OSSD President’s Message by Rhonda Voskuhl, M.D.        

Rhonda Voskuhl M.D. is the current President of the OSSD. She holds the Jack H. Skirball Chair and is a Professor in the Department of Neurology and the Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Some say hindsight is 2020, I say the future is 2020.

As the new President of the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences (OSSD), I am extremely thankful and excited to be working with you on such an important area - the study of sex differences. Now, perhaps more than any other time, the importance of sex differences is becoming widely appreciated, including by those not traditionally in this area. This is due in part to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy on the importance of consideration of sex as a biologic variable in research grants, an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Janine Clayton of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH). The importance of the study of sex differences has been further underscored by global data from the pandemic suggesting that men appear to experience more severe illness during COVID-19 infection than women. What makes men have poorer outcomes? What makes women do better? Understanding why could lead to new treatment targets. This is also true for a myriad of other conditions that demonstrate a sex difference, such as Alzheimer’s disease and autoimmune disease, to name a few. If OSSD members respond to this robust interest in our field by demonstrating the highest level of scientific inquiry and emphasizing the relevance of our research to the public at this critical time, the OSSD will realize unprecedented success. Timing matters and the opportunity is now.

That said, we should look even higher. A goal bigger than the success of the OSSD is to translate basic research findings in sex differences to successful clinical trials testing novel treatments to benefit both women and men. This result will be long lasting and impact many people’s lives. This ambitious goal will require a unified coalition and a multifaceted approach. I plan for the OSSD to promote advocacy and further increase public awareness about the importance of the study of sex differences. Enhanced collaboration between the OSSD and the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) will be a major step in this direction, and I look forward to working with their new President Dr. Kathryn Shubert. I also look forward to working with Dr. Jane Reckelhoff, Editor-in Chief of the Biology of Sex Differences, the official journal of the OSSD. Together, the combination of OSSD’s research scientists, SWHR’s policy advocates, and the Biology of Sex Differences represents a triad of complementary strengths. These strengths can amplify each other to accelerate our shared journey toward the common goal of advancing the study of sex differences in health and disease. We look forward to the day when seeds of knowledge from the study of sex differences today can bear fruit as new treatments optimally tailored for each sex tomorrow. To that end, I look forward to working with the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health. Advancing the study of sex differences for the benefit of woman- and man- kind is a mission bigger than any one of us can achieve alone.

In summary, I hope to build on the strong foundation of previous OSSD leadership to reach new goals. Our 2020 current members have tremendous expertise in a vast array of disciplines within science and medicine, linked by the common theme of the study of sex differences in each. Together, we can share insights to promote thinking outside the box of each specific discipline. Life is short and time is precious, but what better way to spend it than contributing our unique talents for a cause greater than ourselves. 

 

 

 

Rhonda Voskuhl, MD