Teresa K Woodruff's picture

Dr. Woodruff is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and serves as Vice Chair of Research (OB/GYN) and Chief of the Division of Reproductive Research, Feinberg School of Medicine. She is also the Professor of Molecular Biosciences at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. She is an internationally recognized expert in ovarian biology and, in 2006, coined the term “oncofertility”— to describe the merging of two fields: oncology and fertility. Breakthroughs in ovarian tissue cryopreservation and in vitro follicle maturation are brightening the outlook for preserving fertility in young women with cancer and other diseases that are treated with life-saving but potent therapies. Based on promising science being done in her lab, Woodruff was awarded a prestigious Roadmap Grant from the NIH to advance her work in 2007. She now heads the Oncofertility Consortium, an interdisciplinary team of biomedical and social scientist experts across the country and serves as the Director of the Women's Health Research Institute.

Dr. Woodruff also is a skilled and committed educator, encouraging young women to pursue careers in the sciences, and has developed the Women's Health Science Program housed in the Institute. Her many awards include the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching (2011), Distinguised Woman in Medicine and Science from Northwestern (2009), Feinberg School's Faculty Mentor of the Year (2009), and Northwestern Distinguished Alumnae (2008). She was also honored nationally with awards from the American Women in Science (Innovator Award), and American Medical Womens Association (Gender Equity Award) in 2009. She is unwavering in her encouragement of students’ and colleagues’ professional growth, and she harnesses this same passion as she nurtures the growth of the Women’s Health Research Institute.

My Blog Posts

Posted by on November 8, 2012 - 9:24am

Yesterday morning we awoke to a political landscape that seems jarred by the process of democracy, but ready to move forward as a nation.  Three issues defined the outcome:  the percent of women who chose democratic principles; the resounding losses by candidates who are antiquated in their thinking about pregnancy, in particular; and, the need to hold all of us accountable as citizens in the care of each other starting at the research bench to the bedside.   I’m a reproductive scientist and direct the Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University, so these issues are my issues and it is now time to look forward and identify actionable steps that moves our field forward.

I’ll start with the women.  I believe the 55% to 43% differential in the women’s vote for Obama was not just a vote for a person, but for a platform.  It is a vote that recognizes that sexuality is not something that can be regulated by the state.  It is a vote that states emphatically that the fact of rape is never legitimate. It says that the consequences of forced intercourse are never ‘god’s will’.  Women ‘got’ the vote in 1920 and today their votes say that the politicians must begin to understand that women’s concerns are important and legitimate.

How we move forward to ensure that women’s bodies and their health are not political footballs or pincushions (depending on your gender-identified metaphor) is critical.  Here are some suggestions:

  • We can no longer allow basic research and new drug development be done solely in male models (cell, animal or human) —this practice loses the ‘bang for our buck’ when we discover sex differences further down the research pipeline.
  • We must report sex differences (or no difference) in study findings and include them in our scientific publications.
  • We must redistribute more federal dollars to fund important reproductive health studies that include the ovary, uterus, testis, egg, and sperm that impact the next generation of Americans.  (The Reproductive Science Branch of the National Institute of Child Health allocates only .022% of $30 billion to address reproductive health issues)
  • And we must invest in tomorrow’s generation of innovators who might now be high school students or graduate students by funding innovative education programs and traditional training grants today that include a respect for sex and gender differences in all aspects of health and well-being.

I’ve gone from the very broadest issue of our day – the election and women’s issues and women’s votes – to the very granular issues of funding the next generation of research.  Bill O’Reilly, speaking on Fox News election night said that 50% of the population voted for Obama because they want ‘stuff’.  I think the ‘stuff’ we want is the right to speak our mind and be heard on issues that concern our health and the health of our families. We want  our bodies to be respected by politicians, scientists, and everyone in between.  The ‘stuff’ we want is assurances that the biomedical community is including male and female animals and patients in all of the scientific studies that we, women, fund through our taxes.  The ‘stuff’ we want is to make sure that there is a way forward for research in an area that without question, touches each and every one of us.  Our vote suggests that that ‘stuff’ is important and on this ‘morning after’ we are looking forward to the next four years.

Author:  Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Posted by on June 29, 2009 - 2:48pm

Welcome to the Institute for Women’s Health Research Blog!

Established in November of 2007, the Institute for Women’s Health Research was created at Northwestern University to help accelerate basic science and clinical research that will advance our knowledge of women’s health. Our mission is to increase the women’s health research portfolio at Northwestern University and our clinical affiliates; we focus on 5 ambitious goals to accomplish this mission:

  • To foster research that explores the sex and gender determinants of health and disease with an emphasis on women
  • To encourage interdisciplinary research, diversity inclusiveness and a comprehensive approach to women’s health research
  • To prepare researchers, scientists and clinicians who understand the sex and gender determinants of health and disease; develop leadership among women and girls interested in science
  • To accelerate the translation of basic science research into clinical practice
  • To become the authoritative resource for the community on women’s health issues and provide opportunities for the community to engage in the advancement of women’s health

Please check back soon, we will be updating often and we welcome feedback!   What do you think are the top issues related to women's health?