NIH Grant Supports New Researchers in Ob/Gyn at UR Medical Center

September 26, 2000

The University of Rochester Medical Center is among 20 centers in the country awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds to advance research in women's reproductive health. David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University, is principal investigator for the $3.2 million, five-year grant. These grants provide selected universities and hospitals with opportunities to develop new investigators in women's health research.

The Medical Center will offer up to three positions annually to obstetrician-gynecologists, providing them with training and experience for careers in research. Each will participate for up to five years, being mentored and advised by the University's established investigators.

"We are essentially training the next generation of researchers in women's health," explains Richard K. Miller, Ph.D., professor and associate chair for research in Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Rochester Women's Reproductive Health Research Scholar's Program. "In addition to the funding, the grant provides recognition from the NIH that we offer a valuable training site for tomorrow's Ob/Gyn scientists."

The first three physicians to participate are Kathleen Hoeger, M.D., Sireesha Reddy, M.D., and Elizabeth Cherot, M.D., all full-time faculty members in the Medical Center's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Hoeger is a specialist at the Strong Infertility and In Vitro Fertilization Center. Board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, she also holds subspecialty certification in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Her research is on polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a disorder that affects five percent of women of reproductive age, causing irregular menstruation, infertility and excess male hormone production. Women with PCOS are also at increased risk for developing long-term conditions such as diabetes. Hoeger will test treatment alternatives directed at a long-term approach to the syndrome.

Reddy, a graduate of the University of Rochester's Ob/Gyn residency program, holds a master's in biochemistry and is working toward a Ph.D. Her research is focused on investigating diseases such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and vulvar vestibulitis. In these and other disorders, the body signals cells from the immune system to gather in certain tissues, perhaps to heal a wound, prevent infection, or respond to some unknown molecular threat. Often the signaling is too effective, provoking a response from too many immune cells that then cause damage themselves. Scientists have already shown that they can limit similar damage in the lungs by blocking one particular cell-signaling molecule, CD40. Reddy will test a similar approach, targeting the same molecule in an attempt to reduce inflammation in women with these disorders.

Cherot is the most recent appointment to the program. A graduate of the University of Rochester's Ob/Gyn residency, in August she joined the staff of Strong's Gynecological Specialties Practice. Her research will focus on contraception and other aspects of adolescent women's health.

The grant is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health, and the National Cancer Institute. UR was among eight centers added last fall to the program that began in 1998. "The addition of eight new research centers continues the tradition of advancing women's health by training clinicians to conduct cutting-edge research," said Duane Alexander, director of NICHHD.

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