As long-time supporters of women’s health, Sarah “Sally” Ross Soter and the Soter Kay Foundation have generously pledged a $15 million gift to The Ohio State University College of Medicine. The gift will establish the Sarah Ross Soter Women’s Health Research Program.
The funding will create a multidisciplinary translational research hub that discovers new therapies to prevent and treat diseases that disproportionately affect women. It will include new and expanded engagement programs to ensure women from underrepresented communities have equitable access to discoveries and clinical trials.
“Sally Soter and her family care deeply about Ohio State, having been generous donors and volunteers for many years. We are honored to receive this investment that will build upon Ohio State’s excellent women’s health research and care,” said John J. Warner, MD, chief executive officer of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and executive vice president at Ohio State. “We are grateful to Sally, Dean Carol Bradford and Dr. Peter Mohler for their leadership in bringing this vision to fruition to not only improve but save the lives of women across central Ohio and beyond.”
The Sarah Ross Soter Women’s Health Research Program is comprehensive, with all facets necessary to improve women’s health, starting with research. Program components include: Translational Research Awards – competitive funds for multidisciplinary, clinician-scientist teams, Program Directorship – an endowed position for a preeminent physician-scientist with demonstrated success in creating new approaches to women’s health, Catalyst Fund – resources to enable the director to seize unanticipated opportunities and ensure discoveries are rapidly brought to women and physicians, Early-Career Professorships – two endowed professorships for postdoctoral fellows and young clinicians; positions rotate every three years, Women’s Health Research Laboratory – a dedicated “neighborhood” of eight labs in Ohio State’s new Pelotonia Research Center
Women’s Health Equity Outreach – support to expand the College of Medicine’s health equity programs for women from underrepresented communities
Cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and anxiety and depression are just some of the conditions that disproportionately afflict women. Studying sex as a biological variable in these diseases is critical, because men and women metabolize and react to medications differently. Women also experience drug side effects more often than men.
“Today’s inadequacies in women’s health are not destined to be tomorrow’s reality. With this gift, we will lead the way in defining the best prevention and treatments for women — creating new standards of care that save and improve women’s lives around the world,” said Carol R. Bradford, MD, dean of the College of Medicine and vice president for Health Sciences.
Sarah Ross SoterSoter’s passion for improving women’s health and wellbeing was sparked 20 years ago in a Wexner Medical Center cardiology waiting area while reading a magazine article titled, “Women & Heart Disease: Is your biggest worry breast cancer? Think again.”
“When I read that article, I knew that something had to be done,” Soter said. She credits her Ohio State physicians with changing her atrial fibrillation treatment—and her life—for the better.
“I am thrilled to be able to do something like this. I don’t believe people are treated equally, and that has to change. I like to find out the crux of the problem and correct it,” she said.
Tamar Gur, MD, PhD“I think of what Sally has done over the years as a movement. It’s really remarkable. I’ve never been a part of something quite like this before,” said Tamar Gur, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, obstetrics & gynecology and public health, whose research lab is one of many designated to be part of the program. Gur’s research has shown stress in pregnant women transmits to a fetus’ developing brain in utero through maternal microbes.
The Soter family has generously supported many areas across Ohio State, including the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital, named in honor of Sally’s late father. In 2005, Soter established an endowed chair in women’s cardiovascular health research, held by her cardiologist, Laxmi Mehta, MD.
Soter’s efforts have been nationally recognized. She received the American Heart Association’s 2019 Award of Meritorious Achievement for her work advocating for women’s heart health.