Renowned for her research on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Andrea Dunaif, MD, the Charles F. Kettering Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism, presented the 17th annual Distinguished Woman in Medicine and Science Lecture on February 27. Hosted by the Women’s Faculty Organization (WFO) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Dunaif’s talk, “Following the Science from the Ovary to the Pancreas,” led the audience through the evolution of PCOS from being thought of as a reproductive disorder to being understood as a metabolic one.
The lecture was a culmination of events held throughout the day, including a luncheon talk and individual mentoring sessions with junior faculty.
“Being recognized at my own institution is a very special honor indeed, as is being in the company of the exceptionally distinguished scientists who have given this lecture, including a Nobel Laureate,” said Dunaif, also the vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine. “My lecture focused on how investigating clinical syndromes can lead to novel scientific insights. I hope that it inspires young investigators to follow their own scientific intuition.”
Kenzie Cameron, PhD, MPH, research associate professor in general internal medicine and geriatrics and preventive medicine and co-chair of the WFO, thanked Dunaif and welcomed students, staff, and faculty.
“The WFO is pleased to be able to honor Dr. Andrea Dunaif as this year’s Distinguished Women in Medicine and Science awardee,” said Cameron. “The Northwestern Medicine® community is truly fortunate to count her as one of our own. Her significant accomplishments as a researcher, leader, and mentor truly make her a role model for all faculty members.”
William Lowe, MD, vice dean of academic affairs, spoke about the importance of the WFO and of increasing the number of women in science. Even though 45 percent of Feinberg faculty members are women, there are still some areas of underrepresentation, Lowe said.
Paula Stern, PhD, professor in molecular pharmacology and biological chemistry, introduced Dunaif and highlighted the honoree’s research achievements, noting that they have caused a paradigm shift in our understanding and treatment of PCOS.
Dunaif served as chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Molecular Medicine at the medical school for 10 years. Her research seeks to understand the mechanisms linking metabolism and reproduction, the genetics of PCOS, and the fetal origins of disease and hormonal programming. Her studies have led the way in redefining PCOS as a major metabolic disorder that is an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus. She is the director of the National Institutes of Health-supported Northwestern University Specialized Center of Research on Sex Differences and leads an international effort to map the genes for PCOS.
The Distinguished Women in Medicine and Science Lecture at Feinberg is an annual medical school tradition awarded in alternating fashion to faculty at Northwestern and across the nation. It was started in memory of Carolyn Brent, MD, who founded the WFO in 1997.
This event was also supported by the Office for Special Events.