May 1, 2024

The Society Celebrates a Seminal Year in Women’s Health at the SWHR 2024 Gala

The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) hosted its 34th Annual Awards Gala on April 25, 2024 in Washington, D.C. at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. “I can’t imagine a more historic and appropriate location for us to gather and to recognize three extraordinary champions of women’s health research,” said SWHR President and CEO Kathryn G. Schubert, MPP, CAE during her opening remarks.

The annual event is dedicated to honoring leaders who are advancing women’s health and acts as a time to bring together providers, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders across health care to celebrate the progress that has been made in women’s health research.

This year’s Gala included a celebration of what has been “a seminal year for SWHR and for women’s health research,” said Schubert. During the event, speakers and guests frequently remarked on and celebrated the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, launched in November 2023 under the leadership of the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and historic signing of the Executive Order for the White House Initiative for Women’s Health Research that happened this March. Carolyn Mazure, PhD, Chair of the Initiative, and Maria Shriver, advocate for the Initiative, both spoke at this year’s Gala.

“During the State of the Union, I almost fell off my couch when President Biden called on Congress to invest $12 Billion in women’s health research. We had advocated for a mention of the Women’s Health Research Initiative, but this was beyond what we had even dreamed of,” Schubert said. “But this didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of key advocates like many of you in the room doing your part.”

SWHR was thrilled to welcome Dr. Mazure, Chair of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, as the guest speaker for the evening. Dr. Mazure comes to the White House from the Yale School of Medicine, where she is the Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor in Women’s Health Research and Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology.

In her remarks, Dr. Mazure shared information about the priorities, plans, and partnerships coming out of the new White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research. She spotlighted the ARPA-H Sprint for Women’s Health, the Initiative’s plan to focus some of its work on midlife women and menopause research, and the recent Executive Order, among other things. “And there is much more to come. To fully realize this opportunity, we need to work together across sectors and industries to ensure that all of us – government, research centers, advocacy organizations, philanthropy, and the private sector – are doing everything we can to close research gaps in women’s health,” Dr. Mazure said.

SWHR presented three Women’s Health Visionary Award during the evening.

Maria Shriver received the Women’s Health Visionary Award for her unwavering advocacy for women’s health and Alzheimer’s disease research. Shriver is a journalist, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement at Cleveland Clinic, and strategic partner on Women’s Health and Alzheimer’s. Today, Shriver also acts as an outside strategic advisor to President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, an initiative Shriver helped bring about. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA presented the award. In her remarks, Shriver said, “I envision a country that honors our journeys from birth to death. From puberty through pregnancy, if one so chooses pregnancy. I envision a country with a health care system that listens as we speak. That honors women as they age. That does not dismiss us as we age. I envision a future where doctors have the facts, have the research, and have the knowledge to care for us differently. And everyone in this room, I know, is working towards that vision.”

Shontelle Dodson, PharmD received the Women’s Health Visionary Award for her significant industry contributions in women’s health and years of service on the SWHR board of directors. Dr. Dodson is an Executive Vice President at Astellas Pharma, Inc. and a current board member and the immediate Past Board Chair for SWHR. Maureen Japha, Executive Director of Neuroscience Corporate Affairs at Eli Lilly presented the award. In her remarks, Dr. Dodson said, “I’m asking that you join me to break down the barriers that limit opportunities and outcomes for women and let’s finally make women’s health mainstream for good.”

Janine Clayton, MD, FARVO received the Women’s Health Visionary Award for her work in public service. Dr. Clayton is the Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health and Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH). SWHR has closely worked with Dr. Clayton and her team at ORWH for decades and was an advocate of the implementation of the NIH Policy on Sex as a Biological Variable, spearheaded by Dr. Clayton in 2015. Dr. Kaveeta Vasisht, Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and winner of the 2023 SWHR Health Public Service Visionary Award, presented the award. In her remarks, Dr. Clayton said, “we do our work through policy, through programs, but most of all through partnership. Collaboration is the key for us putting science to work for the health of women.” Dr. Clayton also thanked her mother, who was in attendance, for supporting and inspiring her ongoing work in women’s health.

In closing remarks, Schubert highlighted some of the recent work of the Society, including a trip to Capitol Hill with the endometriosis working group, a heart health policy agenda, and a science-based content guide for women in the workplace experiencing the menopause transition. She also spotlighted the newly designed SWHR website, created to be more user-friendly and reflective of the Society’s mission, goals, and activities for improving women’s health.

The evening ended with a champagne toast and additional congratulations to the awardees. “My challenge to you all is to recruit all the other allies and partners that you can for this effort. You may not think of yourself or your organization as a women’s health research advocates, but at the end of the day, you are,” Schubert said. “Advancing equity in the health of women helps us all. Knowing more about women’s health allows us to know more about everyone’s health.”

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.

Thank you to Jon Fleming Photography for the event images. 

Explore the 2024 Annual Awards Gala Gallery!