VCU Institute for Women's Health


The VCU Institute for Women’s Health (IWH) is a chartered university-wide institute approved by the Board of Visitors in 1999. It is the only community of scholars across VCU that conducts, promotes, and integrates interdisciplinary research, education, and community engagement in women’s health and sex/ gender differences. As the central coordinating entity for women’s health at VCU, IWH has been instrumental in identifying new and emerging opportunities and influencing institutional priorities related to women’s health.

Since its establishment, IWH has achieved major accomplishments in the areas of research, education, and community engagement and has increased the University’s visibility as a national leader in women’s health. In 2003, the Institute was designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health as one of 20 National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health. The Institute currently has 57 affiliate faculty representing 12 schools from across VCU.


The mission of the VCU Institute for Women’s Health is to promote standards of excellence in women’s health care, advance cutting-edge research, foster community engagement and collaboration, enhance women’s leadership and provide professional education toward the goal of improving the health of women across the lifespan.


The Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health is a dynamic leader for the university’s collective efforts in women’s health and a national model of excellence.

The Institute's Goal


Develop, support and facilitate interdisciplinary research including basic, clinical, behavioral, translational and community engaged research in women’s health and gender differences.


Establish and sustain community partnerships that support dissemination of culturally relevant health information, increase linkage to healthcare services, and create opportunities for research and education.


Develop culturally competent professional and community education programs in women's health.


Executive Director

Susan Kornstein, MDSusan G. Kornstein, M.D. is Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she isCo-Founder and Executive Director of the VCU Institute for Women's Health, designated a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is Director of Clinical Research in the Department of Psychiatry and has served as Director of the VCU Mood Disorders Institute, Medical Director of the VCU Clinical Trials Office, Chair of the VCU Division of Outpatient Psychiatry, and VCU Health System Board Member, a gubernatorial appointment.

Dr. Kornstein is an internationally recognized researcher and thought leader with expertise in depression and women’s mental health. She has been a principal investigator on more than 90 research studies in the areas of depression, anxiety disorders, premenstrual syndrome, and sexual dysfunction. She is currently co-Principal Investigator on a $3 million ADVANCE-IT grant funded by the National Science Foundation focused on increasing recruitment, retention and advancement of diverse women faculty. She published the first large study showing sex differences in antidepressant treatment response for depression and the first large study of an antidepressant for the treatment of peri- and postmenopausal depression, as well as the first large study of symptom-onset antidepressant dosing for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. She was an investigator in the landmark STAR*D depression study funded by the National Institute for Mental Health and was a Regional Center Director for the NIH Depression Trials Network. She edited the first comprehensive textbook on women’s mental health (Women's Mental Health: A Comprehensive Textbook, Guilford Press), and recently co-chaired a task force for the National Network of Depression Centers and the North American Menopause Society that developed the first set of guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of perimenopausal depression. She has authored more than 200 scientific journal articles, chapters, and abstracts, and has given many invited presentations at national and international meetings. Dr. Kornstein is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Women's Health, President of the Academy of Women’s Health, Chair of the Annual Congress on Women’s Health, and Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the American Society for Clinical Psychopharmacology. She is a past member of the NIH Advisory Council for Research on Women’s Health, Past President of the International Association for Women’s Mental Health and Past President of the North American Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the American College of Psychiatrists. She has been a consultant to the U.S. Surgeon General, DHHS, and NASA on women’s mental health concerns and serves on a number of national advisory boards. She has given over 100 media interviews, including the New York Times, CNN, U.S. News and World Report, Science Magazine, and numerous women’s magazines.

Dr. Kornstein has been the recipient of several awards for her research, service, and leadership, including a Distinguished Service Award from the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, a Research Scientist Award from the MCV Foundation, Best Doctors in America, the VCU Women in Medicine and Science Professional Achievement Award, the YWCA Outstanding Woman Award for Health and Science, JWI’s Woman to Watch Award, the Lilly Welcome Back Award, MM&M’s HealthCare Transformer Award, and the American Medical Women’s Association’s Lila Wallis Award for contributions to women’s health. Dr. Kornstein attended college and medical school at Brown University and completed her residency training and a fellowship in Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry at the Medical College of Virginia of Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also a graduate of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and the Drexel Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program.

