The purpose of Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health in Pittsburgh (BIRCWH @ Pitt) program is to equip talented University of Pittsburgh faculty Scholars to be independent investigators in interdisciplinary research in women’s health. The program encompasses basic, translational, behavioral, clinical, and health services research in reproductive sciences and women’s health, spanning embryonic life to advanced age.

 

Eligibility

At the time of the appointment, BIRCWH Scholar candidates must:

  • Have a clinical doctorate, or a PhD degree or its equivalent;
  • Have completed any postgraduate training normally expected for a faculty appointment in their field (including clinical or postdoctoral fellowship training, or residency if they have chosen not to subspecialize);
  • Have no more than six years of research or research training experience beyond their last doctoral degree (candidates who have had a career hiatus for special circumstances may be exceptions, please inquire with the program coordinator)
  • Hold, or be scheduled to start a faculty appointment within the University of Pittsburgh’s six Schools of the Health Sciences (Grad School of Public Health, School of Dental Medicine, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and School of Pharmacy).
  • Be able to spend at least 9 person months (or at least 6 person months for surgical-specialties) of full-time professional effort conducting research and research career development activities;
  • Not be or have been a PD/PI on an R01, R29 or subproject of a Program Project (P01), Center (P50, P60, U54) grant, independent mentored career development (K-series) grants, or other equivalent research grant awards; except for R03 and R21;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or noncitizen national, or must have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence and possess an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-151 or I-155) or some other verification of legal admission as a permanent citizen. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible.

Generally, new Scholar appointments will have start dates four times a year; January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1. The program maintains funding for four Scholars at a time. We are not accepting applications at this time.

 

Program Structure

 

Scholars, who are supported for a minimum of two years, are able to take advantage of the extraordinary environment at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and Magee-Womens Research Institute as they work with a personalized mentorship team and supportive program advisory committee members to develop a research program that is not only relevant to the Scholar’s research interests in women’s health, but will serve as the foundation for the Scholar’s independence.

Mechanisms of Support

1 – Salary Support: The BIRCWH program will provide salary and fringe benefits for the Scholar. The total salary requested must be based on a full-time, 12-month staff appointment. BIRCWH will provide up to 75% of the NIH maximum Scholar salary (75% of $100K + fringe benefits). The Scholar’s home department must supplement the BIRCWH salary contribution to a level that is consistent with that department’s salary scale. Departmental supplementation of a salary may not require duties or responsibilities that would interfere with the purpose of BIRCWH or the requirement that 75% effort be spent on women’s health research or related career development activities. (Note: BIRCWH research effort may be reduced to 50% FTE for faculty in surgical specialties such as general surgery, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, etc.)

2 – Tuition and fees: Scholars will participate in curriculum consisting of coursework, workshops and lectures. Scholars will be required to complete core coursework, as well as coursework specific to their research themes and in accordance with the depth of their pursuit of scientific knowledge. Since Scholars will hold junior level faculty appointments at the University of Pittsburgh, they will be eligible for tuition assistance for their coursework. The tuition benefit covers the majority of the tuition costs (90%), with some limitations (i.e., assistance is applicable to first six credits per term, fees and materials are not included, assistance in excess of $5,250 per calendar year is taxable). Each Scholar is provided $750 per year to cover coursework costs.

BIRCWH Required coursework

(Offered via University of Pittsburgh CTSI, see http://www.icre.pitt.edu/courses/courses.aspx)

DEPARTMENT COURSE TITLE
ICRE/CTSI Ethics and Regulations in Clinical Research
ICRE/CTSI From Benchtop to Bedside
ICRE/CTSI Medical Writing and Presentation Skills
ICRE/CTSI Making the Most of Mentoring

Suggested coursework

Scholars should work with their mentors to identify additional coursework relevant to their project. Suggestions listed below should not be considered all-inclusive.

