We’re getting used to instant, personalized health data. Your watch keeps tabs on your heart rate. Your phone app tracks how many steps you walk a day. Your smart scale assesses your weight and Body Mass Index. Personal health information propels us as individuals to make diet and lifestyle choices, select treatments for illness, and lay out our future plans.
Population health information, on the other hand, examines patterns across groups of individuals and communities to understand and impact the complex factors influencing our overall wellness. But for centuries of scientific research, this information was only studied and gathered from half the population: males.
In fact, a Food & Drug Administration policy from 1977 recommended excluding women of childbearing age from Phase I and II drug trials. This policy was, in part, a reaction to cases across Europe and Canada where pregnant women taking Thalidomide, an experimental sedative used to treat nausea, caused birth defects in newborns.
Unfortunately, excluding women from medical research continued until the 1990s, when the legal requirement for female inclusion in clinical trials finally took effect. The knowledge gaps from this practice persist, evidenced by the sex and gender-based health disparities locally and globally.
Does sex matter? The answer, of course, is yes. From basic cell biology to the way women metabolize medicine and experience symptoms of illness, women are fundamentally different — and scientific research must rigorously continue investigating how.
Enter Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation (MWRIF) — a national leader determined to build a new status quo, guided by the belief that women’s health is everyone’s health. MWRIF is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted to women’s health and reproductive biology.
In collaboration with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, MWRIF helps shape a pathway for groundbreaking insights to travel from laboratory bench to bedside. Perhaps the best example of this is Carolyn Kubik, who was able to survive Stage IV ovarian cancer thanks to a clinical trial that studied treatments with the help of women like Darcel Fahy.
MWRIF receives more National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding than anywhere else in the U.S. for women’s health and reproductive biology, and projects are varied and vital, including:
- HIV prevention for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations
- Noninvasive prenatal testing
- Clinical trials that allowed a pregnant breast cancer patient to safely deliver a healthy baby
- Techniques to preserve the fertility of childhood cancer survivors
- Development of a nasal spray to prevent COVID-19
MWRIF’s critical research depends on both federal support and the generosity of donors, including philanthropic organizations, corporations, and private individuals.
The Foundation also hosts several fundraising events throughout the year, including Women Who Rock, an annual concert that is founded, produced, and fronted by women. On May 22, 2022, Women Who Rock will debut its first benefit concert in Los Angeles featuring Aimee Mann and presented by Gibson Gives. Then on October 15, Women Who Rock will return to its home base of Pittsburgh at Stage AE.
Meanwhile, MWRIF is gearing up for the 2nd annual Race to Beat Women’s Cancers on Sept. 4, 2022. For more than two decades, MWRIF, along with A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital have worked together as leaders in the fight against breast cancer. The community is invited to participate on behalf of all women’s cancers, including breast, cervical, ovarian and uterine cancers, by participating in this event.