An Umbrella Program for Women's Health

Linda Cicero

On any given day, Linda Giudice has more tasks on her desk than titles on her business card.

The professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the School of Medicine and chief of the reproductive endocrinology and infertility division could be working on a presentation to first-year medical students about a new concentration in women’s health. She has deadlines to meet across Campus Drive for a women’s health seminar series in the human biology program. There are adolescent health conferences and an infertility lab to run. And in her spare time, Giudice, MD ’82, directs the Center for Research on Women’s Health and Reproductive Medicine.

Two years ago, Giudice also became founding director, with executive director Ellen Lovelace, of Women’s Health @ Stanford (WH@S), an umbrella program in the ob/gyn department. “It’s always been in the back of my head, or perhaps I should say at the bottom of my heart and soul, how important it is to be able to put everything about women’s health issues under one roof,” she says. “I really wanted a program that would encompass research, education, health care and advocacy.”

WH@S aims to provide comprehensive health services for women. Many of the 2,000 women who have taken part in the education arm of the program, by attending talks about hormone-replacement therapy or going to a Saturday morning conference on transforming stress into wellness, are patients of Stanford physicians. Other community members have donated funds to send gynecological surgeons to the East African nation of Eritrea to assist women injured in childbirth.

Undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, residents and fellows benefit from the many research opportunities WH@S offers. Medical students who decide to concentrate in women’s health issues, for example, will explore the relatively new field of sex-based biology and medicine that emerged from a 2001 report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. It found that the genetic sex of a cell—i.e., whether it is XX or XY—influences disease susceptibility and should be considered in determining appropriate treatment for women and men.

The clinical arm of the program is still evolving, and Giudice anticipates that the Women’s Health Center—where physicians will provide specialty care for women—will be funded and built in “the near future.” But the WH@S umbrella is already providing quite a lot of shelter. On the third Wednesday of every month, Giudice and dozens of Stanford trainees, faculty and staff in the program’s health-journal club gather in the GYN conference room to talk about recently published articles on such topics as mammography, HIV infection, imaging techniques and health issues of female veterans. “We’re looking for another place to meet,” Giudice adds. “There are far more attendees than we can squeeze into one room.”