Deputy Director

Dace Svikis, PhD

Dr. Dace Svikis is a Professor in the Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Obstetrics/Gynecology at VCU. She also serves as Deputy Director of the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, Director of the AWHARE Program (Addiction and Women’s Health: Advancing Research and Evaluation), and Co-Director of the International Programme in Addiction Studies. Dr. Svikis is a clinical psychologist who has been involved in addiction research for over 30 years, with expertise in clinical trials of pharmacological and behavioral interventions.

She is best known for her work in perinatal substance use and substance use disorders, and has championed inclusion of sex as a biological variable in the design and interpretation of research. Since coming to VCU, her focus has shifted to transdisciplinary studies and the use of technology to bridge the research to clinical practice gap. Dr. Svikis has served as PI on numerous R01s and has served on a variety of NIH study sections and special review panels. She is dedicated to student and faculty mentoring, serving as primary mentor on a variety of K01/K23 junior faculty as well as F31 and R36 doctoral student research training awards. In addition, Dr. Svikis is active in international work, frequently serving as mentor to scholars in the Humphrey Fellowship program at VCU.

Gretchen N. Neigh, PhD
Director of Translational Research

Gretchen N. Neigh, PhDDr. Neigh is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Dr. Neigh’s research focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms that dictate risk and resilience to stress exposure with the goal of determining how to prevent and treat mental and physical disease. Her work focuses on periods of increased plasticity and susceptibility to insults such as adolescence, late life, and in the context of HIV. In addition, Dr. Neigh assesses the role of sex differences in the manifestation of risk and resilience. Dr. Neigh has received funding from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the American Heart Association, the Claude Pepper Center, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute for Nursing Research, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and the National Institute of Mental Health. In addition to her research program, Dr. Neigh has served as a council member and secretary for the Organization for the Study of Sex Difference (OSSD), is the social media editor for Neuropsychopharmacology, is the Past-President of the Central Virginia Chapter for the Society of Neuroscience, and serves on the editorial boards of Hormones & Behavior and Physiology & Behavior. More information about her work can be found at:


Molly Hyer, PhD
Director of Research Development and Learning Innovation

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Amy Salisbury PhD., RN
Director of Research, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Scholarship & Innovation

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Phoebe Ashley, MD
Director of Professional Education

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Director of Clinical Services and Co-Chair, Women's Health Conference

Lisa Ellis, MS, MD, CCCDr. Ellis is the Executive Director of Patient-Provider Experience for MCV Physicians and an Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Ellis received her MS degree in Speech and Language Pathology from the University of Wisconsin and MD degree from VCU School of Medicine. She completed a residency at VCU Medical Center in Internal Medicine-Women’s Health.

She was recruited by Sanford Health University Health System in the Midwest to be the Administrator/Director and founding developer of the Sanford Health Women’s Plaza. At Sanford Health she was the Deputy Director for a demonstration Project for the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health in collaboration with the US Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Ellis was appointed the medical student and residency representative for the state of Virginia for the American College of Physicians sitting on the Governor’s Council for five years in Virginia. During this time, two Evergreen awards were awarded to Virginia for projects and conferences she facilitated. The Evergreen award is a prestigious award given by the American College of Physicians to honor the development of new programs which promoted physician involvement. She was again appointed to the council by the Governor in 2009 and became a fellow of the College at that time. She is currently is in an elected position as the Governor for Virginia of the American College of Physicians and will hold this position until 2016. Dr. Ellis has won a number of awards for Leadership including the Joseph E. Johnson Leadership award, an international award which recognizes qualities that enhance the effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine. As a resident at VCU Medical Center she was the recipient of the Excellence in Leadership award given to a resident that demonstrates leadership at regional and national levels. One of the most meaningful awards given to Dr. Ellis was the Arthur Klein Memorial Award given to a resident at VCU chosen by their peers for their demonstration of compassion and excellence in patient care.

