December 6, 2018

SWHR Praises Work of Dedicated FDA Women’s Health Advocate Marsha Henderson

Henderson to Retire From FDA at End of 2018

In her 22 years at the Food and Drug Administration, Marsha B. Henderson has had a profound influence on the advancement of women’s health research. When she retires at the end of this year, the FDA will surely feel the absence of this dedicated advocate and her leadership as FDA’s associate commissioner for women’s health and director of the Office of Women’s Health (OWH).

“SWHR thanks Marsha Henderson for her valuable work to make women’s health a priority at the FDA,” SWHR President and CEO Dr. Amy M. Miller said. “We applaud her diligent efforts to bring attention to the need for greater understanding of sex and gender differences and her legacy of building productive partnerships to improve women’s health.”

In 2014, SWHR awarded Henderson with the Dr. Estelle Ramey Award for Women’s Health Leadership for her longtime efforts to support progress in women’s health research, policy and education. At the awards dinner, then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg said, “It is remarkable what Marsha has accomplished at the FDA and beyond.”

Hamburg noted the shared attributes between Henderson and the award’s namesake, Dr. Estelle Ramey, who was a widely respected endocrinologist and Georgetown University professor, and one of the first researchers to call for the investigation of biological differences between women and men and how those differences affect health and disease. Hamburg lauded their “dedication, energy, determination, commitment to serving people — and in particular serving women.”

In her acceptance speech, Henderson described how she had researched Ramsey and discovered that “we both learned to use our voices to speak not just for ourselves but for all women.”

Henderson has been responsible for coordinating the FDA’s efforts and communications to protect and advance the health of women. She has also advocated for the participation of women in clinical trials and for analysis of research data by sex, gender, and subpopulation.

“My career has been quite a journey … and I must say that FDA has been an extraordinary experience,” Henderson said in her speech. “I work with brilliant, world-class, committed scientists who are committed to women’s health. The FDA’s actions have made a difference for people living with heart disease, cancer, every disease and disability.”

Current FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb praised Henderson’s work in announcing her retirement: “Under her leadership, the OWH also expanded its scientific efforts to produce more than 350 research papers and journal articles that facilitate FDA regulatory decision-making and promote a better understanding of sex differences and health conditions unique to women.”

After Henderson retires, we should remember to continue to heed her advice for creating strong partnerships to improve women’s health: “We cannot do this alone. We have to work with every group that has an interest in the health of women.”