Our Mission and Philosophy
The mission of the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program is to promote recruitment, retention, and sustained advancement of biomedical careers in women’s health. Our Program philosophy is based on three central concepts: adaptability, diversity, and excellence. To achieve our mission the UNC BIRCWH program will:
- Provide mentored career development of junior scientists pursing women’s health or sex/gender research;
- Create interdisciplinary research teams to enhance women’s health research; and
- Facilitate the translation of these research findings to improve community health
We expect UNC BIRCWH graduates will go on to become the next generation of leaders, teachers and mentors in women’s health and sex/gender research in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industry.
At UNC, research in women’s health is extensive and diverse. UNC BIRCWH mentors represent a multitude of backgrounds, though we have selected the following areas of research emphasis:
- Quantitative Pharmacology
- Nutrition, Obesity, and Diabetes
- Cancers Affecting Women
- Mental Health, Alcohol, and Substance Abuse
- HIV/Sexually Transmitted Diseases
These areas represent contemporary topics in biomedical research and encompass a broad range of topics from basic science to translational and clinical studies, health services, outcomes, and epidemiologic investigation.
UNC BIRCWH scholars have access to diverse mentors and leaders within the institution committed to nurturing the careers of junior faculty. Career focus, skill development, and learning how to balance the demands of an academic career are some of the short-term benefits scholars enjoy. Long-term, scholars become part of a network of like-minded individuals and potential collaborators that have gone on to become research and university leaders.
Qualified faculty that are accepted into the BIRCWH K12 Institutional Training Grant program are provided with 75% salary support (50% for surgical specialties with NIH approval) for up to $100,000 per year for a minimum of two years. An additional $25,000 is allotted for any annual, direct costs that directly contribute to the scholar’s research and career development activities. Funds for travel to the annual BIRCWH meeting and one scientific meeting per year are also available.
History of BIRCWH at UNC
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was one of the first programs to be awarded the BIRCWH grant. From September 2000 forward Dr. Eugene Orringer nurtured the program at the university and ensured it’s continuous funding with the assistance of the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS).
In October 2015, Dr. Orringer passed ownership of UNC BIRCWH to Dr. Kim Boggess, the current principal investigator for the program and previous scholar. The program is currently administered by the Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC. The Fiscal Year 2016 renewal introduced:
- new leadership
- a newly configured Internal Interdisciplinary Advisory Committee (IIAC)
- a Resource Laboratory Network
- new mentors that enable the program to expand it’s interdisciplany collaboration
- new formalized training in sex and gender, team science, diversity, and mentorship
- increase in strategic on and off campus partnerships
- an improved mentor and mentee self assessment process
The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) leads the BIRCWH initiative. The BIRCWH awards are a trans-NIH collaborative effort. The most current round of BIRCWH Programs is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute of Mental Health. ORWH and NIDA provide programmatic oversight for these BIRCWH Programs and NICHD provides the grants-management oversight for most of the programs. UNC BIRCWH’s FY2016 award is administered by the Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC.
NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health
The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) leads the BIRCWH initiative. ORWH, part of the Office of the Director of NIH, works in partnership with the 27 NIH Institutes and Centers to ensure that women’s health research is part of the scientific framework at the NIH—and throughout the scientific community. It is the first Public Health Service office dedicated specifically to promote women’s health research within and beyond the NIH scientific community. ORWH’s interdisciplinary research and career development initiatives stimulate research on sex and gender differences and provide career support to launch promising women’s health researchers. These programs set the stage for improved health for women and their families and career opportunities and advancement for a diverse biomedical workforce.
Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC
The Center for Women’s Health Research (CWHR) is dedicated to improving the health of all women through research, education, and advocacy. CWHR provides exemplary research services to women’s health investigators in the areas of preventive care, screening, symptoms and early diagnosis, delivery of services, and health disparities, and serves as the academic home for the UNC BIRCWH award. The CWHR catalyzes interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research efforts by developing community partnerships and educating the next generation of women’s health researchers. It strives to increase awareness of women’s health issues through our community outreach efforts, like the production and distribution of the North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card every two years. Through collaborative research efforts on women’s health, the Center is learning more about how women respond differently to diseases and treatments. By housing the UNC BIRCWH program within CWHR, BIRCWH Scholars have the most current knowledge of the support and activities for women’s health research and access to scientists and stakeholders across campus and within the State of North Carolina.