Posted on Tuesday, May 2, 2017
On March 8, the Women’s Initiative of Northwestern (WIN) hosted its spring event, “Technology, Innovation, and the Future of Women’s Health,” which covered the latest technological advances in fertility, 3-D printing of biomaterials, and heart health. Diane Wayne ’89, ’91 MD, vice dean for education at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, moderated an invigorating discussion about the school’s groundbreaking medical research.
Pam Pagano ’84, ’85 MS, chair of the WIN executive committee, introduced panelists Hunter Rogers ’18 PhD, a doctoral candidate in the laboratory of Teresa Woodruff ’89 PhD, Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Ramille Shah ’00, assistant professor in materials science and engineering and principal investigator of the Shah Tissue Engineering and Additive Manufacturing (TEAM) Lab; and Jane Wilcox ’11, ’14 GME, ’14 MS, assistant professor of medicine and a heart failure and transplant cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Rogers began the discussion by presenting his research with Woodruff in the field of oncofertility, a term coined by Woodruff in 2006 that bridges oncology with reproductive medicine. As cancer survival rates improve, the need to preserve or restore fertility in patients is increasingly relevant. Rogers highlighted the group’s latest achievements in ovary transplantation, in which ovarian tissue is removed before treatment, frozen, and replanted in the patient.
Shah spoke about her pioneering work in 3-D printing biomaterials that replicate tissues and organ structures. She and the TEAM lab recently developed synthetic bone material that promotes natural regeneration, serving as a scaffold for new bone to grow on and eventually replace the lost bone matter. This new technology is transforming how patients are treated—reducing invasive surgeries, precluding the need for metal parts in the body, and promoting quicker patient healing.
“Developing materials for a clinical application is very motivating,” said Shah. “The end goal is to make an impact on patient quality of life.”
In addition, Shah’s TEAM lab has created the first functional 3-D printed organ in mice and hopes to eventually explore its viability in humans. In collaboration with Woodruff’s lab, TEAM 3-D printed a prosthetic ovary that restores fertility and hormone function lost due to chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
Wilcox concluded the panel discussion by talking about heart disease in women and its treatment. Her research focuses on uncovering the genetic underpinnings for heart conditions. With one in four deaths of women in the United States attributable to heart disease, Wilcox urged audience members to learn about their family history of strokes and heart attacks. She reminded them of the “Simple 7s” for prevention on the American Heart Association website: stop smoking, get active, control your cholesterol, manage blood pressure, eat healthy, lose weight, and reduce blood sugar.
Northwestern continues to be a leader in research and innovation for the next generation of health care, said Wayne. Faculty discoveries have made both local and global impacts, resulting in longer, healthier lives for women.
As vice dean, Wayne oversees all undergraduate and graduate education programs at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. One of her primary focuses has been reducing medical errors through rigorous simulation-based training, where medical students practice skills before performing them on live patients. This program, the Simulation-based Assessment For Error Reduction in Healthcare (SAFER-HC), is leading to better patient outcomes and has already been adopted by more than 100 hospitals across the country.
For over a decade, the Women’s Initiative of Northwestern (WIN) has engaged and inspired a vibrant community of alumnae, parents, and friends of Northwestern in the tristate New York region. Through a variety of social and learning opportunities, WIN both enriches our lifelong involvement with Northwestern and connects us to the intellectual excitement of today’s Northwestern.
In addition to events, WIN supports a scholarship program for female undergraduate students from the New York metropolitan area who have shown a commitment to leadership and have demonstrated financial need. Please consider helping these deserving young women by making a gift to the WIN Scholarship Fund.
To learn more about the Women’s Initiative of Northwestern, please contact Lindsay Rider at the New York Regional Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-332-8481.