Teaming up for women’s health with the Laura W. Bush Institute

By Alex Branch

Scientists from UNT Health Science Center teamed up with former first lady Laura W. Bush at a symposium focused on groundbreaking research that improves the health of women.

Laura W. BushThe Health Science Center collaborated with the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health and the Moncrief Cancer Institute at the “Female Focus: Differences Matter” symposium at River Crest Country Club on Tuesday. The Laura W. Bush Institute is dedicated to improving women’s lives and has devoted more than $2 million for research focused on creating a new approach to women’s health care.

The first lady told attendees that one of her institute’s goals is to strengthen understanding of the differences in men’s and women’s health. By achieving this understanding, she said, “We can do much more to prevent the most common and devastating diseases.”

UNTHSC researchers Meharvan Singh, PhD, and Rebecca Cunningham, PhD, explained how the loss of estrogen after menopause can contribute to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in some women. A clearer understanding of the relationship between hormone levels and those diseases could lead to stronger prevention and better treatments that help women live longer, healthier lives.

“A woman spends a third of her life in an estrogen-deprived state,” said Dr. Singh, Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “Only through research can we define the best practices for caring for our health and families.”

Dr. Cunningham, Assistant Professor in the Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Disease Research, also urged attendees to become advocates for research.

Americans spent $6.9 billion last year on Halloween candy and costumes, Dr. Singh said. By contrast, the National Institutes of Health spent about $566 million on Alzheimer’s research in 2015.

Also speaking were O. Wayne Isom, M.D., Chairman Emeritus in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Marjorie Jenkins, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at the Laura W. Bush institute.

Dr. Jenkins noted that women consume 75 percent of healthcare services in the world. And while there is a greater prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease among women, roughly 75 percent of animal research on the disease is performed on male animals.

“To make our families healthy, we cannot ignore the fact that men and women are different,” she said.

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