Posted by on May 22, 2018 - 9:35am

Earlier this month,  the Women’s Health Research Institute welcomed 25 high school students from across the Chicagoland area to Northwestern University for a field trip focused on careers in biomedical research. The visit was organized in collaboration with the Step Up Women’s Network, a non-profit organization which hosts after-school programs designed to empower young women to be college-bound and career-focused.

As part of Step Up’s Pathways to Professions series, the students learned about the various career paths in biomedical research including research scientist, clinical study coordinator, veterinary technician, histologist, and research administrator. The students also had an opportunity to participate in hands-on laboratory activities and tour NU’s Center for Advanced Microscopy. At the end of the day, the students enjoyed lunch and a roundtable discussion with several NU students, faculty, and staff.

This event was sponsored by the Women’s Health Science Program which supports young women from underserved communities with who are considering careers in science and medicine and prepares them with valuable knowledge and skills to successfully become the next generation of women science leaders.

For more information about WHSP, including our upcoming summer program, click here.

For more information about Step Up Women's Network, click here.

Posted by on May 18, 2018 - 9:19am

WHRI Leadership Council Member, Dr. Rosalind Ramsey-Goldman was awarded the Paula H. Stern Award for Outstanding Women in Science and Medicine. This award was established by the Department of Pharmacology in conjunction with the Women's Faculty Organization to recognize female faculty members who have made a significant contribution to the their field of research and who serve as outstanding role models and mentors.

Dr. Ramsey-Goldman is the Solovy Arthritis Research Society Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of the Clinical Research Unit. Her work focuses on the study of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune conditions. An advocate for women's health, Dr. Ramsey-Goldman's research has explored the impact of SLE on the development of cardiovascular disease in women as well the treatment of autoimmune conditions during pregnancy.

Dr. Ramsey-Goldman is the second recipient of the Paula H. Stern Award. The inaugural honor went to Dr. Amy Paller, another prominent member of the WHRI Leadership Council and champion for women's health.

Congratulations to Dr. Ramsey-Goldman!

Posted by on April 13, 2018 - 3:09pm

By Alexa Karczmar

Maternal health in the U.S. has been on the decline for the past forty years. The Department of Health and Human Services has reported that maternal mortality has been on the rise for the last three years, and in the 2014 Trends in Maternal Mortality report, the American maternal mortality rate (MMR) had more than doubled in the preceding 13 years [1].The same report demonstrated that the MMR of the U.S. had the highest level of annual increase in maternal death in all of the countries they had studied.

This crisis disproportionately affects Black women, who are more than four times more likely to die in childbirth than White women [2]. Black women face higher rates of poverty than White women and are less likely to be insured [3]. They have higher rates of chronic health conditions that are considered risk factors in maternal death, including heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes [4]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cited chronic health conditions as a major risk factor for maternal mortality and suspect in its rates of increase, and the impact of these diseases on Black women are likely exacerbated by their underrepresentation in clinical trials.

Per the Black Mamas Matter Toolkit, Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) is a week intended to:

  • Increase attention to the state of Black maternal health in the US;
  • Amplify the voices of Black mamas, women, families, and stakeholders;
  • Serve as a national platform for Black-women led entities and efforts on maternal; health, birth justice, and reproductive justice; and
  • Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health.

This month, our blog posts and newsletters will further highlight maternal health, sex-inclusive research, and potential solutions in healthcare policy and practice.

You can learn more about BMHW and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance by following them on Twitter @BlkMamasMatter and visiting their website at


1.         Unicef, Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2013. 2014.

2.         Creanga, A.A., et al., Maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States: where are we now? Journal of Women's Health, 2014. 23(1): p. 3-9.

3.         Stephens, J., S. Artiga, and J. Paradise, Health coverage and care in the south in 2014 and beyond. 2014: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

4.         Robbins, C., et al., Disparities in Preconception Health Indicators - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013-2015, and Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2013-2014. MMWR Surveill Summ, 2018. 67(1): p. 1-16.


Posted by on March 21, 2018 - 10:55am

Rosalind Franklin was a brilliant chemist and x Ray crystallographer who’s work led to the discovery as well as important inferences about deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. X-Ray crystallography is a fascinating technique that is employed to determine and obtain a three-dimensional molecular structures from a crystal [1]. The crystal is exposed to a x-ray beam which diffracts into specific patterns and is then processed [1]. X-Ray crystallography is a favored method to determine the structure of proteins and biological macromolecules [1].    

