Thanks to a generous commitment from Executive Advisory Board member Lauren Leichtman and her husband Arthur Levine, in 2018 the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center began to offer mentored research opportunities for students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. This program enhances the Center’s ability to perform research as well as provide guidance to the next generation of women’s health researchers. Students receive support to complete research, present their results, and network regionally and nationally with experts in women’s health. Research positions are available for third-year medical students at the David Geffen School of Medicine.
Jane Eisner, Anne Moss, and Rose Tarlow established the “TEM” endowment to support the development of women’s health research at UCLA. This endowment provides funding and support for our research mentors and trainees.
Click here for more information about Leichtman-Levine-TEM fellow, current and past scholars.
Iris Cantor - UCLA Women's Health Center
Available placements in Basic Science, Clinical Epidemiology and Health Disparities.
- Dr. Hevener Lab - Basic Science: One student will design, implement, and prepare for presentation a research project on the effects of estrogen receptor expression on cellular function, specifically in one of the following areas: the role of ER alpha in the control of mitochondrial function and metabolism in immune cells OR the impact of mitochondrial remodeling on metabolism in skeletal muscle.
- Drs. Seeman, McCreath, and Greendale - Clinical Epidemiology: One student will design, implement, and prepare for presentation an analysis using already-collected data from large, US-nationally based research studies. Our prior student trainees have worked with the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a large, multi-site, multi-ethnic study of midlife, menopause, and aging and the Study of Midlife in the US (MIDUS), a multi-site, multi-ethnic study that includes multiple bio-psycho-social exposures and a vast array of health outcomes. Potential projects include (but are not limited to) sex and gender difference in health and disease, the role of diet in health and disease, risk factors for osteoporosis, and inflammatory disease mechanisms. These, or other large and well-established data sets, will be used by the 2023 student.
- Dr. Narain - Health Disparities: One student will design, implement, and prepare for presentation a research project studying factors underlying disparities in women’s risk factors for disease and/or health outcomes. Examples of current projects include: the relation between self-employment and risk factors for cardiovascular disease among women; and state earned income tax credit policy and dietary quality among single mothers with low education.
The Student Experience: Overview
- Mentorship in developing and executing a research question from inception to oral/ written presentation of results.
- Formal training and individual tutoring in relevant design and analysis methods.
- Hands on training in the use of clinical epidemiological and laboratory techniques, including using statistical packages to analyze data where appropriate.
- Structured research meetings to discuss work in progress, problem solve barriers, and discuss interpretation of findings.
- Formal training and practice in oral presentation of research results.
- Support to submit results in abstract form to a national meeting if appropriate.
- Up to $1500 in financial support for travel expenses should the project be accepted to be presented at a national research meeting while the student is enrolled at DGSOM.
- Longitudinal preceptorship placement in a primary care women’s health practice (if desired).
To apply, send the following to Gabrielle Pascua : [email protected]
Be sure to include all requested elements:
- A personal statement including (1 page maximum):
- A paragraph describing your interest in women’s health and/or sex and gender based research, and how it relates to your future career goals.
- Which placement do you wish to apply for.
- One or two paragraphs describing previous research, clinical, or community work related to women’s health and/or nutrition (Note: Previous experience is not required).
- Your current resume or curriculum vitae.
View the Discovery Year Video:
Research Director / PI
Gail Greendale, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, David Geffen School of Medicine
Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Endowed Chair in Women’s Health Research
Dr. Greendale is an Internist and Geriatrician with formal training in Epidemiology and three decades of experience conducting and analyzing large observational and interventional studies. The major emphasis of her work is menopause—its natural history, biology, symptomatology, associated chronic conditions, and implications for healthy aging. Dr. Greendale also conducts research into how diet and physical activity affect health and disease.
