Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Program at UIC

The UIC National Center of Excellence in Women's Health (CoE) and the UIC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology received the NIH Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) beginning in September of 2007. This K12 grant from the National Institutes of Health provides funding for junior faculty to pursue research interests in women's health.


NEW! BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett was awarded the Stephen Warner Faculty Teaching Award from the UIC Sociology Department.

NEW! BIRCWH associate Melissa Lamar received funding for her grant entitled: “Bioenergetics and white matter integrity of advanced brain aging in women with HIV” through the HIV/Aging Pilot Program from the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers and NIH-funded Centers for AIDS Research. She is supported by Dr. Pauline Maki and collaborators from the Chicago Women’s Interagency HIV Study, as well as the OAIC Pepper Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

NEW! Congratulations to former BIRCWH Scholar Leah Rubin, who gave birth to a baby girl Liza Pearl Mayers on April 28th! She joins older brothers Jack and Henry







NEW! BIRCWH associate Lisa Tussing-Humphrey received a grant from the American Cancer Society Mentored Research Science titled: Obesity, Iron Regulation, and Colorectal Cancer Risk.  Lisa Tussing-Humphrey presented at the Experimental Biology Conference on April 28th which was titled: “A church-based diet and supervised physical activity intervention for rural, southern, African American adults: Delta Body and Soul.”

NEW! BIRCWH associate Lisa Tussing-Humphrey has two new publications: “Delta Healthy Sprouts:
A randomized comparative effectiveness trial to promote maternal weight control and reduce childhood obesity in the Mississippi Delta” (Abstract), and  “A Church-Based Pilot Study Designed to Improve Dietary Quality for Rural, Lower Mississippi Delta, African American Adults (Abstract)” (First Author).

NEW! Congratulations to Abstract and Poster Winners from Women's Health Research Day!

Abstract Winners
StudentNanci Alanis, Department of Psychology and Honors College, for “How do different stressors relate to body mass index among U.S.-born and immigrant Latinas?”

FacultyHeather Sipsma, Assistant Professor of Women, Children and Family Health Science, College of Nursing, for “Mental health of young parents from pregnancy through 1 year postpartum”

Poster Winners
Undergraduate Student:  Beelet Dawood, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, for "The association between vasomotor symptoms and sleep disturbance among menopausal women: a comparison of physiological and self-reported measures"

Graduate StudentHitisha Patel, Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmocognosy, College of Pharmacy, for "Estrogen receptor partial agonists as therapeutics for tamoxifen resistant breast cancer"

Faculty/Fellow/StaffSusan Magasi, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, College of Applied Health Sciences, for "Screen-ABLE: A mixed methods study examining disparities in breast and cervical cancer screening among women with disabilities in Illinois"


NEW! BIRCWH scholar Sadia Haider has taken the position of Medical Director of Family Planning for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

NEW! BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett has several new publications in press: “Disparities in STI Risk Factors among Adolescent Males by Sexual Minority Status and Race/Ethnicity: Results from a Population-Based Sample” (First Author) (Abstract), “A Longitudinal Study of the Correlates of Persistent Smoking among Sexual Minority Women” (Abstract), & “Mediation of Peer Victimization of Sexual Orientation Disparities in Cancer-Related Behaviors of Tobacco, Alcohol, Sexual Risk, and Physical Activity: Youth Risk Behavior Survey” (Abstract

NEW! BIRCWH scholar Sadia Haider has had the following grants funded as a co-investigator: "Testing the feasibility and acceptability of a text-messaging intervention to promote breastfeeding among urban adolescents" (College of Nursing Internal Research Support Program); "Receipt of the Recommended Postpartum Visit and Effective Postpartum Contraception for Low-Income Illinois Women: A Medicaid Claims Analysis" (Maternal and Child Health Bureau); "Postpartum Contraception and Visit Choices Study" (Illinois Department of Health and Family Services)

NEW! Yahoo! News has an article on research led by former BIRCWH scholar Dr. Thasarat S. Vajaranant, assistant professor of ophthalmology in the UIC College of Medicine, that found that women who had their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed before the age of 43 had an increased risk for developing glaucoma.  The article can be read here

NEW! Click here to read former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford’s recent blog about an example of gender inequity in the sciences, specifically gender composition and representativeness in scientific symposia