DEPARTMENT COURSE TITLE
Bioethics Bioethics
Biostatistics Introduction to Statistical Methods
Interdis Biomed Sci Introduction to Biocomputing
Interdis Mol Biol Approaches in Molecular Biology
ID and Microbiol Mol Biology of Microbial Pathogens
Cell Biol Physiol Topics in Integrative Physiology
Bioc Mol Genetics Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics
Biostatistics Introduction to Statistical Methods
Biostatistics Statistical Micro-array Analysis
Biostatistics Statistical Bioinformatics Data Mining
Biostatistics Introduction to Statistical Methods
Biostatistics Statistical Micro-array Analysis
Biostatistics Statistical Bioinformatics Data Mining
Bioch & Mol Genet Biochemistry of Macromolecules
Bioch & Mol Genet Gene Delivery
Human Genetics Mol Genetics of Complex Diseases
Immunology Experimental Basis of Immunology

3 – Travel: Annual travel funds of $3,000 total will be provided for the Scholar to attend the annual NIH BIRCWH Program Meeting and one scientific meeting per year. The Scholar will consult with her/his mentor to identify those meetings that are most suitable and beneficial to the Scholar’s program.

4 – Research activity: The Program provides funds to support the Scholar’s research activities. This includes the purchase of laboratory supplies and reagents, as well as use of University and Institute core services (e.g., histology, flow cytometry, Imaging, Data Center’s biostatistics program, etc.). Distribution of research funds is dependent upon salary and fringe benefits budgeted; the total annual BIRCWH funds available to scholars for FY2016 is estimated at $106,500 (see sample budget).

5 – Other support: The department supporting the candidate must be able to demonstrate a commitment to the development of the candidate as a productive, independent investigator. The candidate’s department must agree to protect 75% of the scholar’s time for the BIRCWH project (50% allowable for surgical specialties), and cover any of her/his salary and necessary research expenses in excess of the NIH limit. This agreement is needed to ensure that the junior investigator has a salary commensurate to that of other junior faculty in the relevant department, to ensure provision of the appropriate technical support and supplies necessary to establish a productive research program, and to ensure that the total funds allocated to support each young investigator are within the program guidelines. In addition to salary and time, the department must provide office space and appropriate research space for the program recipient.

Research Objectives

1 – Program: At least 75% of the recipient’s full-time effort must be dedicated to the goals of this award. The remainder may be devoted to clinical or teaching responsibilities or to other research efforts. Because of the focus on progression to independence as a researcher, candidates must propose a period of study and career development consistent with his or her previous research experience. This may include exploratory activities to incorporate areas of scientific interests outside the candidate’s immediate area of specialization; that is, the development of a multi-disciplinary research program. The candidate and the mentor are jointly responsible for the preparation of the plan for this program. Preference will be given to candidates who demonstrate an interdisciplinary approach to women’s health research.

2 – Mentor: Each Scholar’s mentorship team will consist of one primary mentor and at least two supporting mentors. The Scholar will work with the primary mentor to submit the application’s research plan and budget. There will be at least one other research mentor with an interest in a relevant scientific discipline different than that of the primary mentor, thus enhancing the interdisciplinary aspects of the research plan. A third member of the mentoring team serves mainly as a career mentor. The BIRCWH Advisory Committee will assist the Scholar in assembling the mentoring team.

Whereas progress review meetings between principal mentors and mentees will occur no less frequently then weekly, meetings with the full mentoring committee of principal and supporting mentors will occur at monthly intervals. This will allow the mentors to monitor the satisfactory progress of the experiments, and will also ensure that the Scholar can take advantage of supporting or alternative approaches that may be available through the supporting mentors or at other laboratories. Under the guidance of their mentors, each Scholar will develop a detailed research plan that will include a rich curriculum of course work and seminars, adjusted to their level of training. They will execute experiments, analyze and prepare data for publication in peer-reviewed journals and presentation at local and national venues. Importantly, Scholars will work with their mentors and advisory committee to prepare and submit an independent research proposal.

 

Mentorship

Each Scholar’s mentorship team will consist of one primary mentor and at least two supporting mentors. The Scholar will work with the primary mentor to submit the application’s research plan and budget. There will be at least one other research mentor with an interest in a relevant scientific discipline different than that of the primary mentor, thus enhancing the interdisciplinary aspects of the research plan. A third member of the mentoring team serves mainly as a career mentor. The BIRCWH Advisory Committee will assist the Scholar in assembling the mentoring team.