Relevant to the discovery year, Dr. Greendale has 30 years of experience mentoring trainees at all levels (medical students, research associates, fellows, and junior faculty) in research theory and practice. Their accomplishments substantiate her dedication to this role. For example, MS trainees have achieved poster and oral presentations at national meetings, such as the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. MS trainees have also received national awards, such as best student research from the American Geriatrics Society. At UCLA, Dr. Greendale co-established, with Dr. Janet Pregler, the Leichtman/Levine/TEM Summer Student Research Program in Women’s Health. To date, all students have completed a research project and have presented their work at local and national research meetings (see student bio’s below).
Below are a few examples of Dr. Greendale’s major areas of interest:
Cognitive performance in the menopause transition (MT) and postmenopause. Dr. Greendale had the privilege of leading a team in the first multi-racial/ethnic, longitudinal, exploration of the relation between the MT and cognitive performance in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) which included Black, Chinese, Japanese and White women were in this analysis. The team found an isolated, unfavorable effect of the late perimenopause on cognition, which was independent of age, hot flashes, mood, or sleep symptoms. They had the rare opportunity to explore early manifestations of cognitive aging in during middle age, independent of the menopause. In recognition of SWAN’s unique contributions to the field of cognition during midlife and menopause, they were invited by JAMA to author a review of this topic for clinicians.
Bone health and body composition in relation to the MT and race/ethnicity. In SWAN, they described the first multi-racial/ethnic trajectory of bone mineral density (BMD) loss in relation to the FMP, finding that BMD loss began ~1 year prior to the final menstrual period (FMP), continued at a brisk rate until ~2 years after the FMP, and slowed, but did not cease, after that. Similarly, they published the first descriptions of the MT trajectories of entire body composition and regional body composition, which also began to change prior to the FMP. Changes in MD and body composition differed by race/ethnicity.
Click here for an updated list of publications
Associate Research Director/ PI
Andrea Hevener, PhD
Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology), David Geffen School of Medicine
Dr. Hevener is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension and the Director of the Metabolic and Molecular Physiology Core of the NIH-funded UCLA Diabetes Research Center. In addition, she is the Associate Director of Research for the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Research Center. Dr. Hevener received her PhD from USC in Physiology and Biophysics and performed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCSD in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism studying the anti-diabetic actions of glitazone drugs on PPARγ. Her laboratory at UCLA performs translational research interrogating the transcriptional regulation of metabolism and insulin action, as metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance are important contributors to the pathobiology of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Her laboratory is actively engaged in interrogating the role sex plays in disease risk and incidence. A primary focus of their research is centered on studying the impact of sex-related steroids in the regulation of cellular metabolism and energy production by mitochondria. Over the past decade her laboratory has shown in both sexes that expression of estrogen receptor alpha, ESR1, is directly correlated with insulin sensitivity and metabolic health. They determined that ESR1 is critical in the control of mitochondrial function and we have identified novel estrogen receptor (ERα) target genes that underlie the action of estrogens to remodel mitochondrial architecture and regulate mitochondrial DNA replication and metabolism. They study the impact of ESR1 expression in a variety of cell types in the context of cardiometabolic disease. In addition to studies in culture, they analyze tissues from human subjects and have generated a variety of novel mouse models and research tools to identify mechanisms by which ESR1 and its protein chaperones control metabolism. They have secured several NIH R01 grants to support this research and Dr. Hevener currently serves as a project leader of an NIH-funded Specialized Center of Research Excellence (SCORE) in Sex Differences and Women’s Health.
In addition, Dr. Hevener’s laboratory recently received a prestigious NIH Common Fund award to study the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity (MoTrPAC) as part of a national research consortium. Her laboratory has exercise trained over 800 inbred and recombinant inbred strains of mice and built a tissue and large multi-omic data repository that can be mined for novel target discovery. They are leveraging this mouse panel to identify tissue-secreted factors – “exerkines” – involved in promoting metabolic health and conferring the beneficial effects of daily physical activity. Exercise is one of the few interventions shown to delay the onset and or progression of cardiometabolic-related diseases. Her laboratory employs a wide variety of molecular biology, physiology, and computational approaches to address these research questions of interest.
