Gender inequality persists in all sectors of society, including science and medicine disciplines. While female clinicians and researchers are increasing in number and now comprise almost 50% of medical school graduates in the United States, they remain underrepresented in scholarly publications and academic positions (20% to 49% of researchers in 12 countries and regions). Although nearly half of medical school graduates are women, they continue to hold significantly fewer senior academic positions and tenured faculty posts than their male counterparts, and receive less federal grant money than men. The median National Institutes of Health award was $41,100 less for female researchers compared to their male counterparts, and in top US institutions, the median disparity reached $76,500.
Endocrinology, that focuses on the endocrine system, which regulates hormones, combines fundamental scientific discovery and medical care that greatly influence human health. Research scientists perform fundamental and clinical research into how hormones function and the mechanisms behind endocrine-related disorders.
Here are five important women making a dramatic impact on the field.
Sally A. Camper is the Margery W. Shaw distinguished university professor of human genetics at the University of Michigan. She is recognized for research on the genetics of birth defects, especially hearing and skeletal disorders. Camper was among the pioneers in the use of genetically engineered mouse models to model human disease and study developmentally regulated gene expression. Her studies with human patients and engineered mice have revealed genetic causes and the mechanisms of several diseases. Her most highly cited work addresses the roles of specific proteins called transcription factors in pituitary development. She is devoted to the education of biomedical researchers and has received university and national mentoring awards. Read her recent research published in Endocrinology.
Carol Lange is a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota. Lange’s research is focused on the role of proteins called steroid hormone receptors, in breast cancer. These proteins contribute to breast cancer risk and can dramatically influence responses to breast cancer therapies. She has developed new reagents (antibodies, stable cell lines, genetically engineered mouse models) routinely and employed biochemistry and modern cell and molecular biology techniques to study hormone action and gene regulation related to cancer biology and tumor progression. As an independent scientist focused on hormones and cancer, she has mentored more than 30 trainees and numerous junior faculty members.
Su Young Han is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Centre for Neuroendocrinology at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Her research focuses on how the brain regulates and is regulated by hormones. She has pioneered the use of optogenetics and fiber photometry, where optical fibers are implanted near regions of interest in mouse brains, in order to study neuronal activity in animals.
Margaret E Wierman is a professor of medicine and integrative physiology and chief of endocrinology at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. Wierman’s research interests are in the regulation of genes that control reproduction. She also studies the molecular mechanisms of pituitary tumors and adrenal cancer. Wierman has a long track record in mentoring and pipeline development of academic researchers. She developed and directs a grant review and mock study section program at Colorado to aid junior investigators in obtaining awards.
Licy L Yanes Cardozo is an assistant professor in the departments of Cell and Molecular Biology and Medicine/Endocrinology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. As a physician-scientist, she encounters patients with clinical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Her research focuses on understanding the role of sex hormones, specifically androgens, in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including diabetes and obesity.
While science and medicine remain male-dominated fields, female researchers contribute notably to advancing science and technology. It’s important to celebrate the achievements of women in science as they may serve as role models to inspire the next generation of scientists and continue to work to make new scientific and medical breakthroughs that can substantially impact human health and quality of life.
Featured image: African Scientist Medical Worker by anyaivanova. Royalty free via shutterstock.