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WRHR scholar to study contraception availability for female veterans

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island recently named Vinita Goyal, MD, MPH, its newest Women's Reproductive Health Research (WRHR) Scholar.

The WRHR Career Development Program was initiated in 1998 by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. In 2005, Women & Infants and Brown University were awarded one of the competitive WRHR Program Grants. As one of 17 currently active programs, the Women & Infants/Brown WRHR Program ensures protected time for the selected physicians to pursue a research career in women's reproductive health.

The program enables Dr. Goyal and others to devote 75 percent of their time to their research career development with support from mentors, research assistants and other research personnel. Joanna M. Cain, MD, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Women & Infants, is the principal investigator for the WRHR Program here, and Maureen Phipps, MD, is the research director and one of Dr. Goyal's primary mentors.

"Young physicians like Dr. Goyal often find themselves spending far less time on research than they'd like as they work to establish themselves as clinicians and educators. Women & Infants is happy to participate in the WRHR Scholar program to help cultivate the next generation of researchers in women's health," Dr. Cain said.

Dr. Goyal, a member of the medical team in Women & Infants' Division of Ambulatory Care and Women's Primary Care Center, will use her WRHR opportunity to pursue research into the accessibility of contraception for female military veterans in the United States. This is an offshoot of her overall research interest, which is making contraception available to underserved women throughout the world including adolescents and women in impoverished countries.

"Female military veterans are the fastest growing population of new Veterans Administration (VA) users, and many are choosing to seek health care within the VA system," Dr. Goyal noted. "There are gaps in the provision of women's health care within the VA system that the government is committed to understanding and addressing. Much progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go."

She will work with the research team at the Providence VA, including her primary WRHR mentor Thomas O'Toole, MD.

Currently, a female veteran in Rhode Island who wants an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, for example, cannot get one placed at the Providence VA. She must go to Boston or New Haven, Dr. Goyal said.

"Researching the current state of women's health services afforded by veterans' hospitals, including contraception services, can lead to better health care for our female veterans," she explained.

Dr. Goyal came to Women & Infants in 2009 after completing a master's of public health degree in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from the University of Washington, and a medical degree from the University of Washington Medical School. She completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and also completed a Clinical Research Fellowship in Women's Reproductive Health through the University of North Carolina, Duke University and Family Health International.

Dr. Goyal is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, and the Society of Family Planning.

She has already conducted several research projects, and is currently co-investigator of "A Randomized Controlled Trial of 2% Lidocaine Gel for Intrauterine Device Insertion," funded by a Society of Family Planning research grant. She was the primary investigator of "Trends in Teen Pregnancy in Gaston County, North Carolina" when she lived there, and has published articles and given invited presentations on such topics as teen pregnancy, diagnosis and management of urinary tract infections in pregnancy, and miscarriage.

"The WRHR program is an incubator that allows these brilliant young doctors to push their ideas in the hopes of improving lives for women," Dr. Cain noted.

WRHR Scholars typically work through the program for two to three years and then secure their own grant funding for their projects to continue independently. Past WRHR scholars at Women & Infants have included:

  • Kristen Matteson, MD, MPH, the hospital's first WRHR scholar, who is backed by NIH grant monies as she continues her clinical work in Women & Infants' Emergency Triage Department and the Division of Research. She studies potential medical treatments for heavy uterine bleeding.
  • Vivian Sung, MD, MPH, a urogynecologist with Women & Infants' Center for Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery, who earned grant support through a Brown University/Women & Infants Hospital National Center of Excellence in Women's Health seed grant and an American Urogynecologic Society Foundation grant. Her focus is improving the decision-making process and the outcome measures used in treating female pelvic floor disorders. She has also earned a NIH career development award to develop and test a questionnaire that will measure patient functioning in women with these disorders.
  • Brenna Anderson, MD, MSCR, of the hospital's Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. She earned NIH funding for a study examining the risk of HIV acquisition in pregnancy, and a separate grant from the Brown/Lifespan Center for AIDS Research funds her study in South Africa examining the impact of treating trichomoniasis on genital shedding of HIV among non-pregnant women with HIV. She also spent her time as a WRHR Scholar pursuing studies examining vaginal immunity in pregnancy. She is now the alternate principal investigator for the hospital's site of the NICHD Maternal-Fetal Medicine Unit (MFMU) Network.


Contact: Susan McDonald
Women & Infants Hospital

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