The Northwestern University (NU) Building Interdisciplinary Career's in Women's Health (BIRCWH) Career Development in Women's Health (CDWH) program was established in 2007 to train the next generation of scientists for independent, interdisciplinary careers in the science of sex differences and in other fields relevant to women's health. This objective will continue to be accomplished by bringing together a cadre of mentors with expertise in reproductive sciences and in diseases that differentially affect women to provide the Scholars with interdisciplinary research experiences relevant to elucidating sex and gender factors affecting health. In so doing, the NU BIRCWH CDWH Program will also enhance the career development of junior faculty, with particular attention to addressing work-life balance issues that can be especially challenging for women faculty. The institutional excellence in reproductive sciences and in diseases differentially affecting women, strong collaborative culture of NU and ongoing commitment of institutional resources to career development have greatly facilitated the Program. The Program has been exceptionally successful in the first award period matriculating eight Scholars and graduating five, three of whom now have independent grant support. One Scholar who has completed the Program was an under-represented minority. The Mentors have been selected for their expertise in the overarching themes relevant to women's health identified in the RFA: Lifespan, Sex/Gender Determinants, Health Disparities/Differences and Diversity, and Interdisciplinary Research. They are based in seven departments in Feinberg School of Medicine (Medicine, Neurology, Obstetrics &Gynecology, Preventive Medicine, and Psychiatry &Behavioral Sciences) and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (Molecular Biosciences, Neurobiology and Physiology). There are six general areas of NU BIRCWH CDWH Mentor expertise: 1) cardiovascular health and disease;2) epidemiology and behavioral science;3) immune function - autoimmunity and infectious diseases;4) metabolic function;5) neuroscience;and 6) reproductive biology. It should be noted that many of the NU BIRCWH CDWH Mentors have longstanding programs that are interdisciplinary in nature, which means that they could fit well within more than one of our research categories. NU BIRCWH CDWH Scholars will be assigned Mentors from at least two different disciplines and training backgrounds for interdisciplinary research and career development. Each Scholar's Mentors will interact closely with the Scholar and provide guidance to develop a tailored career development plan as part of an interdisciplinary mentoring team. The Mentors are all committed to continuing their involvement throughout the award period. The Program will continue to be monitored by the External Advisory Committee whose members are all BIRCWH PIs at other institutions as well as by the Oversight Committee. Formal Program evaluation has already been implemented by the NU Searle Center for Teaching Excellence.
Understanding the sex and gender determinants of disease processes is critical for improving not only women's but also men's health. The Northwestern University Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women's Health Career Development in Women's Health Program will train the next generation of independent investigators in the interdisciplinary science of sex differences and in other fields relevant to women's health.
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