Whereas progress review meetings between principal mentors and mentees will occur no less frequently then weekly, meetings with the full mentoring committee of principal and supporting mentors will occur at monthly intervals. This will allow the mentors to monitor the satisfactory progress of the experiments, and will also ensure that the Scholar can take advantage of supporting or alternative approaches that may be available through the supporting mentors or at other laboratories. Under the guidance of their mentors, each Scholar will develop a detailed research plan that will include a rich curriculum of course work and seminars, adjusted to their level of training. They will execute experiments, analyze and prepare data for publication in peer-reviewed journals and presentation at local and national venues. Importantly, Scholars will work with their mentors and advisory committee to prepare and submit an independent research proposal.

A list of program mentors is provided below. However, additional mentors can be added based upon project needs, with the advisory committee’s approval. The mentor should be recognized as an accomplished investigator in the proposed research area and have a successful record in training independent investigators.

BIRCWH @ Pitt Program Mentors

Yoel Sadovsky, MD Director, Magee-Womens Research Institute

Professor of OBGYN-RS, and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

School of Medicine

Catherine Bender, PhD, RN Professor and PhD Program Director

Department of Health & Community Systems

School of Nursing

Lisa Bodnar, PhD Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Psychiatry and OBGYN-RS

Graduate School of Public Health

Debra Bogen, PhD Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Director, Primary Care Physician Faculty Development Fellowship

School of Medicine

Joyce Bromberger, PhD Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry

Graduate School of Public Health

Nancy Davidson, MD Director, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Chemical Biology

School of Medicine 

Anthony Delitto, PT, PhD Professor of Physical Therapy

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Mark Gladwin, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine Director, Vascular Medicine Institute

School of Medicine

Sharon Hillier, PhD Professor of OBGYN-RS and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

School of Medicine

Adrian Lee, PhD Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology

School of Medicine

Mary Marazita, PhD Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Oral Biology

Director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics

School of Dental Health

Karen Matthews, PhD Professor of Psychiatry, Epidemiology, and Psychology

School of Medicine

Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD Professor of Pediatrics

Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine

School of Medicine

Pamela Moalli, MD, PhD Associate Professor of OBGYN-RS and Bioengineering

School of Medicine

Ann B. Newman, MD, MPH Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology

Director Center for Aging and Population Health

Graduate School of Public Health

Steffi Oesterreich, PhD Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, School of Medicine
Kyle Orwig, PhD Associate Professor of OBGYN-RS, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Developmental Biology

Director, Molecular Genetics & Developmental Biology Program

School of Medicine

Tony Plant, PhD Professor of OBGYN-RS, and Cell Biology and Physiology

School of Medicine

James Roberts, MD Professor of OBGYN-RS and Epidemiology

School of Medicine

Lisa Rohan PhD Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Science and OBGYN-RS

School of Pharmacy

Winston Thompson, PhD Professor and Chair, Department of Physiology, Professor and Director of Research, Department of OBGYN

Morehouse School of Medicine

Harold Wiesenfeld, MD Associate Professor of OBGYN-RS

School of Medicine

 

Leadership / Advisory Committee

Yoel Sadovsky, MD

Co-Principal Investigator

Director, Magee-Womens Research Institute

Elsie Hilliard Hillman Chair of Women’s Health Research

Professor Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

James M. Roberts, MD

Co-Principal Investigator

Professor Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

Professor of Epidemiology

Professor Clinical and Translational Science, CTSI

Investigator, Magee-Womens Research Institute

Melissa McNeil, MD, MPH

Program Director

Associate Chief Division of General Internal Medicine

Professor of Medicine and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

Catherine M. Bender, PhD, RN

Committee Member

Professor of Health and Community Systems

School of Nursing

Lisa Bodnar, PhD, MPH, RD

Committee Member

Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Psychiatry, and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences
Michelle Broido, PhD

Committee Member

Associate Vice Chancellor for Biomedical Research

Director, Office of Research, Health Sciences
Co-Director, Clinical & Translational Science Institute

Associate Professor of Clinical and Translational Research and Environmental and Occupational Health

Heidi Donovan, PhD, RN

Committee Member

Professor and Vice Chair for Research

Director, Office of Community Partnerships

Department of Health & Community Systems

Robert P. Edwards, MD

Committee Member

Professor and Chair

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

Wishwa N. Kapoor, MD, MPH

Committee Member

Falk Professor of Medicine

Professor of Health Policy and Management

Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine

Vice Chair, Department of Medicine

Director, Institute for Clinical Research Education

Director, Center for Research on Health Care

Co-Director, Clinical & Translational Science Institute

Mellissa Mann, PhD

Committee Member

Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences
Steffi Oesterreich, PhD