Relevant to the Discovery year, Dr. Hevener has 20 years of experience mentoring investigators at all levels (medical students, research associates, fellows, and junior faculty). Her former trainees have received travel awards (international meetings organized by Cell Press, Keystone Symposia, American Diabetes Association), research scholarships, as well as substantial NIH and international research funding.
Below are examples of areas of research interest:
The impact of ERα on mitochondrial function, metabolic homeostasis, and insulin action. Impaired ERα action drives obesity and metabolic dysfunction in humans and mice; however, the mechanisms underlying this response are inadequately understood. We have established that reduced ERα expression in metabolic tissues is associated with glucose intolerance and adiposity in women and female mice. To study the impact of ESR1 expression on metabolic health, we are the only laboratory in the country to have generated tissue-specific ERα loss and gain of expression mouse models for skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, liver, myeloid cells, endothelial cells, and pancreatic islets. In all KO models we find common abnormalities including the retention of aberrant mitochondria, basal overproduction of reactive oxygen species, alterations in mitochondrial DNA replication, and impairment in basal and stress-induced mitochondrial remodeling. Our findings indicate that ERα is critical in the preservation of mitochondrial health, aerobic capacity, and insulin action as a defense against metabolic disease.
The impact of cellular stress resistance and mitochondrial dynamics on metabolic homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. Cellular stress resistance against metabolic insult is critical for disease prevention. Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, undergo a rapid remodeling to combat cellular stress and alter metabolism to meet changing energy requirements. The remodeling process is also critical for organelle quality control and it plays a critical role as a central hub for coordinating numerous cellular processes beyond ATP production including calcium buffering, iron and heme homeostasis, cholesterol and steroid biosynthesis, mtDNA replication, and apoptosis. We have identified key regulators of mitochondrial remodeling and quality control that modulate metabolic health and cellular resilience in response to stress and aging. Of interest, we observe sexual dimorphism in cellular stress resistance as females are protected against numerous forms of cellular stress that disrupt metabolic homeostasis and insulin action.
Team science and mentoring. She has performed numerous collaborative projects where she has contributed substantively to the development, execution, and overall success of the research. Citations are relevant to this proposal as these publications show the breadth of her expertise and ability to perform large-scale phenotyping projects collaborating with a diverse team of researchers investigating mechanisms regulating metabolism, inflammation and insulin action. She mentored each of the first authors of these manuscripts in which she served as a fellowship or NIH “K” advisory committee member, and importantly, each of these individuals is now independent holding a tenure track professorial position at a major research institution.
Kimberly Narain, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Professor-in-Residence, David Geffen School of Medicine
Dr. Narain is a PhD-trained internal medicine physician working at the intersection of health services research and health disparities. Much of her research has entailed understanding how social, economic and healthcare interventions can be leveraged to improve health equity for adults with low socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic minorities and women. She has used quantitative/quasi-experimental methods to examine drivers of health outcomes at the individual, health system, state and national levels.
With respect to the Discovery Year, Dr. Narain was previously a co-instructor in the “Introduction to Research Methods” course that is required for post-doctoral research fellows in the National Clinician Scholar Program at UCLA. She served as a mentor in the Leichtman-Levine-TEM Summer Mentorship in Women’s Health Research program for the past two years. Specifically, in each of those years, she taught an intensive one-on-one research course to a medical student, walked them through development of a research project and prepared them to present their research during a poster fair. Both of her mentees successfully completed projects that they presented at the UCLA poster fair and at national conferences. She has also had mentees nominated for “Best Student Poster” awards at national conferences.
Below are examples of areas of her research interest:
Dr. Narain has also led of series of studies evaluating the impact of a UCLA-specific healthcare intervention. Specifically, she conducted the first effectiveness study of UCMyRx (a primary care-embedded clinical pharmacist-led intervention) among Black patients with diabetes. She used data extracted from the Electronic Health Records system and a Difference-In-Differences study design with a propensity-matched comparison group to evaluate the impact of UCMyRx on HbA1c and systolic blood pressure, relative to usual care. She found that the UCMyRx intervention significantly improved HbA1c levels among Black patients with Type 2 diabetes. She used a similar study design to evaluate the impact of UCMyRx on cardiovascular risk factor control among diabetes patients with Medicaid coverage and also found improvements in HbA1c associated with UCMyRx. A manuscript detailing these findings is currently under review. These two studies have generated important information that can be used to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities in the context of our own healthcare delivery system.
