Giudice Receives 2008 Woman in Science Award

March 11, 2008
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Dr. Linda C. Giudice, chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF, received the 2008 Woman in Science Award from the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA).

Giudice was honored at the organization's 92nd annual meeting on March 8 in Anaheim, Calif.

"AMWA is delighted to be honoring Dr. Giudice,” said Dr. Claudia Morrissey, president-elect of the AMWA. "She embodies the attributes we are seeking for this award — scholarly excellence and dedication to advancing women's health."

Founded in 1915 in Chicago, the AMWA comprises women physicians, medical students and health professionals dedicated to serving as a voice for women's health and the advancement of women in medicine.

Giudice's work exemplifies a commitment to serving as a voice for women. Her scientific and clinical background is as a biochemist, gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in examining the relationship between contaminants and reproductive health. Her clinical research focuses on endometriosis, implantation and ovulatory disorders, infertility and assisted reproduction.

A graduate of the UC system, Giudice received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles and came to UCSF from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2005, where she had earned a medical degree and had served on the faculty since 1987.

In addition to her work at UCSF, Giudice was recognized for her contribution to the fund of knowledge through diverse leadership roles.

Her professional activities include having served as the chair of the National Institutes of Health's Reproductive Medicine Network and chair of the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee to the Food and Drug Administration. She is on the executive board of the Reproductive Scientist Development Program and the Frontiers in Reproduction Board of scientific counselors.

Giudice is past president of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation and serves on the board of directors of the Society for Women’s Health Research and the Institute of Medicine Board on Health Sciences Policy. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2002.

Health and the Environment

Since arriving at UCSF, Giudice has established the innovative Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), housed in the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health. She co-directed the UCSF-Collaborative on Health and the Environment Summit on Environmental Challenges to Reproductive Health and Fertility in 2007.

The mission of PRHE, led by environmental health scientist Tracey Woodruff, is to advance scientific inquiry, professional training, citizen education, and health policies that reduce the impacts of environmental contaminants on reproductive and developmental health. This includes the health of pregnant women, pregnancy outcomes, fetal development, child illness, prenatal origins of adult disease, fertility compromise and reproductive tract disorders. "The state of the science in terms of reproductive toxicology is a very robust field, but it hasn’t traditionally overlapped with biochemistry, and certainly in health education, medical and nursing students don’t really learn much about environmental exposures," Giudice said.

One of the challenges faced by researchers in the field is that it is difficult to point to one particular substance as the cause of a disease. The scientific community in part needs to change its approach.

Giudice suggests that we have to look at things a little bit differently and be somewhat more comfortable with the fact that we’re not necessarily going to be able to say that one particular chemical is causing a particular disease, but that we have sufficient science to suggest that it could be contributing to it.

"We are seeing concerning increases in reproductive-related diseases — an increase in testicular cancer, more women reporting difficulty in achieving and maintaining pregnancy, a decline in the age at which puberty starts in young girls," said Woodruff. "These changes have occurred over the last 30 years, meaning something outside our bodies is influencing these disease trends. The evidence supporting a role for environmental contaminants is compelling and requires our multipronged approach toward preventing these exposures and improving health."

Taking a Leadership Role

Giudice would like to see UCSF take more of a policy and leadership role in the future. "Policy is an important area where we can be effective. I genuinely believe that we can work with the governor, the state legislature and with product manufacturers," Giudice said. "I think product manufacturers do want to do well by the constituents of the state of California and we need to work together towards a responsible chemical policy."

That vision of a responsible chemical policy includes a chemical disposal and tracking policy. Currently, it is unknown as to how many chemicals are in the state of California, where they are housed and where they end up getting dumped.

Recently, Dr. Haile Debas, executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences, announced that he would like to see the new UC-wide School of Global Health pioneer a Center of Expertise in Maternal and Child Health.

"I think the issue of maternal and child health could really be addressed as a focus to build capacity in developing countries," Debas said. "You will not achieve the millennium development goals without attention to building capacity in this area."

The millennium development goals are eight goals that the 189 United Nations members have agreed to achieve by 2015.

"Our vision is directly aligned with that of Dr. Debas and Global Health Sciences, expanding from our research and training into health policy (environmental and otherwise), which will impact maternal and child health in developing and developed countries, working with other UC campuses towards this goal," Giudice said.