The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) is a long-term national health study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, or NHLBI. The original WHI study began in the early 1990s and concluded in 2005. Since 2005, the WHI has continued as Extension Studies, which are annual collections of health updates and outcomes in active participants. The second Extension Study enrolled 93,500 women in 2010 and follow-up of these women continues through another extension that will conclude in 2020. NHLBI intends to fund the next Extension Study for the follow-up of WHI participants through 2027.
As with the original WHI study, the main areas of research are cardiovascular disease, cancers, and osteoporotic fractures. While WHI continues to focus on strategies to prevent the major causes of death, disability, and frailty in older women, the breadth and richness of the WHI data allow for the exploration and investigation of many more research questions on women’s health and aging.
To learn more about the original WHI study that began in the early 1990’s, including specific details about the three clinical trials and the observational study, visit the WHI program page on the NHLBI website.
On April 19th, 1991, Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first female director of the National Institutes of Health, announced plans for the WHI study.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA was awarded the role of the WHI’s Clinical Coordinating Center (CCC). The CCC was responsible for maintaining consistency between the 40 clinical centers and collecting, managing, and analyzing WHI data.
The first 16 vanguard clinical centers in the country were named and began recruitment.
24 additional clinical centers are named, bringing the total to 40, with recruiting sites in 23 states.
161,808 postmenopausal women enrolled in the WHI. Over 68,000 women were randomized to 1, 2 , or 3 clinical trials: the Hormone Therapy (HT) Trial, the Diet Modification (DM) Trial, and the Calcium and Vitamin D (CaD) Trial. Over 93,000women enrolled in the Observation Study (OS).
The estrogen-plus-progestin arm of the HT trial was stopped. Early results showed women who took this combination hormone therapy had increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and breast cancer. Findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Early results of the estrogen-only arm of the HT trial showed increased risk of stroke and no protection against heart disease. The trial was halted after an average of 6.8 years of follow-up. Findings were published in JAMA.
The DM Trial tested whether a low-fat diet reduced risk of breast and colorectal cancers, heart disease, and stroke in postmenopausal women. Results showed no risk reduction of these diseases. The CaD Trial tested whether taking calcium and Vitamin D reduced the risk of fractures and breast and colorectal cancers. Results showed a modest increase in hip bone density, but no risk reduction for breast and colorectal cancers.
All participants in the original WHI study were invited to enroll in the first extension study. 115,400 women enrolled and health updates and outcomes were collected annually from 2005-2010.
Health updates and outcomes were collected annually from 2010 to 2015 for the over 93,500 women who enrolled in the second WHI extension study.
From 2012 to 2013, over 7,800 women in the 2nd WHI Extension Study participated in the Long Life Study. They provided a blood sample, body measures, and performed physical function tests at an in-home visit.
An economic and health analysis of the effects of the WHI hormone therapy results indicated 76,000 fewer cardiovascular disease cases, 4.3 million fewer combination HT users, 126,000 fewer breast cancer cases, and a $35.2 billion savings in medical expenses in the decade following the release of the trial results.
The WHI encourages researchers to ask novel questions and develop new studies using WHI’s vast data repository and biorepository. Investigators have been proposing these ancillary studies since the beginning of the original WHI study. In 2014, 500 ancillary studies had been approved.
The Association for Clinical and Translational Science awarded the WHI study the Team Science Award for the collaborative nature of the investigators involved and the volume of high-quality scientific discoveries.
Additional funding allowed the Second Extension Study to continue until 2020. Health and medical outcomes continue to be collected annually from the women who enrolled.
The American Association for Cancer Research awarded the WHI study the Team Science Award, reinforcing that the WHI community of investigators are a collaborative group producing strong science.
The average age of women still active in WHI is 83 years and ranges from 71 to 103 years.
An organizational chart provides further information detailing the roles of individual WHI Steering Committee members. Please continue reading the next section to learn more about former PIs and key contributors to the Women’s Health Initiative over the past three decades.