With respect to Dr. Narain’s research examining the relationship between socioeconomic factors and health outcomes, she has conducted studies at the individual and state levels. She led the first study to explore the relationship between self-employment, health behaviors and health outcomes among Black individuals. Using Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data (2000-2014) and a cross-sectional study design, she found that reporting self-employment, relative to wage work, was positively associated with fruit/vegetable intake and physical activity and negatively associated with self-reported hypertension. This exploratory work is foundational for starting to think about the ways that employment structure may be playing a role in racial disparities in cardiovascular health outcomes.
Using a quasi-experimental study design and BRFSS data (1993-2014), Dr. Narain conducted one of the few studies to examine the impact of state-level minimum wage increases on access to health care, health behavior and health outcomes, across racial/ethnic and gender groups. Among populations with a high school diploma or less, she found that increases in the minimum wage were positively associated with self-reported health among white women but negatively associated with self-reported health among white and Latino men. This work helped to identify subgroups that may experience health benefits associated with minimum wage increases and those that may experience health declines associated with these policies
Teresa Seeman, Ph.D.
Professor of Epidiemology, Fielding School of Public Health
Dr. Seeman is a Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology at UCLA, the Associate Chief for Research in the Division of Geriatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine and an Associate Chief in the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the Department of Medicine. Trained as a social epidemiologist, with post-doctoral training in neuroendocrinology, her research focuses on understanding how the events and situations we experience impact our health and well-being, with a special interest in understanding how those experiences influence our trajectories of health as we age.
Dr. Seeman has published widely on the independent and joint effects of social and psychological factors on trajectories of health and aging, with particular interest on elucidating the biological pathways through which such factors impact on health. Working in both community- and laboratory-based contexts, her research has focused on understanding the health effects of social contexts (e.g., socio-economic status, social relationships) and psychological characteristics (e.g., control beliefs, perceptions of self-efficacy), including effects on risks for physical and cognitive decline as well as overall longevity. Throughout, this work has also incorporated consideration of the multiple biological pathways through which these effects may be mediated, including seminal empirical research on allostatic load (AL). Work in this latter area has included development and testing of various approaches to its operationalization and investigation of AL as a hypothesized mediator, linking life-course psychosocial experiences to trajectories of health and aging. Dr. Seeman’s current work includes investigation of relationships between childhood and adult socio-economic and socio-emotional conditions and adult AL. Additional work is also focusing on; (1) questions regarding possible moderators of SES effects, (2) possible ethnic/racial differences with respect to predictors of AL and (3) relationships of social conditions to longitudinal changes in AL.
Most recently, her research has expanded to incorporate development and evaluation of an inter-generational program (Generation Xchange) that is designed to simultaneously promote health and psychosocial benefits for older adults and the younger generations with whom they engage. The Generation Xchange program trains adults aged 50+ to work in elementary schools with children in grades kindergarten through 3rd grade. The program’s twin goals are to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for the children while simultaneously serving as a way to promote health for the adults who participate.
Below are some examples of her areas of research:
Psychosocial Factors & Health. Her earliest research focused on the question of whether and how social environmental factors, especially social relationships, were related to health risks over the life course along with the role of individual psychological characteristics such as self-esteem, self-efficacy and perceptions of generativity. Her work in this area has documented the impact of social relationships on coronary artery disease, cognitive aging and mortality. More recently they have explored interventions to generativity and psychological well-being. As a result, there is growing interest in (a) including social assessments when evaluating health risks and (b) developing better resources and interventions to reduce health risks associated with relative social isolation and/or problematic social relationships.
