In a major new effort to stimulate women's health research across a variety of disciplines, the National Institutes of Health announced it will fund 11 awards to support development of new research in women's health. The program, Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH), seeks to increase the number of researchers working on women's health issues and to mentor junior researchers in an interdisciplinary scientific setting by pairing them with senior investigators.
The Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) leads the BIRCWH initiative, which will award a total of $5.5 million to 11 universities.* In addition to ORWH, nine NIH Institutes** and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will co-sponsor this program.
"The BIRCWH program offers a tremendous opportunity to advance women's health research," said Vivian Pinn, M.D., and Director of the ORWH. "This program will encourage researchers from a variety of areas - basic, clinical, behavioral, health services and public health research - to approach a scientific question from different perspectives."
Junior faculty members, selected as Interdisciplinary Women's Health Research (IWHR) Scholars, will have the opportunity to augment their research skills in these interdisciplinary career development programs. They will be matched with a seasoned senior investigator, who will mentor them for a period of two to five years.
Dr. Pinn added that the new initiative will allow the participating cosponsors to support interdisciplinary efforts that may not fit neatly into their research domains. For example, the National Institute of Aging is typically concerned with the phase of women's lives that follows menopause. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) tends to focus its research on the events prior to menopause. The new initiative, however, will support research spanning the phases before, during and after menopause and serve as a model for reducing fragmentation of women's health care.
The BIRCWH program was modeled after an existing program, the Women's Reproductive Health Research Career Development Centers, supported by the NICHD, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the ORWH.
"This initiative is a commitment to women's health research - training today the scientists of tomorrow," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. "As a co-sponsor of the BIRCWH initiative, the NICHD will continue the important work of fostering career development in women's health." Along with the NICHD, eight other NIH institutes will support biomedical and behavioral research and the AHRQ will support health services research.
*The 11 universities participating in the new program are:
- Baylor College of Medicine - Baylor BIRCWH Program
- University of Alabama at Birmingham - UAB Women's Health Research Scholars' Program
- University of California, Los Angeles - Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) Center
- University of California at San Francisco - UCSF - Kaiser Women's Health Interdisciplinary Scholarship
- University of Connecticut Health Center - UConn Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health
- University of Kentucky Research Foundation - Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health
- University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - Career Center in Interdisciplinary Women's Health Research
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - UNC BIRCWH Career Development Program
- Virginia Commonwealth University - Building Research Careers in Women's Health
- Washington University in St. Louis - Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health
- Yale University School of Medicine - BIRCWH Career Development Programs
**The nine NIH institutes supporting the BIRCWH program are:
- National Institute on Aging
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- National Cancer Institute
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
- National Institute of Mental Health