Women’s Health Research Pilot Grant Program

The Purdue Women’s Global Health Institute (WGHI) is in partnerships with various instiutions to fund translational women's health research from any discipline focusing on prevention and early detection. 

Annoucement:  Request for Proposal 

Due:                   November 1, 2022 

Submit your proposal


Awarded Proposals 

Kathryn J. LaRoche Kathryn J. LaRoche


Kathryn J. LaRoche, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Public Health
Department of Public Health

Project title: Exploring patient experiences with miscarriage care in Indiana in the midst of a shifting regulatory environment”    

Miscarriage is an extremely common reproductive health experience; approximately 20% of pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage each year. Indiana has recently introduced legislation (SB1) to restrict access to abortion and experts have expressed concern that this policy will also negatively impact access to essential miscarriage care. Abortion and miscarriage use the same medications and procedures as a part of routine care. However, the effects of SB1 on patients and providers are not well understood and not been rigorously investigated. This study is designed to help us begin to understand the impact of SB1 on the provision of miscarriage care across the state of Indiana and to fill a much-needed gap in the literature by centering women’s voices in research about miscarriage in the United States. Miscarriage remains an understudied topic and current legislative changes in the state and across the country mean that studying this issue is both timely and critical. 

(This project is funded with the partnerships of the Purdue College of Health and Human Sciences and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute)

Jennifer Brown and Marais (Left to right) Jennifer Brown and Lochner Marais


Jennifer Brown, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences
Department of Psychological Sciences

Lochner Marais, Ph.D.

Center for Development Support
University of the Free State, South Africa

Project title: Development of a culturally-tailored, adolescent-driven dual protection intervention approach for South African adolescents.”    

Black South African adolescent girls experience health disparities related to both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI) including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Our team, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has previously employed Cultural Consensus Modeling with South African adolescent girls to examine cultural factors associated with dual protection methods (i.e., methods that prevent both unintended pregnancy and HIV/STI). To shift the current dominant school-based sexual health messaging to one that incorporates culturally-appropriate, highly effective dual protection strategies, the proposed study will adapt a nationally implemented school-delivered sexual health curriculum (love4life), using a youth-led Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach. We will also evaluate potential barriers to the widespread implementation of the modified curriculum. This pilot study will produce the first culturally-adapted sexual health curriculum to focus on dual protection to reduce both unintended pregnancies and STIs/HIV among South African adolescent girls. The successful execution of our proposal will provide foundational pilot research for subsequent external funding applications to conduct a randomized clinical trial of the adapted school-delivered sexual health education intervention. If efficacious, the intervention has the potential to reduce both unintended pregnancies and STIs/HIV among South African adolescent girls.

(This project is funded by the WGHI Mildred Elizabeth Edmundson Research Grant)

Chaudhry and Pastakia (Left to right) Faria Chaudhry and Sonak Pastakia


Faria Chaudhry, PharmD, BCPS

Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice
Department of Pharmacy Practice

Sonak Pastakia, PharmD, MPH, Ph.D., BCPS, FCCP

Professor of Pharmacy Practice
Department of Pharmacy Practice

Project title: Evaluating the impact of a community health worker for diabetes management in self-employed women in India.”    

The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is the largest trade union of women in the world advocating for the rights of low-income female laborers in Southeast Asia. Through a nearly 10-year-long collaboration with Purdue faculty and Abbott laboratories, SEWA has tried to expand SEWA’s mandate to respond to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases. With the growing number of people in India with diabetes, India has the unfortunate designation of having one of the world’s highest burdensWhile there are numerous barriers to managing the clinical aspects of diabetes, these barriers are further complicated by the social determinant of health barriers that the women of SEWA disproportionately face. Many of these women battle economic distress and family needs while trying to navigate the complex healthcare system of India. SEWA has tried to address these barriers for women and their families by hiring and training their union members to become community health workers (CHWs) who provide a comprehensive set of health-promoting services. This includes health education, socio-behavioral support and counseling, socioeconomic assistance, and direct provision of clinical services such as glucose screening. While SEWA has been offering this comprehensive package of services for over 5 years, a formal evaluation documenting the impact of SEWA’s unique CHW model has not been completed. The objective of this proposal is to provide detailed tracking and evaluate the process and clinical outcomes for community members participating in SEWA’s non-communicable disease (NCD) activities. We hypothesize that the SEWA CHW-supported model will result in higher linkage and retention in care and a lower HbA1c compared to the standard model of care.

