The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics & Gynecology today announced the joint appointment of Jill Goldstein, PhD, as executive director of the newly developed Women, Heart and Brain Global Initiative. The initiative is a collaboration between MGH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in partnership with the Women's Heart Alliance and WomenAgainstAlzheimers, and will focus on the challenges of understanding the co-occurrence of depression and heart disease, its implications for memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease, and translation of research findings into therapeutics and policy initiatives.  

“Collaborations such as this speak to the importance of understanding the shared causes of diseases such as heart disease and depression,” says Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, MD, MGH psychiatrist-in-chief. “Further examining how one’s gender impacts the course of – and relationship between – each illness will further advance how we diagnose, treat and advocate for those who are at greatest risk.”

Maurizio Fava, MD, executive vice chair, MGH Department of Psychiatry, adds, “We are very excited to have Dr. Goldstein launch this new initiative here at MGH, given the impact both depression and heart disease have on women. Dr. Goldstein, with her deep knowledge and expertise in this area, is the ideal person to lead such an effort.”
It is anticipated that the co-occurrence of major depression and heart disease will be the number one cause of disability worldwide by 2020, and women are at twice the risk of men. In addition, major depression and heart disease are independent risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, which has a significantly higher frequency in women than men.  These disorders are some of the major public health challenges of our time, and, if left untreated, they will have major economic implications for current and future generations.

The programmatic efforts of the Women, Heart and Brain Global Initiative will revolve around scientific discovery and education, translation into clinical practice and development of policies to create awareness and educate the public nationally and globally. With its home site at MGH, the initiative will cross hospital departments and divisions – including Psychiatry, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Cardiology and Neurology – coupled with collaborative efforts with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Women and Health Initiative and Department of Epidemiology.

Jeffrey Ecker, MD, chief of MGH Obstetrics & Gynecology, notes “Dr. Goldstein uses a life cycle framework in her research, and we are thrilled that, among other efforts, she will help study how exposures and events during pregnancy affect the later health of both mothers and their children. She also has a long record of guiding and supporting trainees early in their academic careers, and we look forward to the mentoring and intradepartmental collaboration her arrival will bring.”

Goldstein says, “It is exciting to me to have an academic hospital commit to developing a truly cross-departmental, cross-institutional entity. I am particularly thrilled that MGH is committed to making this happen, since I trained here many years ago. I believe applying a sex differences lens to understanding the co-occurrence of disorders of the heart and brain will enhance our ability to tackle some the most difficult chronic disease challenges in medicine.”

Goldstein is a professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and was director of Research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).  She trained in clinical neuroscience in the MGH Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology and Radiology and joined the HMS faculty in 1986 at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. Since 2004 she led efforts at BWH to build an infrastructure and resources across fields and methodologies and to train the next generation in the importance of sex differences in medicine. She will retain an appointment in the BWH Department of Medicine, Division of Women's Health, where she will combine her BWH collaborations in medicine with the new initiative at MGH.

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $850 million and major research centers in HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, genomic medicine, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, photomedicine and transplantation biology. The MGH topped the 2015 Nature Index list of health care organizations publishing in leading scientific journals and earned the prestigious 2015 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. In August 2017 the MGH was once again named to the Honor Roll in the U.S. News & World Report list of "America's Best Hospitals."