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First Lady Visits Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Health Research

Visit showcased important research in women’s health and sex differences

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Written by Devin Lynn on April 23, 2024

On April 20, First Lady Jill Biden toured labs and met with researchers at the Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Biden, EdD, visited the Ludeman Center as part of the recently announced White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, which is unlocking federal funding for women’s health and sex differences research.

“Too many of our medications, our treatments and medical school textbooks are based on men and their bodies,” said Biden. “That’s because women’s health research has always been underfunded and understudied.”

Other elected officials participating in the roundtable discussion with Biden included Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman.

“As a single mom myself, and a grandma who’s been diagnosed with cancer on four separate occasions,” Primavera said, “I know that healthcare plays an essential role when it comes to quality of life and whether or not someone is able to achieve their vocational, financial and personal aspirations.”

Ludeman Center: closing a knowledge gap

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Ludeman Center focuses on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and the intersection of mental and physical health, all areas that have a great impact on women’s health. Over 100 researchers have received funding and mentorship from the Ludeman Center.

FLOTUS_Secondary_InsetPictured in a lab at the Ludeman Family Center for Women's Health Research are, from left, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, First Lady Jill Biden, CU President Todd Saliman, Judy Regensteiner, PhD, and Maigen Bethea, PhD. 

“The profound gaps in knowledge led to our founding of the Ludeman Center 20 years ago,” said Judy Regensteiner, PhD, Ludeman Center director and distinguished professor of medicine. “We’ve made great progress, but there is still so much to do.”

For instance, Jane Reusch, MD, associate director of the Ludeman Center and professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, demonstrated the stark sex differences in diabetes.

“We came across the fact that women, once diagnosed with diabetes, will have a higher burden of cardiovascular disease, a higher burden of depression, a higher burden of diabetes distress,” Reusch said. “When women succumb to a heart attack, they will also have worse outcomes and a much lower likelihood of leaving the hospital.”

Other CU researchers on the panel included Josiane Broussard, PhD, adjunct assistant professor, Department of Medicine; Brisa Peña, PhD, assistant research professor, Division of Cardiology; and David Kao, MD, associate professor, Division of Cardiology. Both Peña and Kao discussed heart failure and the profound impact the condition has on women as the leading cause of death.

Nearly $3 million in research funding

As a cardiologist, Kao addressed the fact that some therapies for heart failure do not work as well in women as in men.

“I do think about the fact that for the therapies we have, we don’t really know if they work, or we know they don’t work as well in women as in men,” Kao said. “There are also issues of inequity in access. We have a therapy like a heart pump, and a woman is less likely to be offered that than a man. Even when offered, women are less likely to accept it.”

The Ludeman Center leads the country in women’s health and sex differences research. In the past 20 years, the Ludeman Center has invested nearly $3 million in research funding and thousands of hours of mentorship and career development to develop the field of women’s health researchers.

In addition, the Ludeman Center educates the community to improve the health of women and their communities. The White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research is fueling additional work in women’s health research and helps to raise awareness about this important work.

Regensteiner said, “My heart is so overwhelmed with joy to see this focus on women’s health, and I thank you again Dr. Biden.”

Photo at top: Seated from left are Jane Reusch, MD, professor and associate director of the Ludeman Center; Brisa Peña, PhD, assistant research professor, Ludeman Center; First Lady Jill Biden; Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman; Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera; and Carolyn Mazure, PhD, chair of the White House Initiative on Women's Health Research. 

The First Lady’s visit was planned by the Ludeman Center in partnership with CU System’s Office of Federal Relations, University Communications, the Office of Advancement and more.