The Women's Health Group integrates clinical care with innovative women's health research, using the findings of investigations to help inform the clinical and medical education missions of the Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. Investigators in the Center have developed and evaluated a number of clinical protocols in preventive medicine, including screening tools for eating disorders and domestic violence that are now used in the clinical intake form within the Center and across the country. Research demonstrating the role of physicians in the low rates for mammography and clinical breast examination in certain populations has led to the evaluation of innovative techniques to improve medical education in this critical area.
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 in women's health at the medical campus by bringing bench scientists, clinical investigators and public health researchers together to determine collaborative research directions and to help 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 still meets and includes members from the Boston University School of Public Health, the Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and from the Departments of Biochemistry, Geriatrics, Medicine, Orthopedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Pathology Laboratory Medicine, Surgical Oncology, and the Cancer Center in the Boston University School of Medicine. Members of the Breast Cancer Working Group have received multiple research and training grants from the Department of Army and Susan Komen Foundation, as well as R01's and a Program Project grant on Signaling in Breast Carcinogenesis from the NIH.
- Awarding of a National Center of Excellence in Women's Health to Boston University by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1997. The Center’s goals include expanding the research base in women's health, providing training at all levels and addressing community needs through outreach, research and clinical care. The Center has supported faculty in three schools, nine departments in the Boston University School of Medicine and BU faculty at the VA. Four junior faculty members received their first independent funding through the Center.
- Receipt of a K12 junior faculty-training award entitled BIRCWH (Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health). Dr. Rebecca Silliman is the Principal Investigator. This 5-year award is an interdisciplinary effort including the BU Schools of Medicine and Public Health and the Sargent School of Rehabilitation and has provided young investigators in five different departments with mentored support over 1-2 years to foster their development and ability to obtain independent research funding.
In 2005, the Program in Research on Women's Health at Boston Medical Center was replaced by the Women's Health Interdisciplinary Research Center (WHIRC) which pursues the same goal: to promote women's health through research and training.