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UI using NIH funding for research on women’s health

BY JORDAN FRIES | DECEMBER 08, 2009 7:30 AM

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The UI is becoming a center for women’s reproductive-health research after receiving a five-year $2.25 million grant that medical officials are already putting to use.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the UI obstetrics/gynecology department the federal funding on Sept. 30, marking the first time the university has received the prestigious grant.

The grant established the Iowa Women’s Reproductive Health Research Center, one of 16 similar institutions across the country.

Other facilities include those at the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Colorado, said Becky Soglin, a spokeswoman for the Iowa center.

The grant has also made it possible for three junior faculty members to research women’s health problems, such as uterine cancer and fertility concerns. Once applicants are selected, they will work under the direction of 21 UI Hospitals and Clinics senior faculty members.

The new application process will attract medical professionals from all over the country, not just the UI Carver College of Medicine, said Kimberly Leslie, the head of UI obstetrics/gynecology.

Applicants are far from neophytes. They have all completed their medical degrees, residencies in obstetrics and gynecology, and, in some cases, fellowships in specific fields, such as high-risk pregnancy or reproductive cancer treatments.

Leslie, the principal investigator of the application process, said she will sift through at least five applicants and make a decision at the end of December.

Scholars will focus on women’s health issues of their choosing, depending on the mentor selected, and they will have the option of undergoing their research for the full five years, free of job turnover.

They will also be paid a salary “protecting” their research time.

“It’s very necessary to train our junior faculty to compete on a global scale, research-wise,” Leslie said. “This is vital if we want to keep up with other countries.”

She noted the original grant-application process was competitive.

“We competed for this grant with schools such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania,” Leslie said. “Our students participating will achieve true research independence with training as good as any in the nation.”

While the UI has received more than $9 million in NIH grants since April, Mario Ascoli, the director of the new research program, called this one by far the largest.

“The grant will enhance the reputation of the UI as a worldwide leader in women’s reproductive research like never before,” he said.


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