The Program in Research on Women’s Health at Boston Medical Center was launched in 1993 by Drs. Marianne N. Prout and Gail E. Sonenshein. The goal was to promote interdisciplinary research on women’s health at the medical campus by bringing bench scientists, clinical investigators and public health researchers together to determine collaborative research directions and helping to obtain funds for the research. Some of the key achievements were:

The development of a monthly interdisciplinary seminar series. The concept was to focus on a particular disease each month and have speakers from each of the three different disciplines. Various members of the campus came together and sometimes met there for the first time. Seminars were held in the areas of breast cancer, obesity and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and autoimmunity, bone health, etc. The seminar series, which is still ongoing, has helped lead to the development of the obesity center here, spawned many interdisciplinary grants, and provided CME credits for continuing education.

  • The development of working groups in areas of substantial interest, including the Breast Cancer Working Group, which has expanded and includes members from the School of Public Health, the Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and from the Departments of Biochemistry, Geriatrics, Medicine, Otolaryngology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Surgical Oncology, and the Cancer Center in the School of Medicine. Members of the Breast Cancer Working Group have received research and training grants from the Susan Komen Foundation, the Department of Defense (DOD) breast cancer initiative, NIH (RO1s and a Program Project grant on Signaling in Breast Carcinogenesis) and funding from the Avon Foundation, American Institute for Cancer Research and the LaPann Foundation.
  • Awarding of a National Center of Excellence on Women’s Health to Boston University by the DHHS in 1997. The CoE was headed by Dr. Karen Freund with Drs. Prout and Sonenshein served as Co-Associate Directors. The goals of the CoE included expanding the research base in women’s health, providing training at all levels, and addressing community needs through outreach, research and clinical care. The CoE funding supported faculty in 3 schools, 9 departments in the School of Medicine and the VA.
  • Selection for one of twenty K12 junior faculty training awards entitled “BIRCWH” (Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health) to promote careers in women’s health. Young investigators from the Schools of Medicine and Public Health and the Sargent School of Rehabilitation have been provided with mentored support to foster their development. Now in its 6th year of funding with Dr. Karen Freund as PI, it has supported 14 investigators, all of who have successfully competed for external grant funding.

As a culmination of 10 years of these and other efforts, the Women’s Health Interdisciplinary Research Center (WHIRC) was created at the Boston Medical Campus in February 2005. The
Center replaces the Program, while maintaining and extending its goals.