Dr. Ellis is currently the co-chair for the Women’s Health Congress National meeting and Chair of the National Centennial Annual conference for the American College of Physicians in Boston, 2015. She has given numerous invited seminars and lectures on women‘s health topics at the local and national level. She won the Foundations in Clinical Medicine Excellence in teaching award and continues to precept women’s health residents in the outpatient setting in their elective rotations.

Personally, Dr. Ellis’s husband is a dermatopathologist who practices in the Richmond community and also did his residency at VCU and they have two adult sons. She is an avid archer, gardener, golfer and trained vocalist.

Co-Director of Professional & Community Education

Nan O'Connell, MDDr. Nan G. O’Connell is an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the generalist division at Virginia Commonwealth University. She maintains a busy clinical practice with special interest in guiding women through the menopausal transition, contraception, and group prenatal care. She is involved in both resident and medical student education at VCU medical center also serving as a mentor.

Dr. O’Connell received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University, her medical degree from the University of Virginia, and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at VCU. She was a partner in a large group practice in Richmond, Virginia for a number of years before returning to academic medicine in 2008.


Director of Community Education

Valerie is a Women’s and Children’s Health Educator. She earned a Master’s of Science in Nursing from Duke University, and has been a nurse for 37 years.  Valerie is a Certified Lactation Consultant, a Certified Childbirth Educator, and a Fellow in the American College of Childbirth Educators.  She is currently the team leader at VCUHS for the Best Fed Beginnings Learning Collaborative, a national initiative to improve outcomes for mothers and babies.  She was on faculty for the School of Nursing at  UNC Chapel Hill and Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as an infant transport nurse in the NICU in Chapel Hill, N.C. and a preceptor in labor and delivery at VCUHS.  Valerie serves on the Virginia State Advisory Council on Breastfeeding, the State Task Force on Breastfeeding,  and the Mayor’s Commission on Breastfeeding in Richmond, VA, and is the Lamaze International representative on the United States Breastfeeding committee Advisory Board.  Professional affiliations for Valerie include Lamaze International, International Lactation Consultant Association, Central Virginia Nurse Staff Development, and Sigma Theta Tau and has served on the Board of District 5 of Virginia Nurses Association.  She is a graduate of the Nurse Leadership Academy.

Chair of Professional Advisory Board

Judith Collins, WHNP

Ms. Collins retired in July 2000 after more than thirty years of service at VCU. Ms. Collins earned her B.S.N. from the University of North Carolina, M.S. in Maternal-Child Health Nursing from Boston University, and OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner Certificate from VCU. Throughout her nursing career, she has held positions in nursing services, administration and education. She served on the Hospital Ship HOPE in Nicaragua in 1966. She was also a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C. in 1982-1983 and worked in Congress in the Office of Congressman Richard A. Gephardt. Following the fellowship, Ms. Collins initiated the VCU Health Policy Office in the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences to focus on governmental relations and health policy issues/education. She was Director of the Health Policy Office from 1983-1993.

Ms. Collins is a nationally known speaker, consultant, and writer in the areas of women's health care, health policy, and nurse practitioner issues. Ms. Collins co-authored a chapter in Primary Health Care of Women entitled "Women and the Health Care System." She has served on multiple Boards and Task Forces focused on health policy issues including infant mortality, maternal-child health, indigent care, and health professional standards.

Ms. Collins holds leadership positions in many community and professional organizations on the local, state and national levels. She was the first Chair of the National Alliance of Nurse Practitioners, National Vice President of NAACOG (AWHONN), Vice President of the National Certification Corporation (NCC) for Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nurses and the past Chair of the Virginia Capital Area March of Dimes. She is currently a Board Member of the National Center for Certification Preparation and Review, a Trustee and Vice President of the MCV Foundation, Co-Chair of the Advisory Council of the YWCA, Board Member and Vice Chair of Women's Health Virginia, Board Member of the American College of Nurse Midwives Certification Council, Trustee of the Richmond Memorial Foundation, Board Member of the VCU Institute of Women's Health and Board Member of Centralized Credentials Verification Service, Inc. Ms. Collins is volunteering as a WHNP at Craig Health Center.

