The WHRI and its Leadership Council have been actively addressing the following topics:
Sex Equity in Research
In May, 2014 we sent a letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins on this issue, published several articles, one in Endocrinology and the other in PNAS, and have provided testimony for the Congressional record on this topic. We applaud an announcement made by Dr.Collins and Dr. Janine Clayton, Director, Office on Research in Women’s Health on May 15, to unveil new policies that would require applicants for NIH funds to report their plans for the balance of male and female cells and animals in future preclinical study applications unless inclusion is unwarranted according to defined exceptions. These policies will begin in October 2014. The Women's Health Research Institute believes that the XX-XY knowledge gap, which remains in basic science, preclinical and even clinical research, must be eliminated. Filling this gap includes assurance that cell, animal and human studies are designed to include both sexes, and that the outcomes are reported by sex. Sex differences must be reported in publications and if there are no differences, it should be noted. Recent advocate efforts include a commentary,
'Leaning in" to Support Sex Differences in Basic Science and Clinical Research' written by members of our Leadership Council; In addition, the WHRI provided background and interview for the production of a recent CBS 60 Minutes program on sex inclusion especially in drug studies. Sex bias exists in basic science and translational surgical research", an article in the journal Surgery coauthored by two members of the WHRI Leadership Council and others has caught the attention of national scientific and consumer press.
Inclusion of Pregnant Women in Clinical Trials
Katherine Wisner, MD, member of the WHRI Leadership Council is coauthor of the article "Pregnant women must be studied too" that has been published in The Conversation, an online academic news source published in UK, Australia and the U.S. Dr. Wisner is an expert on depression and mood disorders in women and has a particular interest in helping women with these conditions during the reproductive years. Here's the link: http://theconversation.com/pregnant-women-must-be-studied-too-32476
Advancement of Women in Science
Collectively, regardless of degree level (Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctorate), there are nearly 5.4 million men and women employed as scientists and engineers in the United States. However, women hold 27% of these positions. Nearly half (49.5%) of science and engineering doctoral degrees are awarded to women. Yet, of the nearly 700,000 employed scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees, only 31% are women. The median annual salary for male scientists and engineers employed full time with doctorates is $95,000; the median annual salary for females with similar creditials if $72,000--an average difference of $23,000. Women only hold 32% of all science, engineering, and health doctorate positions at universities (men hold 68%). Women hold only 24% of all tenured science, engineering, and health doctorate positions at 4-year colleges or universitiesAt the Business or Industry level (non-academic), female science and engineering managers make up only 25% of all science and engineering managerial positions.
Specifically in the medical field the status of women has slightly improved according the latest report from the AAMC entitled 2013–2014 The State of Women in Academic Medicine: The Pipeline and Pathways to Leadership. The report data indicated
• Although the number of women applying to medical school (n=48,014) has increased since the last report, their proportion of the applicant pool (46%) has decreased
• Women make up a little more than one third (38%) of full-time academic medicine faculty
• Underrepresentation persists for full-time women associate and full professors (34% and 21% respectively) in academic medicine
• The percentage of permanent women department chairs (15%) and deans (16%) at U.S. medical schools remains low, and
• Institutional support for WIMS programs at U.S. medical schools has increased very slightly over the past five years.
To address these inequity, the Womens' Health Research Institute educates all stakeholders about these issues and provide educational programs for women and girls throughout the pipeline..
Institute members discussed the ban on parthenotes, included in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (1996) in an article in Science Magazine. The authors called for the removal of this wording as it threatens a potentially fruitful area of research on reproduction and early development.
Approximately 10% of cancer patients are in their reproductive years. The chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery that now result in survival rates that are upwards of 80% can have devastating late and long-term effects, including fertility loss. While multiple fertility preservation techniques are available, many insurance providers do not cover these costs. Members of the Institute are working with scientists at the state and federal level to ensure that patients will be able to afford fertility preservation prior to cancer treatment and prevent compounded costs for survivors when trying to build a family in the years after beating their initial cancer diagnosis.
Affordable Care Act
The WHRI is committed to educating its constituents about the Affordable Care Act and its importance to women. The Institute focused one of its monthly forums on this topic and the notes can be found HERE. The September 2013 e-newsletter featured important resources for women who are enrolling in the Insurance Marketplace.
Members of the Institute participated in an innovative science policy training program to increase the ability of scientists, community leaders, and health care professionals to inform the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on current and emerging scientific findings to impact policy change. This team visited with influential members of the EPA to advocate that they update guidelines on reproductive toxicity. Read their white paper, Improving the Nation’s Reproductive Health: Updating the Guidelines for Reproductive Toxicity Risk Assessment.