UCLA Spotlight

Burying the "Little Man"

  • Published Mar 6, 2009 8:00 AM

Julia Gouw. UCLA, Unabashed.


Julia Gouw is vice chair of East West Bank, headquartered in Pasadena. She serves on the boards of Iris Cantor – UCLA Women’s Health Center and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on television. I’m a banker. This is my story:

“A few years ago, as a result of a family member’s illness, I had a first-hand look at 21st-century medical care. The skills, the facilities, the humanity and the outcome provided by the UCLA medical team were simply extraordinary. We were in the company of angels.

“Shortly after, I was invited to a seminar at the Iris Cantor – UCLA Women’s Health Center.

“We learned about the near-revolutionary curriculum at the medical school where first- and second-year students learn about women’s health care and gender-based differences in all their courses.

“But then we heard about the continuing barriers to better women’s health care.

How to tell men from women? Weigh them. 70 kilograms for men. 60 for women. Next question.

“It turns out that—well into the last half of the 20th century—too much of the medical data still in use was developed by studying Caucasian males. Exclusively. Except for reproductive hardware and software, women were considered the same as men. But men were the norm, the standard.

“Today’s medical community knows that male and female DNA blueprints are different, that treatment responses for heart disease, cancer and diabetes are not the same. But, too often, doctors don’t know how the genders differ or what to do about those differences.

“One of the listeners asked, ‘How do you move forward?’ The doctors answered in unison: ‘More exclusive studies of women. More inclusive studies of men and women.’

Most Medicare patients with coronary artery disease are women, but the treatment regimes and payments are based largely on studies of men.

“Bingo. A hundred-year-old political, societal, medical problem had just become a business problem.

“I said I thought I could get a small group of business and professional women together to donate to a fund that would finance some of this research.

You need a pilot study to prove a cutting-edge idea. Then you can go for government or corporate funding. But without the seed money, you can’t get there.

“To date, our donor group—the doctors call us ‘the capitalists’—has underwritten 16 separate pilot studies. We’ve moved forward knowledge on why women can ‘do everything right’ and still get heart attacks, why taking hormones can cause a stroke, and how stress affects women’s immune systems. An investment of $340,000 has returned $2,400,000 in government and foundation grants. And we’re helping train a new generation of researchers who know that women are not ‘little men.’

“From my perspective, UCLA’s leadership in women’s medicine is a blue-chip investment with unlimited growth potential, generating critical products and services to the world’s largest under-served market.

“Sounds like it’s just what the doctor ordered.”

UCLA, Unabashed.

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