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NIH Announces New Awards in Program to Expand Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health


Almost $6 million has been awarded to investigators and programs to help researchers in the early stages of careers in women’s health research. The funding is from the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) and other co-sponsors. The money will go to 12 new and continuing Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) programs nationwide. This is the fifth funding round of an innovative, interdisciplinary career development program for men and women junior faculty in women’s health research.

BIRCWH was developed to increase the cadre of women’s health researchers through the support of career development programs that would facilitate the progression of junior investigators to become independent researchers by pairing scholars with senior investigators in a mentored, interdisciplinary scientific environment. The first BIRCWH programs were established in the fall of 2000 and to date, 62 programs have been awarded at 40 institutions.

“Interdisciplinary research has blossomed during the last decade into a major component of women’s health research and career development opportunities,” said Vivian W. Pinn, M.D., director of ORWH. “The BIRCWH initiative continues to expand the number of scientists with an understanding of interdisciplinary and comprehensive approaches to health and disease. This appreciation will be crucial for new strategies in women’s health research and their translation into practice in future years.”

Over 378 scholars have participated in the program, of whom 79 percent are women. The majority have gone on to obtain independent grant funding.

“In our quest to spur the best women’s health research possible, we can’t lose sight of future demands for those qualified to conduct this research,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “By promoting the career development of junior investigators, the BIRCWH awards fill a critical need.”

While the majority of the funding for the BIRCWH program comes from the ORWH, the awards are a collaborative effort and this fifth round of funding is supported by NICHD, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences, (NIEHS), the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health, and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. In addition to ORWH, the programmatic oversight for these BIRCWH programs resides in two institutes, NIEHS and NIDA, and the grants management oversight for most of the programs will remain in NICHD.

“The BIRCWH training grants will support and strengthen the training of a new generation of scientists pursuing answers to vital issues in women’s health,” said Nora Volkow, MD, director of NIDA. “This mentoring program also reflects NIH’s steadfast commitment to promoting gender equality in research priorities.”

Principal investigators and institutions receiving fiscal year 2010 BIRCWH awards include:

Abbey Berenson, M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
Jill Goldstein, Ph.D., Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
Timothy Johnson, M.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD., University of California, San Francisco
Carolyn Mazure, Ph.D., Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
Mary Nettleman, M.D., M.P.H., Michigan State University, East Lansing
Gene Orringer, M.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Claire Pomeroy, M.D.,M.B.A., University of California, Davis
Clay Semenkovich, M.D., Washington University, St. Louis
Shanna Swan, Ph.D., University of Rochester, N.Y.
Patricia Thomas, M.D., University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City
Joel Tsevat, M.D., M.P.H., University of Cincinnati

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) serves as a focal point for women’s health research at the NIH. For more information about NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, visit

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit


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