CRS Summit 2021: Diversity & Inclusion Across Reproductive Science & Medicine
The CRS Reproductive Science & Medicine Summit is an annual, trainee-led event highlighting new advances in reproductive sciences. Showcasing distinguished researchers, this year’s summit was a day-long, virtual event with national and international participants. On May 7th, about 200 participants joined the summit that focused on diversity and inclusion across reproductive sciences.
The CRS Summit began with an Opening Keynote by Dr. Kelle Molley, PhD the Deputy Director of Reproductive Health Technologies, Global Health at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who presented on "Global Priorities in Reproductive Health Technologies" (video link). The summit then had three parallel breakout sessions featuring a fantastic speaker line-up. The first session focused on “Sex & Gender in Reproductive Health.” Led by Dr. Diane Chen, PhD from Northwestern, the talk provided a much-needed dialogue on fertility considerations when providing gender-affirming pubertal care to non-binary patients. Dr. Chen outlined the current treatments available (GnRH analogs, gender-affirming hormones, and surgical interventions) and how they affect fertility down the line. “Impaired fertility affects the future quality of life, rather than current functioning or survival.” Dr. Chen highlighted the current options available for trans youth before fertility preservation, the challenges they face, and the ethical questions raised during these interventions. The subsequent talk was by Dr. Brian Mustanski, PhD from Northwestern, who talked about using new technologies & media for promoting sexual health promotion amongst sexual and gender minority youth. Dr. Mustanski emphasized the current state of sexual health disparities among LGBTQ+ youth and the need for a multi-spectrum approach encompassing behavioral interventions, sexual health education, clinical care, policy changes, and parental influence. Check out their exciting talks here.
The second parallel session focused on “Reproductive Sciences Research in a Pandemic.” A remarkable presentation started this session from Dr. Sabra Klein, PhD from Johns Hopkins. Dr. Klein talked about the male biases observed in the COVID-19 pandemic and the influences of sex in viral pathogenesis. Using patient data and a hamster model, Dr. Klein shows that sex is a predictor of disease severity and antibody responses. The next half of the session was by Dr. Maha Othman, PhD, MD from Queen’s University, Canada. Dr. Othman is an expert on coagulopathies, and she presented the current outlook on pregnancies and COVID-19 pathologies. Dr. Othman highlighted the pathways wherein acute coagulopathies could be caused by COVID-19 infections during pregnancy. She further emphasized an increased risk of severe disease and hospitalization, but maternal death is rare. Pre-term birth rates appear to be higher, and more research is needed in this regard. You can watch both Drs. Klein and Othman lectures here!
The third breakout session spotlighted the translational aspect of reproductive sciences. Dr. Nanette Santoro, MD from the University of Colorado kicked off the session talking about NIH-led clinical trials in reproductive sciences and the lessons they taught us. Dr. Santoro talked about multi-center clinical trials and the issues with data-sharing and cooperation. Dr. Santoro emphasized the need for a well-developed network approach to sustain long-term clinical investigations that can help physicians determine effective treatment options. Dr. Kaylon Bruner-Tran, PhD ended this session by discussing pregnancy and neonatal outcomes following paternal toxicants exposure, focusing on intra-uterine growth deficiency. Dr. Bruner-Tran showed fascinating pre-clinical models wherein paternal imprinted genes affected by toxicant exposure cause placental and pup defects, ending the talk by pointing out that “Dad matters!” You can find both these talks here.
The CRS Summit was also priveledged to welcome Dr. Sarah Temkin, MD, Associate Director for Clinical Research, Office of Research on Women’s Health from the NIH who presented a talk about "Achieving Equity in Reproductive Science". Dr. Temkin's talk provided our community reflective points and tools to address inclusion in health and medicine (video link). Additionally we welcomed Dr. Emily Su, MD, MSCI, Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Colorado as our CRS Alumni Speaker and she presented on "Severe, early-onset fetal growth restriction: An on-going clinical conundrum" (video link). To cap a day of great science, we were welcomed Dr. Chandra Jackson, PhD, MS, Stadtman Investigator, Epidemiology Branch, NIEHS who presented on "Intersectionality and Reproductive Health Justice: The Sleep Exposome Example" where we learned of the history of systemic and institutional racism in health and medicine leading to disparities and ways to create solutions and change (video link).
The summit received an overwhelming number of abstract submissions from trainees across the country. Twelve finalists were chosen to present their research, out of which six won the Constance Campbell Memorial Research Awards. Our Northwestern awardees are Zainab Taghvaei (Urbanek Lab), Alina Murphy (Kim Lab), and Juhi Narula (Wignall Lab) and the external awardees are Elizabeth Wenzel (UIC), Dr. Enitome Bafor, PhD (NCI-NIH), and Julia Balough (Buck Institute). A huge congratulations to all the fabulous trainees for their hard work and for showcasing their research at our annual summit!
Overall, the day was filled with celebrations of trainee research achievements and introspective talks on our field of science and medicine. This years CRS Summit has presented a high bar and we look forward to what 2022 will bring. Thank you to all who helped organize, moderate, and participated this year!
Remember you can access all the videos on the CRS Summit 2021 vFairs platform!