The goal of the Women’s Reproductive Health Research (WRHR K12) Career Development Program at Magee-Womens Research Institute is to prepare outstanding junior faculty in the field of obstetrics and gynecology for a productive and exciting investigative career in reproductive biology and biomedical research.



Our ideal candidates are early career, dedicated OBGYN physicians who wish to impact women’s health not only through clinical care, but also through research to improve our understanding of disease processes, and translate discoveries from the lab to the clinical setting. Although they may have limited basic research experience, candidates of our WRHR program are eager to develop a comprehensive set of investigative skills, which can be employ in their investigations. Our candidates recognize that a collaborative approach is crucial in addressing complex medical questions. They expect their experiences as a WRHR scholar will not only enhance their growth as an investigator, but also build the foundation for their mentorship to future reproductive biologists.

At the time of appointment to the WRHR Program, candidates for support as WRHR K12 Scholars must:

  • Be a physician holding the M.D. or D.O. degree;
  • Have completed postgraduate residency training in obstetrics-gynecology;
  • Be in the final research year of postdoctoral fellowship training in obstetrics and
    gynecology if the candidate has chosen to subspecialize;
  • Identify an approved mentor or mentors with extensive research experience;
  • Be able to devote at least nine months (equivalent to 75%) of full-time professional effort to conducting research and research career development;
  • 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. Although individuals who are or were PD/PIs on NIH Small Grants (i.e., R03s) or Exploratory/Developmental Grants (i.e., R21s) may be eligible providing they meet the other eligibility requirements.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or noncitizen national, or must have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence and possess a Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551) or some other verification of legal admission as a permanent citizen.


Program Description

At Magee-Womens Research Institute, we believe that basic and translational reproductive biology research is essential for propelling progress in clinical care for women. We have the critical mass of reproductive biology researchers, mentoring environment and infrastructure to distinctively target training for OBGYN clinicians in basic and translational research in our field. We emphasize Intellect, ingenuity, and creativity to achieve our training objectives.

Program Curriculum

The program curriculum is divided into three types of courses:

  • Mandatory course/class training that every Scholar must take. If these courses/classes have exams, Scholars are required to pass the exam.
  • Basic courses/classes that are primarily important for the novice WRHR Scholar during the 2nd year.
  • Advanced or specific courses/classes offerings.

Additional workshops and courses may be completed by the Scholar in consultation with her/his mentor, and with approval of the Advisory Committee.


WRHR Offered Coursework

The table below depicts examples of offered coursework:

Scientific Ethics Bioethics Postdoctoral Professionalism Series Gene Delivery
Ethics and Regulations in Clinical Research Introduction to Research Methods I Course in Scentific Management and 
Leadership Cancer Biology and Therapeutics
From Benchtop to Bedside: What Every Scientist Needs to Know Introduction to Statistical Methods I Guidelines for Providing Feedback Cell Therapy
Health Disparities Research: Methods and Interventions Introduction to Biocomputing Theoretical Foundations of Applied Ethics Introduction To Gene Mapping
Medical Writing and Presentation Skills Approaches in Molecular Biology Translational Research Seminar Series Introduction To Gene Mapping
Making the Most of Mentoring Molecular Biology of Microbial Pathogens Biostatistics Biochemical and Molecular Genetics of Complex Diseases
Molecular Fundamentals Introduction to Statistical Methods II Principles of Pharmacology
Biomarkers and Molecular Epidemiology Introduction to Biological Assays Comprehensive Immunology
Topics in Integrative Physiology Statistical Methods & Data Mining in Micro-array Analysis Experimental Basis of Immunology
Cell and Molecular Physiology Statistical Foundations for Bioinformatics Data Mining
Genetics Advanced Developmental Biology
Chromosomes and Human Disease Mech. of Cellular Comm., Structure and Morphology
Genetic Analysis in Model Organisms Biochemistry ofMacromolecules
Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics Receptors and Signal Transduction

Scholar’s Review and Feedback

Every four months, the scholars, their mentors and the Advisory Committee meet to evaluate Scholars’ progress as well as the mentorship process. During the meeting, each scholar provides a summary of her/his research, and is provided the opportunity to seek additional advice on strategies for progress and alternative approaches. Scholars may also express any concerns, complaints, or requests. Additional feedback from the Advisory Committee is provided to the scholars after the meeting by their mentors.