Committee Member

Professor Pharmacology and Chemical Biology

Director of Education Women’s Cancer Research Center

Steven E. Reis, MD

Committee Member

Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Assoc Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research Health Sciences Professor of Medicine and Emergency Medicine

Director, LHAS Women’s Heart Center

Jeannette E. South-Paul, MD

Committee Member

Professor and Chair

Department of Family Medicine

 

Scholars & Alumni

Current Scholars

Bryan N Brown, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and OBGYN
  • McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
  • University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering
  • Project: Modulating the host response: An opportunity for improving outcomes in prolapse repair
  • Primary mentor(s): Harvey Borovetz, PhD

Marian Jarlenski, PhD, MPH

  • Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Management
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health
  • Project: Effects of state prenatal substance use policies on access to treatment and birth outcomes
  • Primary mentor(s): Lisa Bodnar PhD, MPH, RD

Heather McCauley, ScD

  • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
  • Project: Engaging natural Mentor(s)s of girls in foster care to reduce unintended pregnancy
  • Primary mentor(s): Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD

Catherine Chappell, MD

  • Assistant Professor of OBGYN and Reproductive Sciences University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Project: Hepatitis C viral infection in pregnancy
  • Primary mentor(s): Sharon Hillier, PhD

 

Alumni

Steven Abramowitch, PhD (2008-2012)

  • Project: Vaginal and connective tissue remodeling in response to pelvic floor deficiency
  • Primary mentor(s): Pamela Moalli, MD, PhD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor Bioengineering and OBGYN, University of Pittsburgh

Sharon Achilles, MD (2011-2012)

Lisa Bodnar, PhD, MPH, RD (2005-2006)

  • Project: Perinatal depression and maternal nutritional status
  • Primary mentor(s): Katherine Wisner, MD
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Psychiatry and OBGYN, University of Pittsburgh

Debra L. Bogen, MD (2003-2007)

  • Project: The role of maternal depression on women’s breastfeeding decisions
  • Primary mentor(s): Katherine Wisner, MD
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor Pediatrics, Fellowship Director, Faculty Development in General Academic Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

Janet M. Catov, PhD, MS (2008-2012)

  • Project: Preterm birth and maternal cardiovascular risk
  • Primary mentor(s): Kim Sutton Tyrell, DrPH, MPH, RN
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of OBGYN, University of Pittsburgh

Judy Chang, MD (2003-2006)

  • Project: Examining communication and power dynamics of female patients and their healthcare providers
  • Primary mentor(s): Robert Arnold, MD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor of OBGYN, University of Pittsburgh

Molly B. Conroy, MD, MPH (2005-2007)

  • Project: Healthy, minds, bodies and hearts after menopause
  • Primary mentor(s): Andrea Kriska, PhD, MS
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Center for Research on Healthcare, Univ of Pittsburgh

Francesca Facco, MD (2013-2015)

  • Project: Sleep disordered breathing, obesity and pregnancy
  • Primary mentor(s): Patrick Strollo, Jr, MD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor of OBGYN, University of Pittsburgh

Chiara Ghetti, MD (2008-2012)

  • Project: The interrelatedness of depression and anxiety in women seeking surgery for pelvic organ prolapse
  • Primary mentor(s): Katherine Wisner, MD
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of OBGYN, Washington University in St Louis

Rachel Hess, MD, Msc (2004)

  • Project: Does menopause matter?
  • Primary mentor(s): Wishwa Kapoor, MD, MPH
  • Current appointment: Chief, Division of Health System Innovation and Research, Professor of Population of Health Sciences and Internal Medicine, University of Utah

Arundhathi Jeyabalan, MD, MSCR (2003-2007)

  • Project: The Role of Vascular Gelatinase(s) in Pregnancy- and Relaxin- Mediated Renal Vasodilation and Hyperfiltration in Rats
  • Primary mentor(s): Kirk Conrad, MD
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of OBGYN, University of Pittsburgh

Kathleen M. McTigue, MD, MS, MPH (2003-2004)

