May 2, 2023

SWHR 2023 Gala Celebrates Progress, Recognizes Leaders Across Women’s Health Research 

The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) hosted its 33rd Annual Awards Gala on April 26, 2023 in Washington, D.C. The evening is dedicated to honoring leaders who are advancing women’s health and bringing together providers, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders across health care to celebrate the progress that has been made in women’s health research and spotlight new opportunities and frontiers in the field.  

This year’s Gala coincided with the 30-year anniversary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act of 1993. The Act, signed into law on June 10, 1993, directed the NIH to establish guidelines for inclusion of women and members of racial and ethnic minority groups in clinical research. “SWHR was fundamental to the creation and passage of this Act, and we continue to advocate for the inclusion and representation of women and minorities in clinical research today, and to ensure that the Offices of Women’s Health throughout federal agencies have adequate resources to fulfill their missions,” said SWHR President and CEO Kathryn G. Schubert, MPP, CAE during her remarks.  

SWHR was thrilled to welcome Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer at the Foundation for the NIH, as the 2023 Keynote Speaker. Dr. Gerberding was the first woman to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2003-2009. In her current role, she helps build public-private research partnerships to support the mission of the NIH. During her remarks, Dr. Gerberding discussed the concept of “n of 1” women, some of whom have made immeasurable impacts on women’s health research and some, including her 90-year-old mother, who have impacted her own career in health care. 

2023 Event Honorees 

SWHR recognized Kaveeta Vasisht, MD, PharmD, Horizon Therapeutics, and Pauline M. Maki, PhD as honorees at this year’s Gala.  

Dr. Kaveeta Vasisht, Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was awarded SWHR’s Health Public Service Visionary Award for her long-lasting commitment to public health and women’s health. Meghan Feely, MD, FAAD, Board Certified Dermatologist and Executive Director at Eli Lilly & Company, presented the award. 

“These achievements are not done alone, not done in silos. I have to thank all the amazing people I work with at the Office of Women’s Health, my colleagues at the FDA, and many more,” Dr. Vasisht said during the acceptance of her award.  

Horizon Therapeutics was awarded SWHR’s Health Industry Visionary Award for its dedication to developing innovative medicines and providing compassionate support to patients. Keli Walbert, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Horizon Therapeutics, accepted the award on behalf of Horizon. Gretta Stone, Executive Vice President at Reservoir Communications Group and SWHR Board Chair, presented the award. 

Walbert is a rare disease caregiver for her husband and one of her children. In addressing the other honorees and health care leaders in the room, Walbert said, “As a patient, caregiver, and woman, I thank you for everything that you do.” 

Dr. Pauline M. Maki, Senior Director of Research at the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Research on Women and Gender, was awarded SWHR’s Health Education Visionary Award for her significant research contributions in cognition, mood, and brain function during pregnancy and menopause. Dr. Maki is Past Chair of the SWHR Interdisciplinary Network on Alzheimer’s Disease. Sudip S. Parikh, PhD, CEO for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher at the Science family of journals presented the award. Dr. Parikh received the 2022 Health Education Visionary Award himself last year. 

“I’d like to use this opportunity for a call to action. We need to train more providers in menopause care, so this universal experience of menopause is dealt with in an informed and evidence-based way,” said Dr. Maki.   

During the event, SWHR CEO Schubert spotlighted several of the Society’s latest materials, including its Lupus Toolkit, its Psoriatic Arthritis Toolkit, and its Autoimmune Policy Agenda. She also announced the recent addition of lupus to the Women’s Health Equity Initiative, a campaign highlighting statistics on women’s health in the United States in order to find solutions to improve health equity across conditions and the lifespan. Autoimmune and immune-mediated diseases and conditions, such as lupus, are a priority area for SWHR. Despite the rising prevalence and incidence of these diseases rising in the United States, they remain highly under researched and misdiagnosed – and women are disproportionately affected, representing 80% of patients diagnosed with autoimmune diseases.  

“Despite the progress that has been made in women’s health and research since SWHR was founded, we have much to accomplish to ensure the optimal health of all women across the lifespan. But, it’s nights like tonight that keep us inspired and signify what working with the right partners can do to advance women’s health,” Schubert said.  

Funds raised from the event support SWHR’s science, policy, and educational initiatives, which offer opportunities to highlight women’s health and to educate women, providers, and policymakers.