The goal of the Vanderbilt BIRCWH Scholars Program is to increase the pool of well-prepared investigators dedicated to advancing knowledge about women's health. Our scientific focus is to integrate the study of women's health and sex/gender differences into thriving research programs across the scientific spectrum, in order to actualize personalized prevention, diagnostics, and therapeutics for girls and women. We are building on a tradition of research excellence that includes the ongoing Shanghai Women's Health Study with 75,000+ participants, a prospective community-based pregnancy cohort of 7,190 women, DNA samples linked with clinical data for more than 132,000 patients, large tissue and biomarker banks, two decades of Medicaid data with record linkage, and numerous other examples of large scale programs making fundamental discoveries inside and outside the lab. Our 16 former and current scholars conduct research in content areas as diverse as immunologic aspects of lupus, gender differences in outcomes of ICU care, genetic underpinnings of racial disparities in adverse pregnancy outcomes, population-level patterns of exposure to opiates in pregnancy, and influence of iron balance on HIV disease trajectory. Alumni leave the program with an average of 17 total publications and to date have been awarded more than $9 million in extramural research support. BIRCWH Scholars are grounded in the fundamentals of women's health and sex differences research, prepared to lead independent and collaborative research programs, trained to effectively deploy innovative interdisciplinary approaches to attack and solve problems, and committed to pursuing research that brings individualized care for women closer to reality. Scholars are selected by competitive review of applications from among early career faculty. Training is tailored to the individual investigator, in the context of structured interdisciplinary mentorship, and is overseen by the PI, Program Director and Assistant Program Director (each a former BIRCWH Scholar). BIRCWH program resources are further enhanced by myriad institutional resources that ensure our researchers thrive. Scholars form a mentoring panel, participate in regular BIRCWH work-in- progress presentations and seminars, receive formal evaluation each year, attend twice-monthly career development seminar series with other K-awardees, and are regularly exposed to case studies on responsible conduct of research. They have access to: 1) an array of core labs and resources;2) biostatistics consultations;3) manuscript preparation work groups;4) technical editing of completed products;5) studios with experts to vet scientific ideas, research designs, and aims;6) robust intramural pilot and feasibility funding;and 7) grant writing support includin grant workshops, a funded grant library, and mock study sections. Tools are in place to evaluate both mentees and mentors and to continuously enhance our program. Further oversight is provided by an Advisory Committee and biennial external reviews. Combined these efforts assure we carefully foster excellence in the next generation of women's health researchers.
High impact discoveries often grow from the confluence of sophisticated methods, awareness of the implications of findings across fields, the energy and creativity sparked by collaborations, and emphasis on pursuing cross-cutting themes. We propose an interdisciplinary career development program to increase the pool of well-prepared investigators focused on advancing knowledge about women's health that is anchored in the theme of investigating sex/gender differences in the mechanisms, treatment, outcomes, and prevention of disease.
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