A spotlight on women’s health research

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Josie Cassano Rizzuti didn’t recognize the troubling signs of depression when she was in the midst of perimenopause.

At 41, she believed she was too young to go through such a transition. But her symptoms were beyond avoidance – complete changes in mood, lack of sleep, causing disruption to all aspects of her life. After a difficult year of seeking answers and trying various treatments, she was then referred to Dr. Claudio Soares at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Women’s Health Concerns Clinic. It was there that she finally found the answers she had been searching for.

“Before the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic, nothing was hitting the core of what was happening to me,” says Josie. “But after my first meeting with Dr. Soares, he gave me pointed questions that were totally about what I was going through. The way the clinic is structured, it provides you with so many sources of information. The research at the clinic made me feel comfortable, and fed my inquisitive need for information. It was a place to understand about the how and why my hormonal changes were affecting me as they were. Those answers were life-changing for me.”

The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic at provides assessment, consultation and treatment for women who are experiencing mood problems related to the menstrual cycle, childbearing or . The clinic also conducts clinical and biological research in these areas. To assist upon this research currently at work, the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic recently received a $240,000 grant from Pfizer Canada Inc., designated towards a research fellowship.

The Pfizer Canada Fellowship in Women’s Mental Health will assist promising clinician scientists in their pursuit of specialized research and training that will enable them to provide more accurate diagnoses and proper treatment of mood disorders in women, particularly during their child-bearing, menopausal, and post-menopausal years. The translational research accomplished by the research fellow will explore the underlying factors that can contribute to women’s mental health concerns and mood disorders, with a focus on discovering novel treatment strategies.

“For decades we have known that women are more likely to develop depression than men,” says Dr. Claudio Soares, Director of the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “Also, our research group and others have shown that certain moments in a woman’s life, like childbirth and the transition to menopause, can be particularly challenging – something like ‘windows of risk’ – for some women to experience depression. But what we don’t know… is precisely why. This generous research fellowship from Pfizer is going to help us continue our innovative work into the better understanding and treatment of depression in women.”

Josie has the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic and its research to thank for her progress: “There are critical times in a woman’s life, and this was one of those moments for me. The stigma is still there when it comes to this, many do not wish to bring it into conversation. But with success stories like mine, and places like the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic, it’s great to see that stigma being removed, and more awareness and education around women’s health out in the community.”