Franklin, born in London, studied physical chemistry during her undergraduate career at Newnham College, one of the two women’s colleges at Cambridge University. After receiving her BA, she held a graduate fellowship for a year then transitioned to work at the British Coal Utilization Research Association [2]. Here she studied carbon and graphite microstructures, providing the basis of her doctorate in physical chemistry back at Cambridge University. During her doctorate, she began studying what is now known as DNA. Franklin was responsible for a large portion of the research, discovery and understanding of DNA. Yet much controversy surrounded the discovery of DNA as Franklin did not get the credit or respect she originally deserved due to the political climate of women in stem. She later moved to a different lab to study the tobacco mosaic virus as well as the polio virus before her death from ovarian cancer in 1956 [2].

Rosalind Franklin will forever be remembered as her work gave us crucial clues and information about the structure of DNA! Her brilliant research also led to our understanding of RNA, coals and carbons, and viruses.   

Read more here!


1. Smyth MS, Martin JHJ. x Ray crystallography. Molecular Pathology. 2000;53(1):8-14.


Posted by on March 13, 2018 - 3:09pm

This month we are celebrating Women’s History Month! We wanted to dedicate this blog post to Virginia Apgar (1909-1974). Virginia Apgar was an American physician best known for the “Apgar Score”. The score measures the physical conditions of a new born infant [1]. The score is obtained by adding points between (0, 1, or 2) for the infants color and pigmentation, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone and respiration [2]. This is taken immediately after birth and again for 5 minute intervals for up to 20 minutes. The best possible outcomes and highest score is a 10, based on adding up all 5 sections. Anything below that could be problematic. This score is still used today and is a great way to understand and record fetal to neonatal transition.

Read more about her here!


Stepping away from Women in STEM, check out the remarkable New York Times (NYT) series titled “Overlooked”. It focuses on the many famous women who did not have their obituaries mentioned in the New York Times. This month, NYT is shedding a light on these amazing women.  



  1. Apgar V, Holiday DA, James LS, Weisbrot IM, Berrien C. Evaluation of the newborn infant: second report. JAMA 1958;168:1985–88. [PubMed
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association. Textbook of Neonatal Resuscitation. 6th edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association; 2011. 


Posted by on March 7, 2018 - 8:59am

For our February monthly forum, Dr. Jonathan Silverberg presented a lecture on atopic and contact dermatitits. 

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition caused by skin exposure to irritants or allergens. Contact dermatitis can present in many different forms, though most commonly it presents with red, itchy, scaly rash. There are a myriad of ingredients in personal care products that commonly cause contact dermatitis. Some of the more common culprits include:

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Decyl glucoside
  • Colophonium
  • Formaldehyde
  • Quaternium-15
  • Para-tertiarybutyl-phenol (PTBP) formaldehyde
  • Fragrances (e.g. balsam of peru, cinnamic aldehyde, fragrance mix I, fragrance mix I, Myroxylon pereirae, and hydroxyisohexyl-3-cyclohexenecarboxaldehyde)
  • Compositae mix
  • Sesquiterpine lactone mix
  • Isothiazolinones, including methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Lanolin
  • Paraphenylenediamine
Posted by on March 6, 2018 - 8:57am

Join us and become part of a supportive community for Chicago women in Academia and STEM!!


NUPF would like to invite you to a special event that focuses on addressing inequalities facing women in STEM and academia, building a community to promote gender equity, and identifying solutions for the prioritization of work and lifestyle. This event is for everyone, students, postdocs, staff and faculty from Northwestern and other institutions whatever your gender identity is!

  • Discuss the unique challenges facing women in STEM at Northwestern and nation-wide.
  • Build a community of local women in STEM and academia to promote gender equity through varied interactive sessions. 
  • Get to know ways to improve your work/life balance (maternity leave, parental support, child care, elder care, etc).
  • Find out how to address inequalities at the workplace (sexual harassment, discriminitation, wages discrepancies).
  • Learn from the life lessons and successful stories of our guest speakers who are leaders in their respective fields. 
  • Cultivate leadership skills and mentor-mentee relationships with the invited speakers. 
  • Learn about the missions of our partner organizations and upcoming local events at our exhibitors' booths. 