BIRCWH associate Patricia Hershberger was elected to the Midwest Nursing Research Society’s Board of Directors as the Director-at-Large. More information can be found here

Congratulations to Tonda Hughes for being selected as the Midwest Nursing Research Society’s Distinguished Researcher for 2014

BIRCWH associate Patricia Hershberger received the Midwest Nursing Research Society Women’s Health and Transitions in Childbearing Section’s Research Publication Award for her paper (First Author) titled-

“Toward theoretical understanding of the fertility preservation decision-making process: Examining information processing among young women with cancer. “  The abstract is available here


BIRCWH associate Faith Fletcher was accepted into the HIV Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute at Fordham University.  The training takes place over two consecutive summers and provides Faith with $18,000 to conduct a study related to HIV ethics. She plans to examine ethically-sound strategies to minimize stigmatization and inadvertent disclosure when conducting research with HIV-positive populations in clinical and community settings.  Information about the training can be found here

Congratulations to Tonda Hughes for being selected to receive the 2014 Betty Ford Award.   This award is given to an individual who has played a significant role in the treatment and recovery of drug-dependent individuals.  The award will be presented to Tonda at the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse Conference, where she will give the plenary presentation.

AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Arts) feature former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford in one of their 2014 Annual Meetings Press Briefing- watch here

BIRCWH associate Faith Fletcher was awarded the 2014-2015 Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) Faculty Fellowship at UIC which gives her the opportunity to further examine cancer disparities among HIV-positive women through a public policy lens.  She was also awarded the Kaiser Permanente Burch Minority Leadership Development Award- to read more about his award, visit this

BIRCWH associate Faith Fletcher has been named the 2014-2015 Visiting Professor in Minority Health at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Public Health.

BIRCWH associate Faith Fletcher has two recent publications: “Perceptions of Barriers and Facilitators to Cervical Cancer Screening among Low-Income, HIV-Infected Women from an Integrated HIV Center” (First Author), & “The Influence of HIV Disease Events/Stages on Smoking Attitudes and Behaviors”.

Former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford was recently featured on a podcast by the American Anthropological Association; listen online 

Former BIRCWH scholar Leah Rubin has several papers in publication- “Reduced Levels of vasopressin and reduced behavioral  modulation of oxytocin in psychotic disorders” in Schizoprenia Bulletin (First Author; Impact Factor: 8.486; 5 year Impact Factor: 8.394), “An investigation of menopausal stage and symptoms on cognition in HIV-infected women” in Menopause, & “Effects of stellate ganglion block on vasomotor symptoms: Findings from a randomized, controlled clinical trial in postmenopausal women” in Menopause. 

Former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford’s Sexual Harassment Study was mentioned in the Huffington Post and can be read here

Congratulations to Tonda Hughes for receiving the 2014 Midwest Nursing Research Society’s (MNRS) Distinguished Researcher Award.  The Midwest Nursing Research Society’s Distinguished Contribution Award is one of the highest honors bestowed and recognizes the contributions of a member who has conducted or promoted research which has enhanced the science and practice of nursing. The award will be presented on Saturday evening March 29th at the MNRS Business Meeting /Awards & Distinguished Researcher Presentation in St. Louis, Missouri.

UIC announced the 2013 UIC Researcher of the Year Awards that honor 10 researchers (5 Rising Star Researchers of the Year & 5 Distinguished Researchers of the Year) who have demonstrated outstanding research achievements to advance the knowledge in their field of expertise.  We are very proud to have 2 former BIRCWH scholars receive the Rising Star awards in their respective fields, congratulations Joanna Burdette and Julienne Rutherford!  Additionally, BIRCWH mentor Alan Schwartz is a co-winner of the Distinguished Researcher of the Year in Clinical Sciences. 

Joanna Burdette Ph.D., Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, Pharmacy.  Dr. Burdette has developed a highly collaborative and translational program in the area of ovarian cancer research supported by the American Cancer Society, Department of Defense, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and National Institutes of Health. The expertise that she and her collaborators have developed in steroid receptor imaging and ovarian cancer modeling provide a strong basis for paradigm-shifting discoveries.  

