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Constance A. Howes Women's Health Innovation Research Fund Awards Two $25,000 Grants

Release Date: 12/16/2015

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, has awarded two $25,000 grants from the Constance A. Howes Women’s Health Innovation Research Fund to Women & Infants researchers. The research fund was established in 2014 with contributions from more than 150 donors to honor former hospital president Constance A. Howes and to support research studies that advance women’s health and gender-based research.


The two grants were selected from a pool of 11 proposals, all submitted by Women & Infants researchers from a number of departments. The proposals were scored based on the projects’ relevance to women’s health and gender-based research, the potential for advancing knowledge and care models related to women’s health, innovation and creativity, team strength and synergy, and plan and potential for research support from external sponsors.


Both projects focus on preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication of pregnancy that is characterized by high blood pressure, and its connection to other chronic diseases. “Preeclampsia and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Possible Etiological Link?” plans to address and establish a concept of a serum-based predictive method for diagnosing preeclampsia and Alzheimer’s disease, which have similar procurement properties. The project will be led by Surendra Sharma, MD, PhD, research scientist and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Women & Infants Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Brenna Hughes, MD, chief of the Women's Infectious Diseases Consultative Service at Women & Infants and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Alpert Medical School; and Brian Ott, MD, of Rhode Island Hospital. The second project award, entitled “Post-Partum Screening and Intervention for Women with Preeclampsia to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk: A Pilot Investigation,” is led by Erika Werner, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, and Heather Hurlburt, MD, co-director of Women's Heart Health at Women & Infants and director of non-invasive imaging at Kent Hospital. While it is known that women who develop preeclampsia are at high risk for future cardiovascular disease, there is a lack of data regarding how postpartum care can modify a woman’s cardiovascular risk factors to optimize long-term health. This pilot study will specifically investigate a woman’s willingness to receive testing for cardiovascular risk factors postpartum and, if necessary, undergo treatment.


The overall merit of the research projects was evaluated by a Scientific Advisory Committee and were peer reviewed and scored. Finalists then made a five-minute presentation to the Donor Advisory Committee. The Scientific Advisory Committee includes Women & Infants physicians W. Dwayne Lawrence, MD, MSc, Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; James F. Padbury, MD, Pediatrician-In-Chief and Chief of Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine at Women and Infants and the Oh–Zopfi Professor of Pediatrics and Perinatal Research at Brown University; Maureen G. Phipps, MD,MPH, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Chace-Joukowsky professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Alpert Medical School, and Executive Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Care New England and Raymond Powrie, MD, FRCP(C), FACP, Chief of Medicine and Senior Vice President of Population Health at Women & Infants and Chief Medical Quality Officer of Care New England.


About Women & Infants Hospital 

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 9th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.