May 1, 2024

Spotlighting Women’s Health Research at the “The Power of Research: The Need for Gender Equity” Luncheon

By Bria Fitz, SWHR Public Policy Fellow

On April 24, 2024, the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) and the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) at Cleveland Clinic co-hosted a poignant luncheon titled “The Power of Research: The Need for Gender Equity.” This event was a testament to the strides made in women’s Alzheimer’s disease research in recent years and an acknowledgment of the importance of gender equity in medical research. This is the second year SWHR and WAM have hosted The Power of Research luncheon to celebrate advancements in Alzheimer’s disease research.

“We’re gathered here today to celebrate and applaud the great progress we’ve seen in the last year in women’s health,” said SWHR President and CEO Kathryn Schubert, MPP, CAE. “Thank you to everyone here who stepped up to move the needle on women’s health.”

The luncheon took place at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. Schubert joined Beri Ridgeway, MD, Chief of Staff at Cleveland Clinic, and Maria Shriver, founder of WAM and Chief Visionary and Strategic Advisor at Cleveland Clinic, to give opening remarks during the event.

“The progress we have made in the last year is unbelievable and something I did not think I would see in my lifetime,” said Dr. Ridgeway.

“My friends, we are in a new time, in a new era,” added Shriver. “One that so many of you in this room have worked so hard to bring about. In addition to [the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research], the discussion around women’s health is already impacting women all over the country in how they are receiving treatment.” In their remarks, Shriver and Dr. Ridgeway both mentioned the newly opened Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic, a flagship program that aims to “address the unique needs of women at midlife and beyond” and speaks to the broader transformation happening in women’s health.

Shriver then introduced special guest Jill Biden, EdD, First Lady of the United States, who spoke about the gaps in knowledge of women’s health – and opportunities to close these gaps. “If you ask any woman in America about her health care, she probably has a story to tell,” said Dr. Biden.

Dr. Biden, with the support of Shriver and the White House Gender Policy Council, has been a leading force behind the new White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research.

“There is so much more for us to discover- lives that could be transformed or even saved. Families that could find the answers that they need,” said Dr. Biden. “That’s the power of research, to investigate and innovate, to help and to heal, to build a better health care system. One that places women and their experiences at its center. Where women don’t just survive, they lead long, healthy, and happy lives.”

Following Dr. Biden’s remarks, Shriver led the panel discussion “The Many Needs for Gender Equity in Research.” Panelists included Roberta Brinton, PhD, Director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona; Lucy Perez, PhD, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company; and Linda Goler Blount, MPH, President of the Black Women’s Health Imperative. The discussion illuminated the interconnectedness of women’s health and Alzheimer’s disease research, highlighting the need for inclusivity and accessibility in clinical trials.

“If women are healthier, if they have more healthy days, they can be more productive and make better decisions about how to spend their time,” said Dr. Perez during the panel.

“Imagine where [rural women] would be if we were able to take the research and the care to them, rather than make them have to come to where that research and care is,” said Goler Blount. “And imagine where we’d be if we actually could collect data from women because they actually were participating in clinical research.”

“How do we create health care that is healthy? [We need] a healthy health care system that addresses the needs of those who are most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s and their caregivers,” said Dr. Brinton.

Tani Austin, Chief Philanthropic Officer at Starkey, introduced Gina Marquez-Rey, an Alzheimer’s disease patient advocate, to speak about her experience. Marquez-Rey’s comments served as a reminder of the urgency behind WAM’s mission to fund critical research into Alzheimer’s disease and prevention: “[Alzheimer’s] is a disease that not only debilitates the patient but also the family. Thank you to every advocate and researcher who is working to solve the mystery of this disease and why it impacts women more than men, especially women like me— Latina women.”

The luncheon culminated in celebrating the 2024 WAM Research Grant recipients, whose innovative projects are helping advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. The 2024 WAM Research Grant recipients are:

Several past WAM research grant recipients also shared updates about their ongoing Alzheimer’s disease research during the lunch. Learn more about past WAM Research Grant recipients here.

As the event closed, Schubert and Shriver took the stage to call for continued partnerships and investments to advance women’s health research, emphasizing the role that every one of us plays in closing the gender equity gap in health care.

“Women’s health shouldn’t be a political issue. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said Shriver. “It’s a human rights issue.”

Thank you to Jon Fleming Photography for the event images. 

Explore the The Power of Research: The Need for Gender Equity Photo Gallery!