NIH Women's Health Research Office celebrates 20 years, announces vision for 2020
The National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health has celebrated its 20th anniversary with a day-long symposium announcing its vision for future research.
Balintfy: A recent scientific symposium has highlighted some of the advances that have increased understanding of women's health, differences between females and males, and implications for gender-appropriate clinical care and personalized medicine.
Pinn: It was a celebration of science, it was a celebration of advancing.
Balintfy: Dr. Vivian Pinn is the director of the Office of Research on Women's Health. Pinn: But most of all, it was exciting to me that so many were willing to come from across the country to celebrate with us because they thought women’s health research was important.
Griffith: So, I'm an engineer, and we're trying to develop new tools to study women’s health, particularly gynecology diseases that are under study, diseases like endometriosis.
Balintfy: That's Dr. Linda Griffith; she's professor and chair of MIT's Biological and Mechanical Engineering Department. She points out that endometriosis, which is when tissues that usually grow inside the uterus instead grow on the outside, can't be diagnosed easily and doesn’t have great therapies. Dr. Griffith, also the scientific keynote speaker, says of the symposium:
Griffith: It covered everything from ways that women respond to drugs differently than men, to diseases that are specific for women, to issues with translation, to basic science—it was a fantastic day.
Balintfy: The symposium, which also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Office of Research on Women’s Health, gave an opportunity to look back. Former NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy, who launched the Women’s Health Initiative, that was a $625-million effort to study the causes, prevention and cures of diseases that affect women at midlife and beyond, explains that research on women's health had to come at the right time.
Healy: It would not have happened without, not just a team, but an army of people supporting it. And, you know, we were all privileged to come together at that magical moment and I'm just thrilled to be back here 20 years later, almost, and know that the many things that people said we couldn’t do, we were able to do.
Balintfy: Former Surgeon General, Dr. Antonia Novello also emphasizes the importance of women—like Drs. Healy and Pinn, and others—in leadership roles.
Novello: When you come here and you see 20 years after, the women who created it, and now you see 20 years after the women that are going to continue it who realize this field is here forever and the one generation of the year 2020, and -40, and -60 will be thankful that there were some women in the 1980s, when it was not even important to mention it, that they thought about you as a generation to be able to shine with what they did in obscurity… And so when you come 20 years now, and not only do you learn of the studies that were not putting off at the forefront, then and now, you cannot introduce research at the NIH unless you give me the idea that you are going to benefit the other half of the United States as well, then you realize that we've come a long way.
Balintfy: For more information on research on women’s health, visit the website orwh.od.nih.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Drs. Vivian Pinn, Linda Griffith, Bernadine Healy, Antonia Novello
Topic: women, women's health, women’s health research, gender, endometriosis, Office of Research on Women’s Health, Women’s Research Initiative