Women’s Health Issue: Letter from the Editors

Women’s Health Issue: Letter from the Editors

How can we heal women if we don’t study them? How can we diagnose, treat, and prevent common diseases without understanding how they behave in the female body? When it comes to medicine, why does sex and gender matter?

These are the questions we set out to answer in this Summer 2019 issue of IMS Magazine. The biomedical research community is awakening to the dangerous and sometimes deadly realities of a long-standing male bias in medicine. It arose largely because researchers primarily study male cells, animals, and human subjects-assuming (often erroneously) that their findings would always be the same in females, and that females were “too complicated” to study. This “default male” thinking has far reaching consequences for women’s health. Diagnostic criteria and treatments can be less effective for women, and have more side-effects. Women’s bodies, from their brains and immune systems to the diseases that specifically affect them, are not as well studied as men’s.

But this is changing, thanks to the researchers you’ll read about in this issue. For example, Dr. Gillian Einstein’s lab is investigating how estrogen (including the synthetic form found in birth control and hormone replacement therapy) influences women’s brain structure and function, particularly their memory. Dr. Maureen Trudeau is involved in multiple projects helping to advance personalized medical treatments for women with breast cancer, the most common malignancy affecting Canadian women. Dr. Robert Casper is working towards an early diagnostic test for endometriosis; a poorly understood disease affecting one in ten women that can cause infertility and significant pain. And Dr. Donna Stewart is part of an international effort to teach medical professionals how to recognize and treat the mental and physical health problems associated with intimate partner and sexual violence.

IMS students further advocate for women’s health in their viewpoint articles, with perspectives on abortion (both internationally and locally) and female genital mutilation. They also reveal another type of medical bias-this time against indigenous populations. In this issue we highlight the Women’s Brain Health Initiative and several exciting past events including IMS Scientific Day, the Raw Talk Live on AI in Medicine, and an international stem cell conference in sunny California. And if you’re feeling scattered and overwhelmed, we recommend checking out our review of a rather unconventional self-help book.

The articles submitted to our annual Summer Undergraduate Research Program writing contest were so impressive this year we had to pick two winners! Congratulations to Sabreena Moosa and Benjamin Liu! We are also excited to shine a spotlight on two exceptional IMS members, Director for Graduate Professional Development and Alumni Engagement Dr. Reinhart Reithmeier, and mindfulness PhD researcher Elli Weisbaum.

Finally, we’d like to express our gratitude for the opportunity to serve as co-Editors in Chief of IMS magazine, and thank all the writers, editors, photographers, and designers who spent their summer holidays making this issue a reality. We hope you enjoy it, and we’d love to hear from you: you can email us at theimsmagazine@gmail.com and visit our website at imsmagazine.com.

Natalie is a 3rd year PhD student using neuroimaging and sensory testing to understand chronic pain under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis. Outside the lab she loves to write about science and true crime. twitter: @ NatalieRaeOz

Beatrice is a 5th year PhD student researching the effect of a drug to promote recovery after stroke under the supervision of Dr. Michael Tymiaski. Outside the lab she is an avid reader of non-fiction books and loves running. twitter: @ BBallarina