Biological Mediators. In the 1990’s, Dr. Seeman became interested in elucidating the biological pathways hypothesized to link social influences to health and pursued post-doctoral training in neuroendocrinology. Work resulting from this new area of expertise examined the role of the social environment in patterns of age-related change in physiological regulation. More recently, her work has focused on efforts to increase the integration of a wide range of biological assessments into major population studies, including Mid-Life in the US (MIDUS), Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) and MESA in order to examine the role of such biological factors in mediating social effects on a range of major outcomes of aging. As a result of this work, there is significantly greater available biological data to support more extensive research to understanding how life experiences impact health via their influences on biological pathways. Evidence resulting from such research can help to direct efforts to implement more effective programs and policies to reduce health disparities.
Allostatic Load (AL). Her interest in the multiple biological pathways through which social factors appear to impact health led her to an early interest in the concept of multi-systems physiological aging (i.e., allostatic load [AL]). In 1993, Dr. Seeman led the first empirical work on AL. Since then, she has led projects testing alternative measurement models for AL. Her work has also included analyses testing hypothesized relationships between AL and subsequent health risks which has documented significant links between greater AL and incident/recurrent cardiovascular events, along with risks for decline in cognitive and physical function and greater mortality. More recently, they have explored more sophisticated methods of operationalizing allostatic load. This work has stimulated a growing interest in AL (and other related multi-systems approaches to health) with resulting growth in the range of research on AL and its predictors and consequences.
Social Disadvantage and Allostatic Load. More recently, Dr. Seeman has completed several projects examining relationships between various aspects of socio-economic and socio-relational disadvantage in childhood and adulthood in relation to AL. This work has documented the independent negative impacts of both early life economic and socio-emotional disadvantage as well as similar types of disadvantage later in adulthood. Growing evidence linking both early and later life economic and social disadvantage to AL has stimulated awareness and interest in both early and later life interventions to reduce health disparities traditionally associated with exposure to greater economic and social disadvantage over the life course. Related to the latter, she am the lead PI on a new NIA-funded Research Network on Early Adversity & Later Life Reversibility.
Heather McCreath, Ph.D.
Researcher, Division of Geriatrics, UCLA
Dr. McCreath’s doctoral work was in social, environmental, and developmental psychology, with additional work in applied statistics and methodology. She is an Adjunct Professor and has been with the Division of Geriatrics at UCLA for almost 20 years. Dr. McCreath has a long-standing interest in health research with ethnically diverse populations and she has managed data collection and analysis with several large health-related studies over the course of her career.
Dr. McCreath enjoys teaching and mentoring on topics of research design and analysis. From 2017-2020, she co-taught “Applied Data Collection and Analysis” in the Master of Science in Clinical Research program. During Summer 2021, she mentored two students in the Leichtman/Levine/TEM Summer Student Research Program in Women’s Health on questions of health disparities using data from the Midlife in the US study.
Below are a few examples of her major areas of interest:
Increasing gender and ethnic representativeness of health research. Dr. McCreath has had the opportunity to work with a variety of studies that strive to be more inclusive in participant recruitment in order to expand the generalizability of health research. Several of the studies have purposefully recruited men and women as well as people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA), a longitudinal epidemiologic study of the development of heart disease; the Ethnicity, Needs, and Decision of Women Study (ENDOW), a multi-site study documenting the cultural factors associated with health decision-making among women; the Study of Family Health, interviewing parent-teen dyads regarding transition to adulthood with specific recruitment of Hispanic and ethnically Chinese families; and the Stroke Prevention/Intervention Research Program in Health Disparities at UCLA.
Community-based collection of biomarkers. Building on her formal training and her work experience in large-study coordination and administration, Dr. McCreath has participated with multiple projects to develop, document, and validate protocols for rigorous collection of biomarkers in the community. Portable protocols are critical to studies in which participants may have difficulty traveling to a central location (e.g., frail older adults, members of under-served or rural communities). Two initiatives have focused on such work: the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health and the NIH Toolbox. In addition to validation of protocols against gold-standard, clinical protocols, she have participated in the development of written protocols, video and pictorial training materials, and quality assurance procedures. These efforts promote inclusion of high-quality biomarker data across multiple studies, enhancing generalizability and cross-study comparisons.