On October 14-16, 2009 the Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH), NIH, DHHS along with Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital is co-hosting the fourth in a series of regional scientific workshops to explore new dimensions for the NIH women's health research agenda in the next decade.

With continuing rapid advances in science and wider global understanding of women's health and sex/gender contributions to well-being and disease, the purpose of the regional meetings is to ensure that NIH continues to support cutting edge women's health research that is based upon the most advanced techniques and methodologies.

The ideas and recommendations emerging from this conference, which includes public hearings and scientific workshops, and other regional conferences will help inform future women’s health research priorities at the NIH.

Focus areas for discussion at this workshop:

  • Under-Studied and Under-Represented Populations
  • Clinical and Translational Research
  • New Technologies — Bioengineering — Imaging
  • Genetics — Epigenetics
  • Sex Hormones and Disease
  • Neuroscience
  • Women in Science Careers


It was great to be able to contribute and help set the women's health agenda for the next 10 years. Specific recommendations I made were asking the NIH to help develop tools in the area of informatics, i.e. the building of nationwide health databases for consumers and for researchers to input information. Also, I suggested that the NIH help enforce that not only clinical researchers design experiments that include men AND women, but that basic scientists also use both MALE and FEMALE animal models and cell lines when conducting their research. Basic science is the beginning of the pipeline, what we learn at the bench is translated to clinical research, which is further used to develop clinical trials. If females are left out from the start then medicine will continue to be geared towards men.

Thanks for commenting, Sarah! The male AND female animals in studies issue is one that seems extremely obvious; I'm surprised it takes a mandate from the NIH for people to see the benefit. I was the science writer for a section about Understudied populations, including minorities, urban/rural, disabled women, and those women living in poverty. Our group saw several key issues that need to be addressed in the next several years. The first is the issue of communication. We need to make sure that women who may have a communication barrier, including those who speak non-English (or non-Spanish) languages or who have a cognitive impairment, can be included in our studies. Secondly, and I think this idea is pretty revolutionary, is the need for trauma-informed healthcare. Trauma in this context does not mean being in a car accident, though that may indeed be a part of one's trauma history. Instead, there can be historical trauma, as the descendents of slaves might experience, a chronic present trauma, like the day to day stresses of living in poverty, or acute traumas. All of these things can weigh on us in different ways and can have a dramatic impact on our health. My group felt that this should be a key interview question by physicians when determining a patient's health history. We also felt that it would be beneficial to further develop technologies that could monitor health responses to trauma and stress from the field, like a dermal patch to measure stress hormones in sweat. In this way, we could obtain information about populations in a minimally invasive way that would not require them to come into our clinics for repeated visits. I'm really excited to read the reports from all the other working groups when they come out!