The first-ever $1 million Magee Prize for innovations in women’s and reproductive health was awarded Tuesday night to a team led by a Magee-Womens Institute professor that will investigate the origins of prebirth congenital heart disease.
The Pitt team, led by Yaacov Barak, will receive the prize from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to study the placental origin of congenital heart defects.
Mr. Barak, associate professor at Magee-Womens Research Institute, said the announcement left him nearly speechless.
“A lot was hanging in the balance, and this could be huge — a make-it moment,” he said.
The project had been on the shelf for 20 years without funding, he said, and the prize represents a good start in figuring out the impacts of placental defects on heart development and how fixing those defects could either correct or prevent congenital heart disease.
STEM Program Connects a New Generation to Scientific Inquiry
PITTSBURGH (October 9) – “Keeping The Beat, Keeping The Time,” a public service announcement (PSA) focusing on heart health, won a STEM competition for Pittsburgh Public Schools students as part of the Magee Summit, an international conference focusing on women’s health in Pittsburgh.
The competition, part of a partnership between Magee-Womens Research Institute and Pittsburgh Public Schools, is meant to spur interest in science — particularly surrounding women’s health — in the next generation.
“To truly move the needle in women’s health outcomes, we need to better connect with the people whose lives are directly impacted by the work our researchers do in the lab every day,” said Michael Annichine, chief executive officer of the institute. “This partnership allowed us to introduce a new group of young minds to the promise of scientific inquiry, and hopefully inspire them to carry this work forward.”
The PSAs were judged by the institute on the basis of impact and community relevancy. They were produced as part of PPS’ Summer Dreamers Academy, during which students also learned about the underlying topics related to women’s health.
“I wanted to learn something new,” said Jermond LeViege, a ninth grader at Allderdice High School and member of the winning team. Other members included Chloe Ecker from Carrick High School and Jaheim Valcin of Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy. The team learned how to dissect hearts and extract DNA as part of the program.
LeViege said at first he wasn’t sure his team’s entry would win, but added, “No matter how hard you doubt yourself, there’s always the possibility that something positive will happen.”
The work of other teams from the STEM program was displayed in a dedicated corridor at the Summit, which took place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh on Oct. 9 and 10. The event convened an array of international experts on women’s health. It was hosted by the institute, which is the largest institute in the United States devoted exclusively to women’s health.
“We look forward to building on this inaugural program to create future opportunities for PPS students,” said Rhonda Graham, K-12 science supervisor for Pittsburgh Public Schools. “We hope to enjoy a long and productive partnership with Magee-Womens Research Institute.”
The Pittsburgh Business Times covered the Magee Summit community and advocacy group session, “The Opioid Epidemic: Impact and Consequences on Women and Children.”
The systems set up to battle the drug epidemic aren’t up to the task and a huge increase in investment is needed to address the consequences on families and the community, according to a panel Tuesday.
“We need to reconceptionalize, be creative about, and think about the system that needs to exist,” said Dr. Elizabeth Krans, an OB/GYN with the Magee-Womens Research Institute.
That includes more residential and outpatient treatment as well as othe programs to heal the impact on lives.
NEXTpittsburgh recently offered a preview of the Magee Summit and Magee Prize.
The two-day summit, which runs Oct. 9-10 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, will gather leaders in reproductive biology, women’s health, precision medicine, public health and global health advocacy. These scientists, clinicians, policymakers and public health advocates represent developed and developing countries…
…“Most medical prizes are awarded after a discovery or achievement has been made,” said Carrie Coghill, Magee-Womens Research Institute board chair, in an announcement about the prize. “The Magee Prize was designed to accelerate discovery — by funding a big idea supported by a global, collaborative research team that will deliver the best possible outcome of a high-risk, high-reward medical innovation. This bold initiative has the potential to change the course of women’s health and, in turn, humankind.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighted the work of the three finalist for the Magee Prize, and keynote speaker Lara Logan’s personal connection to the goals of the summit.
…On the agenda are speakers from around the world and discussions on topics addressing reproductive biology, healthy aging, factors behind infant and maternal deaths and the prevention of chronic diseases…
…Each of the three Magee Prize proposals for innovative women’s health research represents the work of an international team of experts; two of the proposals include researchers from the University of Pittsburgh…
…The Magee Prize is funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. It will be awarded by the dinner’s keynote speaker, Lara Logan, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent and an advocate for women’s health issues worldwide…
…Women’s health issues may differ around the world, she said, but medical advances often emerge out of research done in the United States.
“What happens in the U.S. ripples across the world. The effects are truly profound,” Ms. Logan said.