The WHI study consisted of 40 Clinical Centers, several with additional satellite locations, during the recruitment and active intervention phase of WHI (1993-2005). During the WHI Extension Studies, the Clinical Centers were consolidated into 10 Regional Centers in 2010, as shown on the map. The WHI Clinical Coordinating Center (CCC) is located at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, WA. The tables below show the investigator names and locations of the original Clinical Centers and the current Regional Centers. Visit the Contacts page for CCC and Regional Center contact information.
|National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute||Bethesda, MD||Jacques Rossouw, M.D., 1993-2014|
Shari Ludlam, M.P.H., 2014-
|Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center||Seattle, WA||Ross Prentice, Ph.D. 1993-2010|
Garnet Anderson, Ph.D. 2010-
|Region||Regional Center or|
Regional Center Site
|University at Buffalo|
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
|Jean Wactawski-Wende, Ph.D.|
JoAnn Manson, M.D., Dr.P.H.
|Southeast||Winston-Salem, NC||Wake Forest University||Mara Vitolins, Dr.P.H.|
|Midwest||Columbus, OH||The Ohio State University||Rebecca Jackson, M.D.|
|West||Stanford, CA||Stanford University||Marcia Stefanick, Ph.D.|
|CCC||Seattle, WA||Fred Hutchinson Cancer |
|Garnet Anderson, Ph.D.|
|Fisher BioServices||Rockville, MD||Oguz Mandaci|
|University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill, NC||Wayne Rosamond, Ph.D|
|Northeast||Albert Einstein College of Medicine||Bronx, NY||Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D. 1994-2010|
|Northeast||Brigham and Women’s Hospital||Boston, MA||JoAnn Manson, M.D., Dr.P.H. 1994-2010|
|Northeast||George Washington University||Washington, DC||Valery Miller, M.D. 1994-1996|
Judy Hsia 1996-2005
Valery Miller 2005-2007
Lisa Martin, M.D., F.A.C.C. 2008-2010
|Northeast||MedStar Research Institute||Washington, D.C.||Barbara Howard, Ph.D. 1994-2015|
|Northeast||Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island||Pawtucket, RI||Annlouise Assaf, Ph.D. 1993-2008|
Charles Eaton, M.D. 2008-2010
|Northeast||State University of New York, Buffalo||Buffalo, NY||Maurizio Trevisan, M.D. M.S. 1994-2003|
Jean Wactawski-Wende, Ph.D. 2003-2010
|Northeast||Research Foundation SUNY, Stony Brook||Stony Brook, NY||Dorothy Lane, M.D., M.P.H. 1994-2010|
|Northeast||University of Massachusetts||Worcester, MA||Judith Ockene, Ph.D. 1994-2010|
|Northeast||University of Medicine and Dentistry||Newark, NJ||Norman Lasser, M.D., Ph.D. 1993-2010|
|Southeast||Baylor College of Medicine||Houston, TX||John Foreyt, Ph.D. 1994-1998|
Jennifer Hayes, Ph.D. 1998-2007
Aleksandar Rajkovic, M.D., Ph.D. 2007-2009
Haleh Sangi-Haghpeykar, Ph.D. 2009-2010
|Southeast||Emory University||Atlanta, GA||Dallas Hall, M.D., 1993-1998|
Sally McNagry, M.D., 1998-1999
Nelson Watts, M.D., 1999-2001
Larry Phillips, M.D., 2001-2010
|Southeast||University of Alabama at Birmingham||Birmingham, AL||Albert Oberman, M.D., M.P.H., 1993-2000|
Cora Lewis, M.D., M.S.P.H., 2000-2010
|Southeast||University of Florida||Gainesville / Jacksonville, FL||Marian Limacher, M.D. 1994-2019|
|Southeast||University of Miami||Miami, FL||Marianna Baumn, Ph.D., 1994-1999|
Mary Jo O’Sullivan, M.D., 1999-2010
|Southeast||University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill, NC||David Sheps, M.D., N.S.P.H. 1994-1998|