Each Scholar selects one principal mentor and at least two supporting mentors. Progress review meetings between principal mentors and mentees will occur on a preset frequency, as well as meetings with the full mentoring committee of principal and supporting mentors. This process will allow the mentors to monitor the satisfactory progress of the experiments, and will also ensure that the trainee can take advantage of supporting or alternative biological approaches that may be available through the supporting mentors or at other laboratories. 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. Scholars may also identify a mentor not included in the list below.


MWRI Basic and Translational Reproductive Health Training Program Mentors

Silva Arslanian, MD Professor of Pediatrics
Yaacov Barak, PhD Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
Carlton Bates, MD Associate Professor of Department of Pediatrics
Richard Chaillet, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Edward Chu, MD Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology & Chemical Biology
Donald DeFranco, PhD Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Sharon Hillier, PhD Professor of Reproductive Infections Disease, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Xin Huang, PhD Assistant Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
Erin Kershaw, MD Associate Professor, Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism
Adrian Lee, PhD Professor of Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Cecilia Lo, PhD Professor of Department of Developmental Biology
Pamela Moalli, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Bioengineering
Kyle Orwig, PhD Assistant Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Steffi Oesterreich, PhD Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology
Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Pathology
Yoel Sadovsky, MD Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Raman Venkataramanan, PhD Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pathology
Judith Yanowitz, PhD Assistant Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology &Reproductive Sciences



Advisory Committee Members


Robert Edwards, MD
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator

Chair and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences

Co-Leader, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program, UPCI

Co-Director, Women’s Cancer Research Center, UPCI

Director, Transformational Medicine, UPMC

Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD

Research Director


Marcus Allen Hogge Chair in Reproductive Sciences

Director of Reproductive Genetics

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive

Sciences University of Pittsburgh

Michelle S. Broido, PhD

Committee Member

Associate Vice Chancellor for Basic Biomedical Research

Director, Office of Research, Health Sciences

Co-director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Associate Professor of Clinical and Translational Science

Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health

Tony M. Plant, PhD

Committee Member

Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and Cell Biology and Physiology

Director, Center for Research in Reproductive Physiology (CRRP)

Sharon L. Hillier, PhD

Committee Member

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

Vice Chair, Faculty Affairs, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive

Director, Reproductive Infectious Disease Research, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

Yoel Sadovsky, MD

Committee Member

Director, Magee-Womens Research Institute

Elsie Hilliard Hillman Chair of Women’s Health Research

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

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Anthony J. Zeleznik, PhD

Committee Member


Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

Department of Cell Biology and PhysiologyUniversity of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Hyagriv N. Simhan, MD, MS

Committee Member

Professor & Chief, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Vice Chair, Obstetrical Services

Department of Ob/Gyn/RS

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Medical Director of Obstetrical Services, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

Kyle E. Orwig, PhD

Committee Member


Ob/Gyn & Reproductive Sciences

Director, MGDB Graduate Program

Director, Fertility Preservation Program

Director, MWRI Transgenic and Molecular Core

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


Scholars and Alumi

Current Scholars


Marie Menke MD, MPH (2011- )

  • Project: Mechanisms underlying sexually dimorphic differences in adipose tissue turnover and composition
  • Primary Mentor(s): Yaacov Barak, PhD; Erin Kershaw, MD
  • Training:
    • BSc, Georgetown University, 1994
    • MD, Virgina Commonwealth University, 2001
    • Residency in OBGYN, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2002-2006
    • Fellowship in Reproductive endocrinology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 2008-2011
  • Research summary: Dr. Menke seeks to understand mechanisms underlying sex-specific differences in adipocyte turnover, which may provide insight into the metabolic consequences of estrogen depletion seen in women suffering from ovarian insufficiency or during menopause, or in states of androgen excess, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.



