Women in Transplantation

The Women in Transplantation initiative held a strategic planning retreat in Montreal in May, coinciding with the international meeting of the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences, which held a symposium entitled “Sex and Gender Issues in Transplantation: From Stem Cells to Whole Organs”, and featuring invited presentations from WIT members Dr. Lori West and Dr. Beth Foster. Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, Scientific Director of the Institute of Gender and Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, who addressed the WIT membership at the 2016 TTS Congress in Hong Kong, was a key organizer of the OSSD conference, which extended a warm welcome to WIT members.

The two-day retreat, facilitated by Noël Theodosiou of Luminous LLC, was well-attended by 15 individuals with broad geographical representation including North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Highly engaged, the discussing took a wide-ranging and high-level look at what WIT has accomplished and what issues are most pressing to address moving forward. Two pillars of work emerged as key opportunities for WIT leadership. The first is to continue WIT’s original work as a career-development and mentoring group, linking women transplant professionals around the world and offering mentorship and networking opportunities. This work is felt to be highly valuable and meets a continuing need to address barriers to women achieving their full potential. It is also well-understood that the precise nature of the issues varies considerably across geographic regions, thus continued exploration of a variety of mechanisms will be needed to address the issues. The major goals will be to ensure that women are fully represented at leadership levels of our professional organizations, as speakers and moderators at relevant regional, national and international conferences, and as recipients of major funding through grants and awards.

The second major pillar of work that WIT is ideally positioned to address is to lead efforts to study issues of both sex and gender in the content of our work. Sex as a biologic variable is important to all scientific research, including basic and clinical research and clinical care in transplantation, ranging from cellular level to animal level to human. Gender as a social and cultural variable is important in clinical, policy, and systems issues in donation and transplantation. Ensuring that these issues are included in the clinical work we do, in the science we undertake and report and in the policy development in which we are involved, is an area which the WIT leadership members see as highly impactful and in need of leadership. The one-pager output from the WIT retreat can be read here, as well as next concrete steps for moving forward.