Gender has complex and poorly understood effects on health throughout the different phases of life. The mechanisms underlying the unique course of several diseases affecting women remain unclear in part because of longstanding impediments to research efforts involving different disciplines. The long-term objective of this application, supporting the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) Program at Washington University, is to produce independent investigators conducting interdisciplinary research in women's health. The application has a single specific aim: To identify outstanding young scientists committed to women's health who have completed fellowship training, match them with mentors working in an environment that promotes interdisciplinary research, and provide them with career development experiences leading to their independence. During the past 10 years, the Washington University BIRCWH Program has successfully achieved this aim through a combination of a mentored research experience (utilizing outstanding mentors representing a broad research base encompassing most of the diseases that differentially affect women), didactic training, interaction with scientists from other disciplines pursuing problems in women's health, establishing a visiting scientist program, and formalizing interdisciplinary research links with a substantial number of clinical programs in women's health. The Program now proposes to extend this foundation of success by refining the didactic portion of the experience to make it even more relevant for Scholars by coordinating the coursework with that offered by the CTSA at Washington University, reshaping our mentor pool in order to enhance the interdisciplinary character of the program, integrating the Program with the newly created Center for Women's Infection Disease Research (CWIDR) at Washington University, and adding a peer-to-peer mentoring component. Our program has the potential to help fulfill the mission of NIH and ORWH by continuing to train outstanding scholars and serving as a focal point for paradigm-shifting research in women's health.
By bridging fellowship training and independent faculty status, the BIRCWH program has the potential to significantly impact women's health by increasing the number of outstanding scientists utilizing novel and cooperative approaches to address problems that include depression, osteoporosis, lupus, type 2 diabetes, urinary tract infections, heart attacks, certain cancers, and infertility.
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