of AHRQ. For example, a project could bring together expertise in different body systems to address a question spanning traditional specialities, or apply biological, behavioral, and public health methods to a common theme.

A unique feature of the BIRCWH program is the combination of support from ORWH and the cosponsors. In the past, important topics may have remained understudied when they fell at the boundary of one or more Institute's defined mission. The BIRCWH initiative allows the participating cosponsors to support interdisciplinary efforts that may not fit neatly within each of their research domains.

*The Institutes, Offices, and Agencies Sponsoring the BIRCWH II RFA in FY 2002:

NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institute on Aging
National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Administers the Program)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institute of Mental Health
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Attachment: BIRCWH II Programs