Katherine Himes, MD (2013-2015)

  • Project: Genomic Imprinting and Placental Lipid Transport
  • Primary mentor(s): J. Richard Chaillet, MD, PhD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor of OBGYN and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh


Marcia Klein-Patel (2010-2012)

  • Project: The Foreign Body Reaction in Pelvic Floor Reconstruction: Characterization and Modulation of the Immune Response to Synthetic Meshes Used for Pelvic Organ Prolapsed Repair
  • Primary mentor(s): Pamela Moalli, MD, PhD
  • Current appointment: Midlife Women’s Associates, Pittsburgh, PA


Jacob Larkin, MD (2013-2015)

  • Project: Placental Injury And Cholesterol Metabolism
  • Primary mentor(s): Yoel Sadovsky, MD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor of OBGYN and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh


Christina Scifres, MD (2010-11)

  • Project: FABP4 and fetal macrosomia in obesity and diabetes
  • Primary mentor(s): Yoel Sadovsky, MD
  • Current appointment: Assistant Professor, Oklahoma University College of Medicine


Kristin Zorn, MD (2010-2012)

  • Project: Proteomic Evaluation of the Ovarian Surface Epithelium, Fallopian Tube, and Peritoneum at the Time of Risk-Reducing Surgery in Women at Increased Genetic Risk for Ovarian Cancer
  • Primary mentor(s): Thomas Conrads, PhD, Nathan Yates, PhD
  • Current appointment: Associate Professor of OBGYN and Genetics, Director, Division of GYN Oncology, Director, Hereditary GYN Cancer Clinic, University of Arkansas Medical School


Application Process

The application process consists of two phases:

Phase I – The following documents should be submitted electronically to Margie Seskey at seskeyma@mwri.magee.edu.

  • Completed WRHR application form, download here.
  • Current curriculum vitae
  • Aone-page statement of the candidate’s career goals and description of her/his expectations from the training period—discussion should include the total period of training (up to 3 years), the Scholar’s intended area of expertise, and prior research
    training (if applicable).
  • Three letters of recommendation to be sent via mail or email directly from the recommender to the WRHR Program Coordinator at seskeyma@mwri.magee.edu, as follows:
    • Candidate’s chair, division director or training program director, and
    • Previous mentors or other physician or scientist familiar with the candidate’s qualifications

Phase one applications will be reviewed by the PI, and the program director. Selected applicants will be invited to participate in Phase II.


Phase II – Selected applicants will be matched with a mentor and together they will prepare and submit a research and career development plan, consisting of:

  • Candidate’s biosketch.
  • Mentor’s biosketch, the personal statement section should mentor’s past mentoring
    experience and current research focus
  • Candidate’s research proposal of no more than five pages with the following structure: Abstract and specific aims (one page), significance, innovation, and experimental design (four pages)
  • Budget for the proposed experiments
  • Mentor’s statement (up to two pages) outlining the mentorship plan (including suggested members for the mentorship team), career development plan, and coursework. The mentor should describe the research environment, and the availability and quality of needed research resources
  • Copies of certificates in training in Human Subjects Research and Research Integrity for the candidate and the mentor
  • New mentors will also be required to provide 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

Please note that the research proposal need not be the exact research plan ultimately pursued by the candidate if they are accepted to the program, and may be modified after review and discussion with the Advisory Committee.


Review Considerations

Each proposal will be reviewed initially by the PI and Research Director to ensure that the application criteria are met. Applications will then be reviewed by the entire Advisory Committee. Candidates who proceed to Phase II may be invited to interview with Advisory Committee members, concluding with a presentation of their research plan to Committee. The proposed primary mentor will also be expected to attend this presentation. The Advisory Committee will provide feedback to candidates.