Partner profile: Women’s Health Research Institute

15 April 2014

There is growing awareness of fundamental differences in the health issues affecting women and men. Not only do women face unique health challenges, they also respond differently than men to many diseases due to biological, environmental, and social factors.

Recognizing these facts, there is a need for high-quality research focused specifically on the health of girls and women.

Since 2005, the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) has served as a vital catalyst for women-centred research throughout British Columbia. Based at BC Women’s Hospital, WHRI supports research across all four CIHR pillars — biomedical, clinical, health services, and population health — with the goal of providing evidence to improve the health of women, their families, and their communities.

Specific research areas supported by WHRI include women’s reproductive health, genomic investigation of the vaginal microbiome, HIV and HPV prevention and treatment, the role of social and policy environments on the health of women who use alcohol and other drugs, and research focused on patients and other users of health services.

As part of its mandate to enhance women’s health research, WHRI has partnered with MSFHR since 2011 to jointly fund research trainees. For the 2013 Trainee competition, the partnership funded Dr. Shira Goldenberg, a post-doctoral researcher based at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Goldenberg’s research project will assess how international and domestic migration by female sex workers impacts a number of health factors, including risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, interpersonal sexual risks and drug use, and access to health services. The study will help develop a new survey module on migration experiences that will advance our understanding of the gendered public health impacts of migration.

MSFHR and WHRI previously partnered with NeuroDevNet to fund a Trainee award for Dr. Gillian Hanley in 2011.

In addition to funding research, WHRI provides support services that help address gaps in women’s health research across BC. These services include building capacity for women-centred clinical trials, grants facilitation, biostatistical consultation, connecting researchers to clinical and administrative databases, supporting better communication between the areas of clinical practice and academic research, and assisting with research ethics applications.

WHRI encourages researchers and clinicians throughout BC who are studying women’s health issues to apply for membership and join the organization. More information is available at