Ms. Collins is also a founding Board Member and Vice President of Women's Health Virginia, a statewide initiative to improve the health of women and girls in Virginia, that partners with VCU's Institute of Women's Health on education and outreach activities. Ms. Collins' honors and awards include election as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nurses, Mabel Montgomery Outstanding Nursing Faculty Award, VCU Distinguished Faculty Service Award (first Woman), the National NAACOG Distinguished Professional Service Award, the Virginia Nurses Association 1990 Political Nurse of the Year Award, the 1991 YWCA Outstanding Women's Award of Greater Richmond in Health and Science, appointed by the Governor to serve on the Virginia Board of Nursing (1991-95), VCU Outstanding Alumni Award for 1993, 1994 VCU Woman of the Year, 1994 William Bruch, Judith B. Collins, RNC, MS, WHNP, FAAN M.D. Outstanding Nurse Practitioner Award, The National Association of Professionals in Women's Health 1998 National Excellence Award for Outstanding Comprehensive Women's Health Services, VCU School of Nursing 1999 Outstanding Alumni Award, and one of the 99 Outstanding Nurses in Virginia by the Virginia Nurses Foundation, the Virginia Nurses Association for 1999, the 1999 National Conference for Nurse Practitioners "Lifetime Achievement Award for 9 National Nurse Practitioner Leaders/Role Models", Virginia Nurses Association 20th Century Pioneer Award, and VCU Health System Employee of the Year for 2000. In honor of her retirement, an endowed Professorship in Women's Health was established at the VCU School of Nursing. In retirement, Ms. Collins has remained very active as a volunteer on many University, community, state and national boards and foundations.

Kellie E. Carlyle, PhD, MPH
Research Scientist for Intimate Partner Violence

Kellie E. Carlyle, PhD, MPH

Dr. Carlyle serves as the scientific lead of the Sexual and Domestic Violence Research Development Group in the VCU Institute for Women's Health and primarily focuses her research on issues related to interpersonal violence, sexual and reproductive health, and mental health. Her contributions to advancing the field of public health were recognized with the 2015 Early Career Award given by the Public Health Education and Health Promotion Division of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Carlyle also has broad expertise in intersectional approaches to reducing health disparities, media representations of public health issues, program evaluation, and theory-driven message design. She uses a range of methodological approaches in her work including quantitative (surveys, experiments, content analyses), qualitative (interviews, focus groups, discourse analyses), and mixed methods.

Susan Bodnar-Deren, PhD
Research Scientist for Perinatal Mental Health

Susan Bodnar-Deren, PhD

Dr. Bodnar-Deren is a medical sociologist whose research focuses on the life course and social determinants of health and health behaviors, and the ways that macro social factors affect individual-level health and well-being. Broadly, her research interests take a life course perspective in the areas of environmental gerontology, applied sociology, health /illness, and social psychology all within medical sociology, but her work spans various sub-disciplines, including behavioral health, health disparities, and social policy. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology at VCU and an Affiliate Researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Prior to coming to VCU, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Excellence Fellow at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University.

Among the courses that she teaches are: Medical Sociology (undergraduate and graduate), Sociology of Aging and the Life Course (undergrad and grad), Sociology of Mental Disorder, and Senior Seminar.

Her research focuses on two distinct areas of the life course – maternal reproductive years and older age (and the end-of-life). In both areas of my research, the projects on which I am working seek to illuminate the links between individual and environmental factors that affect health beliefs and behaviors

Patricia Kinser, Ph.D., RN, WHNP-BC, FNAP, FAAN
Research Scientist for Perinatal Mental Health

Patricia Kinser, Ph.D., RN, WHNP-BC, FNAP, FAAN

Dr. Kinser teaches at the VCU School of Nursing, predominantly in the master’s and PhD programs. Her major areas of teaching focus on women’s health, mindfulness, advanced health assessment, and qualitative research. She is the co-director of the course Mindfulness for Healthcare Professional Students and a contributor to the Artfulness program at VCU. She is a frequent guest speaker in departments throughout and beyond VCU regarding both women’s health issues and the application of mindfulness-based interventions for various clinical and non-clinical populations. She serves as a doctoral student advisor and a member of numerous dissertation committees within and outside of the School of Nursing. Her program of research is largely focused on enhancing wellness in women across the lifespan, with specific foci on biobehavioral mechanisms (including epigenetics) of depression and stress and on the biobehavioral effects of psychobehavioral interventions and complementary health approaches for stress and depression.