12:00 pm: Opening address.
12:05-12:30 pm: Northwestern University benefits-specific information session.

12:30-1:00 pm: Lunch (Food/drinks provided).

1 pm-1:45 pm: "How to address inequalities faced by women in STEM and Academia", Geri R. Donenberg,  PhD, Vice Chair of Research Dept of Medicine, and Director of the Center for Dissemination and Implementation Science, UIC.
2:00-2:45 pm: Keynote presentation, Dr. Carol Tamminga M.D.Professor & Chairman, Dept Psychiatry, UT Southwestern.
2:45-3:30 pm: Talks by women leaders in STEM. Participating speakers:
  • Vicky Kalogera, PhD, Linzer Distinguished University Professor in Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University and Director of CIERA, Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.
  • Jennifer Cole, PhD, Assistant Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Associate Director of Northwestern Center for Engineering Education Research.
  • Nancy Schwarz, PhDDepartment of Pediatrics, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Chicago, Director, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

3:30-3:45 pm: Coffee break.

3:45-4:15 pm: Talk, Teresa Woodruff, PhD, Dean and Associate Provost for Graduate Education,The Graduate School, Northwestern University.

4:15-5:15 pm: Panel discussion on women's leadership in STEM with previous speakers. 

5:15-7:00 pm: Networking event (Appetizers/drinks served).


Attendees will be able to directly interact with the speakers and discuss mentoring in a small group setting during the round-table networking reception.

March 15th 2018, 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm 

Conference room L South,

Prentice Women’s Hospital, 250 E Superior St


Posted by on March 5, 2018 - 9:28am

New Moms Can Help Others through Umbilical Cord Blood Donations

By Madison Lyleroehr

The role of a mother’s umbilical cord is typically complete at the end of birth. However, the blood located in the umbilical cord has been found to contain a wealth of stem cells, which are extremely valuable because of their regenerative properties. The presence of these stem cells has enabled the use of umbilical cord blood (UCB) donations in treating an increasing range of diseases, including some rare genetic conditions.

Not only can UCB stem cells be used in a variety of treatments, but collecting them is much less difficult than other sources of stem cells, such as bone marrow. Because the umbilical cord is generally expelled during the birth process, UCB collection is non-invasive, does not interfere with the birthing process, or pose additional risks to the mother or baby during birth. Furthermore, because the population of women having babies is so diverse, the collection of UCB increases the potential number of matches for patients in need of stem cell donations.

For expectant families who are interested in exploring UCB donation, various options are available. First, mothers can choose to bank their own cord blood in case close family members, such as the babies from whom the UCB was donated or their siblings, are diagnosed with a condition that can be helped by the stem cells. This option generally includes fees for processing and storage. Another option is to donate the blood publically to help others who may find themselves in need of a stem cell treatment. Families who are considering either option should begin the conversation early enough in pregnancy to have the time to consider all options and research the collection option they choose.

For more information on UCB donation, go to

Additional sources:

Butler, Madelyn. “Best practices: umbilical cord blood and tissue preservation: tips for patient counseling.” OB GYN News, Aug. 2017, p. 7.

Martin, Paul L., et al. “Umbilical cord blood: a guide for primary care physicians.” American Family Physician, 15 Sept. 2011, p. 661+.


Posted by on February 28, 2018 - 3:39pm

This March, the Women’s Health Research Institute is celebrating Women’s History Month by paying tribute to the women who have shaped the fields and science and medicine. Through a series of blog posts, we will highlight female scientists, physicians, and scholars who have furthered our understanding of health and disease.

Below we’ve compiled just a few local and national resources which support and promote women in science and medicine.

Professional Societies

Northwestern University Organizations

K-12 Students

Other Resources:


Posted by on February 27, 2018 - 3:01pm
Do you know of a woman with more than 10 years demonstrated support & mentorship of women in STEM?
Nominate a friend or colleague or yourself! 
Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Chicago membership not required. Nominations can be found here.
Submit nominations to by Friday, March 23, 2018.