Teresa Woodruff, PhD, Thomas J. Watkins Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, chief of the Division of Fertility Preservation, and director and founder of the Institute for Women’s Health Research, has been named the winner of the Tripartite Legacy Prize, presented annually to the faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in research that emphasizes translational approaches, teaching and mentoring, and leadership.
“Receiving the Tripartite Legacy Prize is a great honor for me personally, but it is also a recognition of great lab members over a number of years, great students in undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and my wonderful Northwestern colleagues,” says Woodruff.
Woodruff began her academic career at Northwestern in 1995, after working as a research scientist for Genentech in San Francisco. Though the transition from “nearly unlimited budgets” to grant-writing was a challenge, she says, “I believe my background in biotech industry provides a perspective on both career paths that is useful to my students making life choices about fulfilling their career ambitions.”
Indeed, teaching and mentoring are at the heart of Woodruff’s successful research career at Feinberg. She says, “My proudest moments come when I welcome a graduate student into the scientific profession, see a postdoc mature into a scientific leader, celebrate the new aspirations of a high school student, or see a high impact publication from one of my colleagues.”
She not only mentors Feinberg students at the University, she also encourages young women to to pursue careers in the sciences, and has developed the Oncofertility Saturday Academy in conjunction with the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School as a venue to involve high school girls in college level science.
Though Woodruff is dedicated to teaching and mentorship, her impressive research and career accomplishments already place her among the Northwestern’s most honored faculty. But she views herself not as an exception, rather, as a product of the University's research-based environment.
Says Woodruff, "Northwestern has always been at the forefront of new and innovative ways of addressing intractable problems in science and life. It's an incubator for the best and brightest to come together and share ideas and methods across fields."
And the school's focus on interdisciplinary research takes the collaborative approach to innovation even further, she says. "The Oncofertility Consortium is the best example of this approach to interdisciplinary research and involves faculty in Feinberg, all our hospitals, the law school, the Kellogg School of Management, the Medill School, the School of Education, the School of Communications, and various departments in Weinberg."
"By bringing all of the intellectual resources of the academic community together to solve a problem we have gone further faster in providing tangible options to young cancer patients to preserve and restore their fertility. Most importantly, the core values of our Northwestern community insist that we share what we know altruistically and without ego. Because of this, the lessons we have learned here have been shared, disseminated and copied by other institutions around the nation and the world, "she says.
Her focus on fostering talent, innovation, and collaboration have met with success. She has recently become chief of the newly created Division of Fertility Preservation at Feinberg. In this capacity, she is working at translating the research founded by two R01 grants, a P01 program grant the directorship of The Center for Reproductive Research (U54) and the Oncofertility Consortium (roadmap initiative) into clinical care, with the goal of preserving the fertility of women whose fertility is at risk due to anti-cancer treatments. She holds six patents, has served on numerous editorial boards and professional committees, and has prolifically published in high-impact journals.
She has been honored nationally by the “Speaking of Women's Health” Distinguished Service Award (2007), the American Women in Science (AWIS) (2008) Innovator Award, and the American Medical Women Association (AMWA) Gender Equity Award (2009). She was awarded the Endocrine Society’s Richard E. Weitzman Memorial Award (2000) and was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005).