Barbara Hulka 1998-1999
Gerardo Heiss, M.D. M.P.H. 1999-2010
|Southeast||University of Texas||San Antonio, TX||Robert Schenken, M.D. 1994-2003|
Robert Brzyski, M.D. 2003-2010
Haleh Sangi-Haghpeykar, Ph.D. 2010
|Southeast||University of Tennessee||Memphis, TN||William Applegate, M.D. 1993-1999|
Karen Johnson, M.D., M.P.H. 1999-2010
|Southeast||Wake Forest University||Winston-Salem/ Greensboro, NC||Gregory Burke, M.D., M.S. 1993-1998; 2002-2004|
Electra Paskett, Ph.D. 1998-2002
Denise Bonds, M.D. 2004-2007
Mara Vitolins, Dr.P.H. 2007-2010
Sally Shumaker, Ph.D. 2010-2019
|Midwest||Medical College of Wisconsin||Milwaukee, WI||Jane Kotchen, M.D., M.P.H. 1994-2010|
|Midwest||Northwestern University||Chicago/ Evanston, IL||Philip Greenland, M.D. 1993-2000|
Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., RD 2000-2010
|Midwest||Ohio State University||Columbus, OH||Rebecca Jackson, M.D. 1994-2010|
|Midwest||Rush University Medical Center||Chicago, IL||Henry Black, M.D. 1993-2007|
Lynda Powell, Ph.D., M.Ed. 2000-2010
|Midwest||University of Cincinnati||Cincinnati, OH||James Liu, M.D. 1994-2001|
Margery Gass, M.D. 2001-2009
Michael Thomas, M.D. 2009-2010
|Midwest||University of Iowa||Iowa City/ Bettendorf, IA||Robert Wallace, M.D. 1993-2010|
|Midwest||University of Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||Richard Grimm, M.D. 1993-2001|
Karen Margolis, M.D. 2001-2010
|Midwest||University of Wisconsin||Madison, WI||Catherine Allen, Ph.D. 1994-2004|
Gloria Sarto, M.D. 2004-2010
|Midwest||University of Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh, PA||Lewis Kuller, M.D., Dr.P.H. 1993-2018|
|Midwest||Wayne State University||Detroit, MI||Susan Hendrix, D.O. 1994-2008|
Michael Simon, M.D. 2008-2010
|West||Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center||Seattle, WA||Maureen Henderson, M.D., Dr.P.H. 1993-1999|
Shirley Beresford, Ph.D. 1999-2010
|West||Kaiser Foundation Research Institute||Oakland, CA||Robert Hiatt, M.D., Ph.D. 1994-1998|
Bette Caan, Ph.D. 1998-2010
|West||Oregon Health & Science University||Portland, OR||Barbara Valanis, Dr.P.H. 1994-1999|
Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Ph.D. 1999-2004
Evelyn Whitlock, M.D. 2004-2008
Yvonne Michael, Sc.D. 2008-2010
Erin LeBlanc, M.D. 2010
|West||Stanford University||Stanford, CA||Marcia Stefanick, Ph.D. 1994-2010|
|West||University of Arizona||Tucson/ Phoenix, AZ||Thomas Moon, Ph.D. 1993-1994|
Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Ph.D. 1994-1998
Tamsen Bassford, M.D. 1998-2005
Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D. 2005-2010
|West||University of California, Los Angeles||Torrance, CA||Rowan Chlebowski, M.D., Ph.D. 1994-2010|
|West||University of Hawaii||Honolulu, HI||J. David Curb, M.D. 1994-2010|
|West||University of California, Davis||Sacramento, CA||John Robbins, M.D. 1993-2010|
|West||University of California, Irvine||Irvine, CA||Frank Meyskens, Jr., M.D. 1994-1999|
Allan Hubbell, M.D. 1999-2010
|West||University of California, Los Angeles||Los Angeles, CA||Howard Judd, M.D. 1994-2006|
Lauren Nathan, M.D. 2006-2010
|West||University of California, San Diego||LaJolla, CA||Robert Langer, M.D. M.P.H. 1994-2005|
Andrea LaCroix Ph.D. 2005-2010
|West||University of Nevada||Reno, NV||Sandra Daugherty, M.D., Ph.D. 1994-2000|
Robert Brunner, Ph.D. 2000-2010