(This project is funded with the partnerships of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, 
the Purdue College of Pharmacy and the Department of Pharmacy Practice)

Russel Main and Marxa L. Figueiredo (Left to right) Russel Main and Marxa L. Figueiredo


Russel Main, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Basic Medical Sciences
Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Marxa L. Figueiredo, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Basic Medical Sciences
Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Project title: Maximizing peak bone mass: Interactions among genetics and mechanical loading.”    
Preventing osteoporosis requires maximizing peak bone mass attainment in childhood and adolescence. Peak bone mass (PBM) is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, like diet and exercise. We propose in vitro -based studies to identify how these factors interact to affect peak bone mass. The objective of this proposal is to determine how genetics interacts with two important bone-building environmental factors: bone cell loading and Ca levels. Our central hypothesis is that genetic variation, the anabolic effects of mechanobiology, and calcium are interdependent factors that impact PBM and that it is necessary to identify genes important for maximizing skeletal accrual under different environments. Our rationale is that these studies are needed to provide a scientific foundation for precision medicine directed towards optimizing bone health. Our findings may serve as a foundation for personalized recommendations for lifestyle interventions that maximize bone mass accrual during growth.

(This project is funded with the partnerships of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Basic Medical Sciences)

Bridgette (Tonnsen) Kelleher Bridgette (Tonnsen) Kelleher


Bridgette (Tonnsen) Kelleher, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience
Department of Psychological Sciences 


Dan Foti, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience
Department of Psychological Sciences 

Project title: The influence of health behaviors and social support on mental health treatment uptake among high-risk caregivers during COVID-19.”    

Caregivers of individuals with disabilities have been profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To identify which treatments are most effective in reducing the mental health impact of the pandemic, we started to design and pilot telemental health treatment protocols, which are being deployed by graduate student clinicians in Purdue’s clinical psychology PhD program. To understand the individual factors that might influence treatment uptake and success, we are also collecting smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment data before, during, and after treatment. The broader goal is to identify the key needs of treatment-seeking caregivers of individuals with severe neurogenetic disorders during COVID-19, and to determine which telehealth-based treatments might be most feasible, acceptable, and effective in addressing these needs. In this project, we will examine how health behaviors and social support – two factors that we can monitor via ecological assessment and are particularly malleable – moderate mental health and treatment success. 

(This project is funded with the partnership of the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology, and Infectious Disease)

Jennifer L. Freeman (Left to right) Jennifer L. Freeman, Douglas Samuel, Ulrike Dydak


Jennifer L. Freeman, Ph.D.

Professor of Toxicology
School of Health Sciences 

Douglas Samuel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology
Department of Psychological Sciences

Ulrike Dydak, Ph.D.

Professor of Health Sciences
School of Health Sciences

Project title: Sex differences in neurological outcomes associated with agrichemical exposure in rural populations: A feasibility study.”    

Atrazine is the second most common agricultural herbicide used in the Midwestern US and the leading agricultural contaminant of drinking water. Evidence is growing that atrazine, a recognized endocrine disrupting chemical, also distinctively targets a number of neurotransmitter systems that appears to be sexually dimorphic. The majority of atrazine neurotoxicity studies are in male rodents and primarily report locomotor behavioral alterations. Alternatively, the limited studies that have assessed females indicate nonlocomotor behavioral changes related to anxiety and stress. Recent studies in the Freeman laboratory also confirm sexual dimorphic behavior alterations in zebrafish exposed to atrazine. Families living in rural Midwestern US are at most risk of exposure based on living in close proximity to agricultural fields where atrazine is applied. The goal of this study is to determine sex differences in neurological outcomes associated with agrichemical exposure in rural populations. 

