Donaghue Women's Health Investigator Program Awards Grants to Three at Yale

The Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health Investigator Program, administered by Women’s Health Research at Yale, has granted its 2004 Program Awards to three Yale researchers. The program offers grants to full-time Yale affiliated investigators for new research on women’s health and on the sex-specific factors in health and disease.

The awardees include Ronald S. Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and director of the Abraham Ribicoff Research Facilities; Deborah D. Proctor, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine; and Christopher H. van Dyck, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry (geropsychiatry) and neurobiology.

“Again this year, the quality of the submissions we evaluated speaks to the significant work going on at Yale, and to the desire on the part of researchers to factor gender into their investigations in order to improve outcomes,” said Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale. “Our program’s research agenda is designed to generate information that is useful to women and healthcare providers, and to serve as a model for wider application of innovative interdisciplinary research.”

Duman’s study will explore the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie postpartum depression (PPD), which poses a highly significant health risk for women as well as their children. Although there is evidence suggesting that the dramatic fluctuation in hormone levels experienced shortly after birth can contribute to PPD, the neurobiology that underlies this disorder has not been identified. Duman will address this issue by conducting a series of integrated studies in an animal model of PPD. The findings of these studies will be used for expanding research approaches to PPD and for developing novel treatment strategies.

Proctor will generate pilot data on 20 women with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), also known as Osler-Weber-Rendu Syndrome, who have severe, chronic gastrointestinal bleeding. The results will indicate the feasibility of a larger trial determining the optimal therapy to control the bleeding in these patients – systemic estrogen-progesterone therapy or endoscopic cautery. Currently, there is little data to guide physicians in treating these women.

Van Dyck’s research focuses on estrogen and serotonin receptors in menopausal women with depression. His study will examine the serotonin-2A receptor in the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex. This receptor appears to be involved in the regulation of mood and the actions of antidepressants. Results from this work will enhance understanding of the neurobiology of peri- and postmenopausal depression and may have profound effects on the treatment of depression during this stage in women’s lives.

The Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health investigator Program at Yale was established with a grant from The Patrick & Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation of West Hartford, CT. The foundation focuses on initiatives to strengthen research on health issues, to promote future research leadership, and to put new knowledge to work for public benefit.

The launch of The Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health Investigator Program at Yale in 1998 generated an unprecedented opportunity to advance research on the health of women, and provided the groundwork for the formation of Women’s Health Research at Yale – the largest, self-supporting interdisciplinary research program of its kind in the nation. The program continues to provide grants at Yale, supporting over 40 innovative research projects in diverse areas of biological and behavioral research. These studies examine the most pressing health concerns for women today, and explore sex differences in health and disease.

From the program’s seed grants of $3.6 million awarded to date, the granted scientists have generated pilot data establishing the basis for further studies and findings that could be immediately applied. Based on data from these studies, program investigators have received over $15.5 million of new external research funding for their laboratories, including many research and training grants from the National Institutes of Health to study sex differences in an array of health areas.

Women’s Health Research at Yale is committed to educational outreach and communicating the findings of new research to the public, as well as to scientific audiences and health care providers. More information is available on the program’s web site at

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