January 25, 2008

Grant extension fosters women’s health research

Featured Image

Grant extension fosters women’s health research

Women's health research is taking a front seat at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

VUMC recently received a five-year extension of its Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program, an innovative effort to foster career development in women's health research with an emphasis on interdisciplinary mentoring across a variety of disciplines.

The BIRCWH Centers were established in 2000. Vanderbilt's is one of 15 funded centers.

“Our scholars cover the range from basic science to epi (epidemiology) and outcomes,” said Nancy Brown, M.D., principal investigator of Vanderbilt's BIRCWH program. “One of the most exciting things about our BIRCWH is that we are partnered with Meharry Medical College.”

Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine at Meharry Medical College, chairs the BIRCWH Advisory Committee.

“This award is a key step toward building a cadre of investigators focused on critical challenges in women's health and gender biology,” said Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the Institute for Medicine and Public Health at VUMC, vice chair for Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and program director of Vanderbilt's BIRCWH.

“Our current and prior scholars are evidence of the success that follows from investing in interdisciplinary research.”

The five current scholars and their research projects are:

• Julie Bastarache, M.D., instructor, Department of Medicine. Her research interest is acute lung injury and understanding the pathogenesis of acute lung injury using translational approaches; specifically, the role of coagulation cascade and understanding the role of alveolar epithelial apoptosis, a major stimulus for upregulation of tissue factor and production of microparticles in the development of lung injury.

• Swati Biswas, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Cancer Biology. Her research focuses on the role of osteoblasts and fibroblasts in breast cancer metastasis with a better understanding of the pathophysiology of breast cancer progression and metastasis.

• Stephania Miller-Hughes, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Surgery, Meharry Medical College. Her research interest is in implementing practical methods for the provision of appropriate and effective clinical health service to underserved, chronically ill patient populations.

• Vasundhara Varthakavi, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases. Her interest is aimed at understanding mechanisms that govern the disparities in viral loads in women with AIDS; specifically focusing on dissecting the cellular and viral pathways responsible for release of HIV-1 from infected cells.

• Xianglan Zhang, M.D., M.P.H., research instructor of Medicine, Institute for Medicine and Public Health. Zhang's research focuses on the role of diet and lifestyle factors in the development of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis in women.