  • Project: Environmental approaches to obesity prevention in women
  • Primary mentor(s): Lewis Kuller, MD, DrPH
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of General Medicine, and Epidemiology, Director, General Medicine Clinical Scientist Track, Associate Director, General Medicine Intl Scholars Program, University of Pittsburgh

Beth Prairie, MD (2010-2013)

  • Project: Meeting the needs of women at midlife: depressed mood, disturbed sleep and sexual dysfunction
  • Primary mentor(s): Katherine Wisner, MD
  • Current appointment: Midlife Women’s Associates, Pittsburgh, PA

Sarah Reynolds, PhD (2004-2007)

  • Project: Diabetes and pregnancy: personality, mood, and health behaviors
  • Primary mentor(s): Katherine Wishner, MD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor, Columbia School of Social Work and Director of Training, Cognitive & Behavioral Consultants of Westchester, White Plains, NY

Dana Rofey, PhD (2008-2009)

  • Project: Healthy body, healthy mind: helping adolescents with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Primary mentor(s): Ronald Dahl, MD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Haitao Yang, PhD (2013-2015)

  • Project: Engaging natural Mentor(s)s of girls in foster care to reduce unintended pregnancy
    Primary mentor(s):
  • Current appointment: Staff Scientist, University of Florida Center for Pharmacometrics & Systems Pharmacology, Gainesville

 

Application Process

Generally, new Scholar appointments will have start dates four times a year; January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1. The program maintains funding for four Scholars at a time. We are not accepting applications at this time.

The application consists of three major sections, which must be submitted via email (Word or PDF attachments) to Ms Lori Rideout at rideoutl@mwri.magee.edu:

Candidate documents

  1. Completed Application Form
  2. Current curriculum vitae
  3. Draft budget, to address items below. A sample template is provided.
    1. Scholar salary and fringes
    2. Research expenses (supplies, reagents, animals, core services)
    3. Travel to scientific meetings
    4. Tuition/coursework
    • Note: Departmental support for any expenses not coverable by the BIRCWH program must be confirmed in writing. See required letters below.
  4. Research and Career Plan (not to exceed 8 pages) to include:
    1. Research training and career development plan (up to 3 pages): Address the interdisciplinary nature and the reproductive sciences-women’s health focus of
      the training.
    2. Research plan (up to 5 pages, excluding bibliography): Address hypothesis, innovation and approach, and describe how the proposed plan will promote the candidate’s education and development as an independent investigator.
  5. NIH Other Support document (include all current and pending grants, if applicable)

Primary mentor documents

  1. Mentor’s statement (not to exceed 2 pages) to include:
    1. Assessment of the candidate’s qualifications and potential for a research career
    2. Description of career development plan
    3. Description of the research environment, and the availability and quality of needed research resources
  2. Mentor’s NIH biosketch – personal statement section should mentor’s past mentoring experience and current research focus
  3. A list of up to 5 past or current trainees, which includes the name, degree(s), dates, where trained, title of project, academic level, and present position and institution

Letters of support (three)

  1. Two letters of reference from those familiar with candidate’s research
  2. A letter from the candidate’s department Chair confirming that:
    1. Seventy-five percent of the candidate’s full-time professional effort will be protected for the development of his/her research program under the BIRCWH award
    2. Departmental resources, including research facilities, resources, training opportunities, and faculty capable of productive collaboration with the candidate, will be available for the candidate’s planned career development and research program.
    3. The proposed budget is approved by the department, and that the department will cover the remaining salary/fringe and research expenses in excess of the NIH funding available (FY2016 BIRCWH annual funding is estimated at $106,500 per scholar).

Candidate Evaluation

Each proposal will be reviewed initially by the PIs and Program Coordinator to ensure that the application criteria are met. The application will then be reviewed by the entire Advisory Committee. Candidates may be invited to interview with the co-PIs and to provide a presentation of their proposal to the Advisory Committee. The application process an important training experience, and each applicant is provided with a written assessment of her/his application prepared by the co-PIs and Program Director, based upon reviewer critiques and committee discussions. Upon request, the co-PIs or Program Director may also meet with unsuccessful applicants to provide direction toward revision and alternative funding.

 

News

PittMed feature story on BIRCWH Program: http://www.pittmed.health.pitt.edu/story/fem-fellows