(This project is funded with the partnerships of The Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience and The College of Health and Human Sciences)

Aaron Bowman Aaron Bowman

Aaron Bowman, Ph.D.

Professor and Head
School of Health Sciences 


Jean-Christophe Rochet, Ph.D.
Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular PHarmacology

Project title: Sex Differences in Neuropathology and Excitotoxicity in a Stem Cell Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.”    

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder and is the most common cause of dementia. There is a pronounced disproportionality in the incidence of AD, where women comprise two-thirds of all AD cases, many with sharper decline in cognitive function following diagnosis, preventing the opportunity for intervention. However the biological underpinnings responsible for this clinicopathological variability is unknown, hence, there is a critical need to investigate the potential contributions of genetic sex in AD phenotypic variability. Using cortical neurons/astrocytes generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) of neurotypical male and female subjects, this study investigates sex-dependent differences in susceptibility to tau prion-like transmission and glutamate excitotoxicity, as well as sex-based differential capacity in resilience in response to ameliorating effects of estrogen. Findings from this project will increase our understanding of the role that genetic sex plays as a critical variable in disease progression. 

(This project is funded with the partnership of The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute)

Adam Kimbrough Adam Kimbrough


Adam Kimbrough, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Basic Medical Sciences

Project title: “Exploring sex differences in how the brain responds to oxycodone use.”    

There is evidence of significant sex differences in the way humans abuse oxycodone. Although males are more likely to overdose from opioids, females are more likely to abuse opioids and to use them to cope with negative affective states. This project will explore sex differences in how the brain responds to oxycodone use and identify key brain regions that may be responsible for the motivation for excessive drug use. These studies will help to design specialized treatment profiles for opioid use disorder in the future.

Andrea DeMaria Andrea DeMaria

Andrea DeMaria, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Public Health


Monica Kasting, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Health

Project title: “Improving Overall Quality of Life for Uterine Fibroid Patients”    

Uterine fibroids affect 26 million US reproductive-aged women, making it among the most common and costly reproductive health conditions. Although most women are asymptomatic, 25-30% experience symptoms that significantly reduce quality of life, including heavy menstrual bleeding, infertility, and limitations in work/school attendance. There is a significant gap in understanding how uterine fibroids education and care prioritizes the multidimensional aspects of health embedded in a larger socio-ecologic framework that considers individual, relational, communal, and societal factors influencing patient experiences. The goal of the proposed study is to examine the healthcare experiences of uterine fibroids patients across the continuum of care to imporve best practices for a holistic patient-centered approach to uterine fibroids care.

Jacqueline Linnes Jacqueline Linnes


Jacqueline Linnes, Ph.D.

Marta E. Gross Assistant Professor
Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering


Sulman Mohammed, Ph.D.

Professor of Cancer Biology, Department of Comparative Pathobiology

Project title: “Lateral flow immunoassay for sensitive and specific cervical cancer detection”    

Cervical cancer incidence and mortality are five times higher in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) than in high-income countries. This wide disparity is attributed to both higher HPV infection rates and a lack of accessible screening and treatment. This project aims to create an integrated point-of-care test that can be used by healthcare providers in under-resourced settings to obtain relevant clinical insights, including cervical cancer risk stratification, and enable same-visit treatment of high risk cervical lesions.


Tzu-Wen Cross Tzu-Wen Cross

Tzu-Wen L. Cross, PhD., RD 

Assistant Professor
Department of Nutrition Science

Project title: “Gut microbiome and estrogen receptor signaling: potential implication on gastrointestinal-related disease”     

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is significantly more prevalent in women than in men. Gut microbial community significantly differs between IBD patients and non-IBD controls, with IBD patients having lower gut microbial biodiversity and greater pro-inflammatory bacterial taxa. This project describes the use of a translational approach to determine the causal relationship between gut microbial metabolism and estrogen receptor signaling that may pertain to the sex bias in IBD.