it's about time
After generations of deferment, women's health initiatives gain momentum

Dragon Boat Competition

Survivor Camaraderie: Meghan McDonough, associate professor of health and kinesiology, has examined the long-term health and psychological benefits of breast cancer survivors who have taken to the open waters in dragon boat competitions.

Promising Future

WGHI — designed to tap the research already being conducted by the likes of Franks, McDonough and dozens of other colleagues — will serve as an umbrella organization to address four specific aspects of women's health: wellness, bone health, neurodegenerative disorders and women's cancers. Each of these areas is currently the subject of at least six Purdue professors' research, meaning the anticipation for results is palpable.

"The WGHI enhances the visibility of Purdue to a lot of stakeholders," Weaver says. "Alumni and community members and prospective students already associate Purdue with the health sciences field. The College of Health and Human Sciences needs to have a focus and a signature and this institute can quickly help define our identity. That way, we're poised for more research grants, for attracting more students, for increased philanthropy and for positioning ourselves more compellingly to women donors."

One such donor, Butler, who helped spark the institute's founding with Weaver, has already contributed $500,000 with an accompanying $50,000 challenge match.

For her part, Weaver couldn't be any more grateful for how smoothly the recent launch came off and for the reception the institute has received around campus.

"Everywhere I speak, the reception has been amazingly warm," Weaver says. "We have formed an internal steering committee and an external advisory council and people are very excited about the idea. And that's what excites me."

The palpable excitement around campus arises from the new focus on women's health and a growing sentiment that preventive care is the model of the future. "So many people are appreciative of the focus on prevention. I think the timing couldn't be better, because people understand that drugs treat a symptom, not the root cause, and they almost always carry side effects," Weaver says. "Diagnostic tools can only identify already damaged tissues. In too many cases, the damage has been done, and it can't be undone. Prevention is not yet built into our health care system — it's not built into reimbursement, it's not built into medical training. But just because the system ignores it doesn't mean we're going to."

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