Wendy S. Klein, MD, MACP
Co-chair of the Women's Health 2020

Wendy S. Klein, MD, MACP

After pre-med studies at Columbia University, Dr. Klein received her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University and completed Internal Medicine residency training at the Medical College of Virginia. In 1988, she joined the MCV faculty in General Internal Medicine, and subsequently rose to numerous leadership positions within the Department of Internal Medicine and at the University. In 1992, she co-founded the award winning VCU Women’s Health Center at Stony Point, where she was Medical Director for its first five years.

In 1997, Dr. Klein established and directed an innovative Internal Medicine residency in Women’s Health, which became a national model for interdisciplinary medical training. In 1999, she co-founded the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, which was recognized as a National Center of Excellence by the US Department of Health & Human Services, and the VCU Women’s Health Center. Active in numerous organizations, Dr. Klein is also the founding Past President of the Women in Science, Dentistry & Medicine (WISDM) Organization and is founding Chair of the annual multidisciplinary Women’s Health Congress, a scientific update for healthcare professionals, now educating 1000 clinicians annually and for which she is Scientific Program Chair. She currently serves on national committees for the American College of Physicians (ACP), the Sex and Gender Women’s Health Collaborative, and the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), and continues to actively mentor students, residents and faculty.

Dr. Klein has been recognized in Richmond Magazine’s listing of the “Top Docs in Richmond” and in The Best Doctors in America. In 2006, she received the VCU Women in Science, Dentistry & Medicine (WISDM) Professional Achievement Award. In 2005, she was honored to become Deputy Editor of the Journal of Women’s Health and she co-edited the Journal until 2011. In 2014, she received the designation of Mastership from the American College of Physicians, given to a highly select peer nominated group who are felt to be distinguished by the excellence and significance of contributions to the field of medicine and in 2015 she was the recipient of the Virginia ACP Laureate Award, in recognition of an abiding commitment to excellence in medical care, and education and in service to the community. Dr. Klein remains actively involved in promoting excellence in medical education, in women’s health and in patient care, and continues to actively mentor students, residents and faculty. She is currently Medical Director of Health Brigade, formerly called Fan Free Clinic, the oldest free clinic in Virginia, and serves on the Virginia Board of Health.

Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research Liaison


Dr. Dillon has worked at VCU since 2007, currently serving as the Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research liaison. She also serves as a clinical assistant professor at the VCU School of Pharmacy. Dr. Dillon received her bachelor’s degrees in Pharmacy and Spanish, graduating summa cum laude, from Butler University in 1992. She then earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from VCU in 1997. She started her career in the pharmaceutical industry at Pharmaceutical Research Associates, a contract research organization. Subsequently, she worked at Insmed Pharmaceuticals, Inc Research, and finally, Aderis Pharmaceuticals, where she was Director of Clinical Development. Dr. Dillon has more than 15 years of broad-based pharmaceutical industry experience in product development planning, clinical trials management, regulatory compliance, medical writing, therapeutic monitoring, and data management. As a CCTR liaison, Dr. Dillon works to provide VCU’s researchers with access to core resources, networking opportunities, and research-related educational offerings. Dr. Dillon’s own research interests include women’s health and substance use disorders.


Benoit Meyrieux, MA | Journal of Women's Health, Editorial Coordinator and IWH Project Coordinator

Janett Forte, MSW, LCSW | Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, VCU Institute for Women's Health


IWH Faculty & Staff


Benoit Meyrieux

VCU Institute for Women's Health 
Theater Row Building
730 E Broad Street
4th floor, Suite 4200
Richmond, VA 23221
VCU Maps


VCU Institute for Women's Health
Box 980319
Richmond, VA 23298-0319

Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Institute for Women's Health  |  Contact Us

Theater Row Building
730 E. Broad Street
4th Floor, Suite 4200
Richmond, VA
PO Box 980319
Richmond, VA 23298-0319
updated: August 31, 2021