NIH grant funds Women’s Reproductive Health Research Program

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has been awarded a highly prestigious National Institutes of Health grant for training early career faculty to become clinician scientists focused on women’s health and reproductive medicine.

The $1.7 million grant will fund the Women’s Reproductive Health Research (WRHR) Center of Excellence at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in basic and translational research for Obstetrics and Gynecology-trained physician scientists.

“The program’s mission is to offer rigorous basic and translational laboratory research training coupled with structured career mentoring to junior faculty members of the Baylor College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology,” said Texas Children’s Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief Dr. Michael Belfort. “The ultimate goal is to prepare the future academic research leaders in Obstetrics and Gynecology who are prepared to ask and comprehensively address the most important research questions that when answered can ultimately improve women’s health.”

Belfort will oversee the program. Drs. Kjersti Aagaard and Chandra Yallampalli will serve as research co-directors and Dr. Melissa Suter will act as the program director. Program scholars will be able to choose from among 29 dedicated faculty mentors to engage in one of 12 thematic research areas.

The scholars also will be trained to be mentors themselves through our National Research Mentoring Network courses and will engage in our programs for enhancing diversity and inclusion in the next generation of scientists.

“With state-of-the-art core resources, a strong team of mentors covering the breadth and depth of women’s health research topics, and support from a strong Internal Advisory Committee, the program is ideally poised to achieve its mission,” Aagaard said. “And, with a highly competitive residency program, and six OB/GYN-related fellowship programs, we have a strong internal pool of potential future candidates from which we can recruit highly qualified and promising scholars. We will similarly be recruiting the best of the best in our field from across the country to join our talented team at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine.”

Texas Children’s in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine’s 29 faculty research mentors, as well as its team of experienced biostatisticians, are a collaborative group of basic and translational scientists. Because of the organizations’ reputation of rapid expansion and innovation, they are regularly contacted by young colleagues who want to join the department to become academic physician scientists. All applications to the program will be reviewed and selected by the Advisory Committees using defined criteria. Each accepted scholar will have an educational plan that includes development of laboratory and clinical science investigative expertise, required courses/seminars, elective courses, and career development activities with a dedicated career advisor.

“We are honored to be among the most prestigious programs in the country (and the only program in Texas and the surrounding states) chosen to mentor, sponsor, and coach the next generation of physician scientists in our field,” said Aagaard. “The funds from the NIH WRHR Program will support the years of dedicated time necessary to build a strong research foundation to better understand the root cause of problems that plague women during pregnancy and throughout reproductive life. We have a passion for mentoring and supporting bright young colleagues who wish to make a difference in women’s lives. With the ongoing support of Texas Children’s, we look forward to working hand-in-hand with our WRHR scholars as we find real and tailored solutions, treatments, and cures for the women and their children who need them most.”