OHSU Center for Women's Health Named National Center of Excellence

10/03/03    Portland, Ore.

The center is the brainchild of community women working together to improve women's health.

Women throughout the Northwest will benefit from Oregon Health & Science University Center for Women's Health's recent designation as a National Center of Excellence. The award supports the center's efforts to pioneer effective new ways to approach women's health care, and it paves the way for new treatments and research. The OHSU Center for Women's Health is the brainchild of OHSU and a committed group of community leaders active in women's health issues.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health announced Friday, Oct. 3, that the OHSU Center for Women's Health has been named a National Center of Excellence -- one of only 19 such sites in the country. The OHSU Center for Women's Health was selected for its commitment to developing an interdisciplinary, integrative model of health care for women that will set the standard nationally. The designation is accompanied by a $1.5 million grant.

"This is a prestigious designation for OHSU and for the OHSU Center for Women's Health, and it will provide direct, positive results for all women -- not just Oregon women," said Joanna Cain, M.D., director of the OHSU Center for Women's Health and chairwoman of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "Being a national Center of Excellence puts us in the same realm as institutions such as Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco, which also carry Center of Excellence designations.

"More importantly, this designation and award will result in greater research opportunities at OHSU in women's health," Cain said. "One of the most exciting aspects of this is that our Center of Excellence team members will be able to work closely and collaboratively with their counterparts all over the country. Together, we can help develop new models for addressing major public health issues that affect women and make new scientific discoveries that can be used to help treat our patients."

The Center of Excellence team members possess a wide range of experience, background and expertise within OHSU. Michelle Berlin, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine, is director of the team, which also includes clinicians and researchers in the areas of family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychology and public health.

Launched in 1997, the OHSU Center for Women's Health helped pioneer a new model of women's health care to treat the whole woman -- meeting her physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological needs in one convenient location

The Center for Women's Health also offers a unique, comprehensive model that includes three equally important components: (1) clinical expertise in a range of areas, (2) a strong research core that helps develop new treatments and cures for women's health problems, and (3) a commitment to education, both for the patients themselves and for OHSU medical students who are learning about new and better methods for treating women.

The Center for Women's Health also includes the Integrative Medicine Clinic, which offers chiropractic, naturopathic and Chinese medicine. It is perhaps the only women's health center in the nation combining alternative and traditional medicine in one setting.

It was just such a model that a committed group of supporters - led by civic and philanthropic leaders Arlene Schnitzer, Mina Schnitzer and Mary Wilcox - envisioned when they first approached OHSU President Peter O. Kohler, M.D., in the mid 1990s about creating a unique approach to women's health. United by their belief that women's health care is often fragmented, confusing and inconvenient, they rallied around an integrated, comprehensive, patient-friendly system that would put women at the center of their own health.

To date the community has pledged more than $13 million to support the center, partly through an annual gala that has become a popular event for hundreds of Oregon women. Last year an energetic group of business, civic and philanthropic leaders raised more than $250,000 through this event. They hope to double that at this year's gala on Oct. 23.

The center's $30 million fund-raising campaign will help construct a state-of-the-art new facility, recruit additional world-class women's health research experts to Oregon, and fund health education for consumers and health professionals throughout the region.

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