Julienne Rutherford, Ph.D., Women, Children, and Family Health Science, Nursing.  Dr. Rutherford's research at the intersection of biological anthropology and biomedicine suggests that the fetal experience of an individual has implications for growth and health and the emergence of disease across the entire life course. Dr. Rutherford has contributed to this field of study by her unique focus on the primate placenta, most extensively with the marmoset monkey, a primate that produces litters of varying sizes.  She has shown that the triplet intrauterine environment is qualitatively poorer than that of the twin. Dr. Rutherford's novel monkey model is thus relevant to human development in normal and nutritionally-impoverished intrauterine conditions.  Specifically, she has demonstrated a link between a female's fetal experience and her risk for losing fetuses in adulthood, indicating a powerful long-lasting impact of fetal environments on adult reproductive health. Her work is currently supported through an NIH R01 on which she is the PI.

BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett was awarded an Office of Social Science Research Seed Grant for her research on Sexual Orientation Disparities in Perinatal Health. Bethany Everett was also selected to participate in the NIDA Research Development Seminar Series Workshop at the NIH Headquarters this February.

BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett has several new publications now online ahead of print:

"Sexual Orientation and Gender Differences in Markers of Inflammation and Immune Functioning",

Victimization and Sexual Orientation Among Youth,

Sexual Orientation in Cancer Related Risk Behaviors Among Adolescents, and

"The Association Between Sexual Orientation Identity and Behavior Across Race/Ethnicity, Sex, and Age in a Probability Sample of High School Students"


Former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford has a new publication titled "Evolutionary genetics and implications of small size and twinning in callitrichine primates" and can be found here

Former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford's column in Anthropology News was also picked up by Insider Higher Ed (available online) and her work on sexual harrassment in fieldwork was featured on Nature's website

National Institutes of Health has published a funding opportunity- "Administrative Supplements for Research on Sex/Gender Differences". More information can be found here

At the annual American Anthropological Association meeting last month (attended by 7000 anthropologists), former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford was a discussant in a symposium titled "Entangling the Biological: Steps Toward an Integrated Anthropology." Additonally, she presented a paper titled "The Borderless Fetus: Temporality and Complexity of the Fetal Biological Experience" and was a panelist at the AAA-sponsored Getting to zero incidence of sexual harrassment in the discipline


BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett has two new publications: “Changes in the Social Environment on Sexual Minority Mental Health During the Transition from Adolescent to Young Adulthood” (online abstract) and “The Non-Linear Relationship between Education and Mortality” (online abstract)


Here is a picture of former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford speaking at the NIH's 10th Anniversary Interdisciplinary Women's Health Research Symposium on October 24th, 2013













Congratulations to BIRCWH associate Lindsey Leininger who was invited to be a plenary speaker at the National Academy for State Health Policy. A link to the conference can be found here

Former BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford's co-edited volume Building Babieswas reviewed in the June 2013 issue of Quarterly Review of Biology.  You can read it here

Welcome to our new BIRCWH scholar Nuriya Robinson! Dr. Robinson, MD is an Assistant Professor at UIC's Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

BIRCWH scholar Leah Rubin received a NIH R21 grant for her project "Sex differences in cognitive response to a hydrocortisone challenge in HIV". This proposal builds on Study 2 of Leah's K01, a pharmacological paradigm to elucidate the role of stress-hormones as a potential mechanism by which stress can negatively impact cognition in HIV+ women. The proposal also builds on Leah's Campus Review Board Grant and Mini-Developmental Center for AIDS Research Grant (D-CFAR) which allow a comparison of sex differences to begin. The combination of the four grants will provide enough power to adequately address sex differences.

Congratulations to Tonda Hughes who has been appointed as Interim Executive Director of the Global Health Leadership, UIC College of Nursing. UIC is rated #1 of the top ten nursing schools in US by the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres (WHOCCs).

Congratulations to BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford whose application for the NIH Contraception and Infertility Loan Repayment Program (LRP) has been approved for funding by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Julienne’s application is titled “"Womb to Womb: Developmental origins of reproductive dysfunction in adult females."

BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford has been awarded an NIH R01 grant for her project titled, “Womb to Womb: Programming reproductive development in female common marmoset monkeys,” with collaborators Suzette Tardif, Don Dudley, and Corrina Ross at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Toni Ziegler at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. This study interrogates the developmental mechanisms from fetal life to early adulthood that contribute to reproductive dysfunction in three generations of monkeys. The data will allow researchers to determine what role first generation characteristics play in the trajectory of second generation gestations, linking the womb in which a female developed to the womb she will provide to her offspring. The impact of this study lies in its potential to generate new ways to screen, diagnose, and treat human reproductive dysfunction within the context of developmental milestones. Congratulations, Julienne!













BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford received the American Society of Primatologists Legacy Award, which was established by the ASP to facilitate multidisciplinary career development for a junior-level post-PhD/MD/DVM primatologist. Dr. Rutherford will use the award to pursue novel training in fetal brain imaging techniques with colleagues at UIC (Dr. Melissa Lamar) and Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas (Dr. Kimberly Philips). Her work will use MRI to document the growth and maturation of the brain in postmortem fetal vervet monkeys. This $10,000 award is the largest monetary amount that the ASP has ever awarded. More information about the award is available online. Congratulations, Julienne!

Former BIRWCH scholar Patricia Hershberger received the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) Award of Excellence in Research for 2013. Dr. Hershgerger will be honored for her accomplishments at the upcoming AWHONN conference on June 16. A list of previous award winners is available on the AWHONN website. Congratulations, Patricia!

A copy of Susan Johnson's presentation from her "Work/Life Balance" seminar is avaible for download here: Susan Johnson "Work/Life Balance" seminar presentation

BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford, along with colleagues, was featured in Science for her recent survey of fieldwork experiences in biological anthropology. The article, which describes a distressing status quo, is available online.

BIRCWH scholar Thasarat Vajaranant has been recognized on the lists for Best Doctors in America, Castle Connelly America’s Top Doctors, and Chicago Super Doctors. Congratulations, Thasarat!

BIRCWH mentor Alicia Matthews, PhD, has been appointed as the inaugural Helen K. Grace Faculty Diversity Scholar for her internationally recognized work on physical and mental health disparities among members of marginalized social, groups. Congratulations, Dr. Matthews!

Congratulations to BIRCWH scholar Thasarat Vajaranant, who was named the first recipient of the “American Glaucoma Society – Thom J. Zimmerman, MD, PhD Memorial Award, Supported by Valeant Ophthalmics.” The award is in memory of Dr. Thom J. Zimmerman, the developer of the glaucoma medication timolol maleate (TIMOPTIC) and consists of an unrestricted grant to support Thasarat’s clinical research study, “A Feasibility Study to Assess the Accuracy of Self-Reported Glaucoma Outcomes and Participant Interest in Ancillary Glaucoma Studies as Part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Extension.” More information about the award is available online.

A recent article examining mortality rates among females and males determined that female mortality rates have increased at exponentially higher rates in comparison to male mortality rates. The article, "Even As Mortality Fell In Most US Countries, Female Mortality Nonetheless Rose In 42.8 Percent Of Countries from 1992 To 2006," urges a focus on social and environmental determinants of health in understanding population health. The abstract of the article is available here

BIRCWH scholar Lisa Tussing-Humphreys is serving as the Assistant Director of The Diet and Behavior Shared Resource (DSBR), an initiative that aims to support the integration of behavioral and psychosocial factors into UICC Investigator research protocols. The DSBR Winter Newsletter, which features highlights from the DSBR Dietary Assessment Symposium and a list of upcoming events on campus is available for download here.

Congratulations to BIRCWH scholar Sadia Haider, who gave birth to baby girl Zahra on January 8, 2013 at 6:59 am! Both mom and baby are doing well.





Congratulations to Dr. Stacie Geller who was named the 2012 Distinguished Researcher of the Year in Clinical Sciences by the University of Illinois at Chicago. A complete description of this high honor and Dr. Geller's achievements is available at the UIC News Center.







BIRCWH scholar Sadia Haider recently published an article in Contraception titled, “Evaluation of e-mail contact to conduct follow-up among adolescent women participating in a longitudinal cohort study of contraceptive use.” The article is available ahead of print online.

BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett published an article in the Journal of Community Health titled, “Differences in Hypertension by Sexual Orientation Among U.S. Young Adults.” The article is available ahead of print online.

BIRCWH scholar Kirstie Danielson was featured in an article in the UIC News Center for her work on islet transplantation and progression of atherosclerosis in type 1 diabetes. The article is available online.





BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford’s recent edited volume titled “Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective” is one of a select list of books that will be highlighted for discussion at the 2013 ScienceOnline Conference at North Carolina State University. A complete list of the books that received this distinction can be found online.






Former BIRCWH scholar Angela Black has accepted a research fellowship position in complementary and alternative medicine with the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Black will begin her research fellowship in August 2013.

BIRCWH scholar Bethany Everett recently published an article (with colleagues) in the American Journal of Public Health titled, “Eating Disorder Symptoms and Obesity at the Intersections of Gender, Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation in US High School Students.” The article is available ahead of print online.

BIRCWH scholar Kirstie Danielson received a CRB grant from OVCR for her proposal titled, "Role of the Bone Hormone Osteocalcin in Type 1 Diabetes and Islet Transplantation.

BIRCWH scholar Leah Rubin received a CRB grant from OVCR for her proposal titled, "A pilot study: Sex differences in cognitive response to a hydrocortisone challenge in HIV."

BIRCWH scholar Thasarat Vajaranant received funding through The WHI Extension Feasibility Study Funding Program for her proposal titled "A Feasibility Study to Assess the Accuracy of Self-reported Glaucoma outcomes and Participant Interest in Participating in Ancillary Glaucoma Studies." This study aims to test the feasibility of obtaining medical records to assess the accuracy of self-reported glaucoma outcomes and participant interest in participating in ancillary glaucoma studies.


Former BIRCWH scholar Joanna Burdette was featured in the November 28 issue of UIC news for her work on examining the link between ovarian cancer and ovulation. The full article, featuring an interview with Dr. Burdette, can be found online.





BIRCWH scholar Thasarat Vajaranant recently served as co-editor of a book with Dr. Deepak Edward titled "Glaucoma (Oxford American Ophthalmology Library Series)."






BIRCWH scholar Thasarat Vajaranant received the 2012 Publication Incentive Award from the Cless Family Foundation. This award was created to acknowledge each faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UIC who has published peer-reviewed articles with an accumulative journal impact factor greater than 10 in a given year.

Emily Anderson (of Loyola) recently hosted a seminar at UIC titled "Ethical Issues in Community Engaged Research: Delivering Human Research Protection Training to Community Partners." Anderson developed CIRTification in response to the need for a more community-centric IRB training for partners who may not live in the "research world" on a day-to-day basis, but are required to complete a training. Anderson’s training presents the same principle as the CITI training, but in a more approachable manner for community partners. CIRTificaiton is an approved alternative at UIC, UofC, NU, etc. to the CITI training that is traditionally utilized. Here is the link to CIRTification, which has the curriculum (FREE download):

BIRCWH scholar Julienne Rutherford recently published an article in Placenta titled "Toward a nonhuman primate model of fetal programming: Phenotypic plasticity of the common marmoset fetoplacental complex," which explores the marmoset monkey as a potential powerful nonhuman primate model of multiple pregnancies, restrictive prenatal experiences, and differential reproductive outcomes in adulthood.

A new FOA on Administrative Supplements for Research on Sex/Gender Differences (PA-13-018) has just been posted to the NIH Guide website. For more information, click here.

"Ignition Sequence: On Mentorship," an article exploring what mentorship is (and is not) by Andrés Martin. The article can be downloaded here.

Current BIRCWH Scholars

Kirstie Danielson, PhD
Assistant Professor, Division of Transplant Surgery
Departmental Affiliate, Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Bethany Everett, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Sadia Haider, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Nuriya Robinson, MD
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, College of Medicine

Former BIRCWH Scholars

Angela Rose Black, PhD
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology & Community Health, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Joanna Burdette, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry & Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy

Colleen Corte, PhD
Associate Professor of Health Systems Sciences, College of Nursing

Bryna Harwood, MD, MS

Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, College of Medicine

Patricia Hershberger, PhD
Assistant Professor of Women, Children, and Family Health Science, College of Nursing

Michelle Kominiarek, MD
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, College of Medicine

Hyunyoung Jeong, PharmD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Biopharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Leah Rubin, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, College of Medicine

Julienne Rutherford, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Women, Children, and Family Health Sciences, College of Nursing

Thasarat Vajaranant, MD
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, College of Medicine

©2007 UIC Center of Excellence in Women's Health