The VCU Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program is an NIH K12 award sponsored by the Office of Research on Women's Health that provides a structured environment that promotes the development of junior faculty researchers into independent scientists with a commitment to interdisciplinary research benefitting the health and well-being of women across the lifespan. VCU is a national leader in women’s health with robust research on sex/gender influences on health, and it offers extensive and varied opportunities and support for training and research in these areas. The BIRCWH Program supports promising early-career faculty candidates by implementing a novel, interdisciplinary mentoring approach matching scholars with a team of mentors who bring varied perspectives to the scholars’ research and career development; design and implement a structured, personalized education and training plan to develop scholars knowledgeable about women’s health and sex/gender influences who are proficient in study design and conduct, data analysis, and publication in accordance with best regulatory and ethical practices; and connect scholars with other researchers and clinicians from across VCU as well as from other universities and with community partners to encourage interdisciplinary, scientifically rigorous, clinically relevant research on women’s health and sex/gender differences. With a focus on the five areas of Cancer, Maternal-Child Health, Mental Health and Addiction, Neuro-Musculoskeletal Health, and Obesity and Cardiovascular Health, the program leverages the expertise of VCU’s exceptional women’s health researchers to train junior researchers in areas that are particularly relevant to women and the study of sex/gender influences on health.
The VCU BIRCWH Program is directed by an interdisciplinary team of internationally acclaimed women’s health researchers and administratively housed in the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, providing an environment that supports sex/gender-focused training and research that transcends any single school or discipline.
BIRCWH Leadership Team
Principal Investigators - Susan G. Kornstein, MD (lead PI; Psychiatry and IWH Exec Director) and Barbara Boyan, PhD (Engineering)
Research Directors - Dace Svikis, PhD (Psychology and IWH Deputy Director) and Gretchen Neigh, PhD (Anatomy & Neurobiology and IWH Director of Translational Research)
Director of Education - Pam Dillon, PharmD (CCTR and IWH Co-Director of Translational Research)
Advisory Board Chairs - Amy Salisbury, PhD (Nursing and IWH Director of Research) and Vanessa Sheppard, PhD (Health Behavior & Policy)
Program Administrator - Molly Hyer, PhD (IWH Director of Research Development & Innovation)
Research Area Heads- Sarah Spiegel (Cancer), Greg Buck (Maternal Child Health), Dace Svikis (Mental Health & Addiction), Shumei Sun (Obesity and Cardiovascular Health), Barbara Boyan (Neuro-Musculoskeletal Health)
VCU has a long-standing commitment to women’s health research and practice and a coordinated agenda to train interdisciplinary researchers. The VCU BIRCWH Program provides a unique setting to develop a new generation of interdisciplinary investigators trained to improve women’s health by better understanding the role of sex and gender in disease risk, clinical manifestations, treatment, and outcomes as well as in health and health care delivery.