"All public health related issues should be approached from a gender-based perspective as well".This is the main aim of the Centre: Increasing appreciation and awareness of gender-related issues not only within the medical professions but also within the general public. Education, and support for biomedical research -basic as well as applied and clinical-are the main tools with which the Centre hopes to achieve this aim.
The Centre for Gender-medicine has now been in existence for 10 years. During this initial period, it awarded several research grants, established administrative, support, educational and research positions and started the programme of "Gender Ambassadors".
The principal criterion for awarding grants was that they should be used to establish gender awareness and competences in several fundamental or clinical research fields which could benefit from an increased appreciation of the gender-perspective. For instance, cardiovascular health or disease is now known to be experienced completely differently by both genders.
The several positions managed by the Centre support the research and education programmes, in particular the "Gender Ambassadors". With all the ongoing programmes, the need for consolidation but also for further development is more than obvious.
Meet the Centre's new General Coordinator, Karolina Kublickiene
Karolina Kublickiene, MD, PhD and Associate Professor at the Karolinska Institute, recently received the appointment as the Centre's new General Manager.
"Gender and sex-based differences can be found everywhere", she states. "They have a presence within every imaginable characteristic of human life: From society all the way down to the interplay between different cells- If that may sound strange, it is now established that each and every cell within our bodies has an individual gender".
"The Centre for Gender-Medicine focusses presently on gender-dependent aspects of medicine. For a great many diseases and disorders, the differences between men and women are apparent. This is true not only for incidences, causes, and risk factors, but even more importantly for the presentation of symptoms, the diagnosis, the treatment (and the response to this) and, ultimately, the prognosis.
However, Karolina Kublickiene also points out that each individual should not just simply be approached with a gender-perspective in mind. "Other aspects, such as ethnic and social background also have an important role. But gender still affects the development and prognosis of any medical disorder in a very important way".
Further to this, Karolina Kublickiene stated that: "The established activities of the Centre each have their important and separate goals. New activities that we will focus on now will be, among others, the gender-dependent aspects of regenerative medicine, of new developments within medical technology, and of medicine-use". Further revelations by Karolina Kublickiene also highlighted that: "A lot of resources are now going to flow into clinical and preclinical research from a gender-dependent perspective, particularly as applied to the cardiovascular diseases, the endocrinological/metabolic/renal diseases as well as the gender-dependant aspects of inflammation, rheumatology, neuropsychiatry and public health".
"But the Centre does not focus only on research, but also on education: Education not only of the medical professions but also of the researchers. It is of the utmost importance that this new-generation of researchers will be equipped with "gender-glasses" - as important as that of medical professionals meeting and treating patients of each gender".
Karolina Kublickiene is of the opinion that it is crucial that "gender-medicine" is not just simply used for female disorders, but that the approach is equally applied to both genders.
One of the traditional aims of the Centre is to increase the awareness of gender-based medicine with the general public and with the policy-makers. Furthermore,this aim guarantees that resources are equally allocated between both sexes. This also helps to eradicate gender-discrimination within health-care.
Obstetrics and Gynaecology is Karolina Kublickiene's medical speciality. Consequently, her own investigative efforts concentrated predominantly on the molecular and cellular mechanisms leading to pregnancy-induced disorders of vascular reactivity. Within the framework of the Centre, it was only logical and natural to extend these efforts to gender-dependent differences of vascular reactivity, both in health and disease.
Based on her own medical experience and decennia-long activity at the forefront of research into vascular reactivity changes as they occur before, during and after pre-eclampsia, Karolina surmises that women, who develop pre-eclampsia, run a higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases in general. Her own research projects are mainly concerned in finding physiological mechanisms that alter the vascular reactivity in these women.
The final outcome of these research efforts - and its most important goal - will allow for identification of women who run a particularly high risk of developing pre-eclampsia before they are actually pregnant. The benefit is thus to allow these women to obtain medical help in a much earlier stadium of the disorder, but also to allow them to take preventive measures such as life-style changes or maybe prophylactic medication.
Karolina is proud to declare that: "As this is obviously a mission which cannot be developed and maintained by one centre of research, the collaboration enabled by EU-funding (www.fp7-improved.eu) between several research centres focussing on pre-eclampsia (including the one at the Karolinska Institute), will result in knowledge on treatment and prevention of this disorder to be developed much more rapidly and comprehensively.