In honor of Women's History Month, we're celebrating 7 women who are making major contributions in the fields of gynecological, reproductive, and maternal health research. Like all women's health researchers, the brilliant individuals below have overcome countless challenges throughout their careers, forced to strive harder and speak louder to earn a fraction of the recognition and funding awarded to their male counterparts.
Read on to find out why they deserve to be famous for their groundbreaking work that's helping to improve and save the lives of women — and all individuals with vaginal anatomy — across the country.
Examining racial inequity in endometrial cancer care
Kemi Doll, MD, MSCR is a gynecologic oncologist and health services researcher at the University of Washington and an Assistant Professor in the Department of OBGYN. Her research is exposing disparities in the care given to Black vs. White women with gynecologic disease, with a special focus on endometrial cancer. To foster more research and create community for Black people affected by endometrial cancer, she co-founded ECANA, the Endometrial Cancer Action Network for African-Americans.
“Endometrial cancer affects 1 in 37 women. It is four times more common than cervical cancer and twice as common as ovarian cancer. It has an overall survival rate of over 80 percent in white women. However, among Black women, that survival rate is less than 50 percent. We’ve had that mortality disparity for decades, and it’s getting worse.” – Dr. Kemi Doll in Just Equity for Health
Leading research on obstetrics care during Covid
Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, is a chair and professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine and co-chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ COVID Task Force. With a specialty in high-risk pregnancy, her recent study on the risk of Covid transmission between women and their newborns during and after childbirth has helped reassure expecting mothers that basic infection measures like wearing a mask and hand washing are effective, avoiding the need for more drastic protective measures like separating mom and baby immediately after delivery.
Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman has been named twice for American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Research Excellence, received the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine research award, and was elected to the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society.
Decoding determinants of women’s reproductive health
Janet Rich-Edwards, Sc.D, MPH is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research aims to untangle the personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that impact women’s reproductive health over their lifespan. She’s authored over 280 research publications and is leading investigations into the predictors of pregnancy and fertility based on a woman’s occupation, as well as her exposure to physical and emotional abuse.
Dr. Rich-Edwards is a founding investigator of Project Viva, a prenatal and early childhood study that examines determinants of preterm delivery and maternal depression, with a focus on how psychosocial stressors (such as experiences of violence or racism) affect outcomes.
Discovering the mechanisms behind menopause symptoms
Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc, is the Paula A. Johnson Professor of Psychiatry in the Field of Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School and the Executive Vice Chair for Academic and Faculty Affairs in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital, where she directs the Women’s Hormones and Aging Research Program. Her research focuses on developing therapies for symptoms of menopause and the mechanisms, inter-relationships, and treatment of menopausal symptoms of women with breast cancer.
Dr. Joffe’s current research includes clinical trials and intervention studies aimed at finding the best therapies for hot flashes and their effect on insomnia and mood/depression.
Finding the BEST management strategies for high-risk pregnancies
Uma Reddy, MD, MPG, is a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine with a specialty in the management of high-risk pregnancies. A Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, she’s published 250 peer-reviewed articles and has received numerous NIH awards for her role in advancing women’s health research.
Dr. Reddy’s research on stillbirth as part of the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network (SCRN), preterm birth, and labor management has had a profound impact on obstetrical practice both in the United States and internationally. She continues to engage in NIH funded clinical and translational research, including the GO MOMs study, which aims to perform a longitudinal analysis of changes in glycemia (blood sugar levels) over the course of pregnancy.
Creating clinical guidelines for postpartum physical therapy
Adrienne Simonds, PHD, PT is a physical therapist and Assistant Professor teaching in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Rutgers University. Her interests are in prenatal and postpartum musculoskeletal physical therapy. Dr. Simonds research has focused on postpartum pain (pelvic girdle, cesarean section) and postpartum depression.
Dr. Simonds' most recent publication establishes the first available Clinical Practice Guidelines for Pelvic Girdle Pain in the Postpartum Population.
Guiding nationwide research on maternal mortality
Stacie Gellar, PHD, is a Professor of Obstetrics in Gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, and the Director for the Center for Research on Women and Gender and the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. She’s conducted research related to maternal morbidity and mortality for the past 20+ years. As Principal Investigator of a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health to investigate factors associated with maternal mortality, she developed an innovative model for early identification of high-risk women that has been used nationally and internationally.
Dr. Gellar's current research includes a multi-faceted initiative aimed at improving maternal health and reducing maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity during pregnancy and through one year postpartum.