What the Health: Lets Talk About Mature Women's Health

On January 26th, 2023, the Women’s Society was proud to host What the Health: Let’s Talk About Mature Women’s Health, featuring Sharlene Rutherford, the President and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, and Dr. Colleen Norris, Professor and Associate Dean of Research, in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta.

As many of us are all too aware, mature women's health issues are woefully underrepresented in care and research, which can devastate a woman’s life. Luckily, many researchers have dedicated their careers to improving mature women's health outcomes. Our two presenters walked us through some of the timely and important advancements currently underway to help close the glaring gaps in funding, research, and care.

Watch the Video: 

“Women and Men are very different, right down to our cells, not just our chromosomes.” – Sharlene Rutherford

Speaker Bios: 

Dr. Colleen Norris 

Colleen Norris is a Professor and Associate Dean of Research, in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta. She is the CAVARZAN Chair in Mature Women's Health Research and an adjunct professor at the Faculties of Medicine and the School of Public Health Science at the U of A. Her Ph.D. is in clinical epidemiologyDr. Norris, a Nurse by training, completed post-doctoral training with the Canadian Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Team (CCORT) and Tomorrows Outcome Researchers in Cardiovascular Health (TORCH) in health outcomes research and developed the Alberta Provincial Project for Outcome Assessment in Coronary Heart Disease (APPROACH) follow-up program. Her program of research focuses on the sex and gender factors that impact women’s heart health. 

She is the past Chair of the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance (CWHHA), Health Policy and Services (HP&S) working group, whose mandate is to implement policies that advance our understanding of the unique sex and gender factors affecting the outcomes of women’s heart health. She is a committee member on the Women’s Heart and Brain Health Network Research Steering Committee, and is actively involved in advancing sex and gender-based analysis & reporting in Heart & Stroke funded research. In 2018, Dr. Norris was designated as the sex and gender champion on the CCS clinical guidelines committee where she established and published (JAHA-2019) a methodology that will be used going forward to incorporate sex and gender specific information into CCS Clinical practice guidelines. Dr. Norris is a Fellow of the American Heart Association, a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the CO-PI in a CIHR/GENDER-NET Plus research project- GOING-FWD, an international collaborative of researchers from 5 countries, evaluating the impact of sex and gender factors on outcomes. 

Dr. Norris has mentored over 90 students/trainees. She has presented extensively and has over 400 publications in the areas of sex and gender differences in cardiovascular treatment and outcomes, and women’s heart health.

Sharlene Rutherford

President and CEO Sharlene Rutherford, a long-serving member of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation (RAHF), also leads the Alberta Women's Health Foundation (AWHF). The AWHF was launched in 2020 by the RAHF to further expand upon its mission in women’s health. Sharlene is a fund development leader specializing in campaign strategy, relationship building, and strategic leadership of cross-functional teams.

Sharlene began with the RAHF in 2005 and was tasked with developing and executing the communications, media, and marketing plan for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women and its capital fundraising campaign. At the time, the $22 million campaign was the most substantial fundraising effort in the Foundation's history and included fund development for three research chairs and a further multi-million commitment to the Women and Children's Health Research Institute. Rutherford fully transitioned to fund development and by 2010 was leading teams across multiple fundraising efforts serving the CK Hui Heart Centre, Eye Institute of Alberta, and Orthopedic Surgery Centre, while strengthening donor engagement to advance research, technology and innovative programs at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

Rutherford is a connector and community-builder, whose M.O. is one of long-term vision and big-picture thinking. She has been instrumental in spearheading the birth and launch of the AWHF, a new pan-provincial healthcare charity. The AWHF supports the advancement of care and research in women's health by further connecting the dots—harnessing partnerships and collaboration to break down borders and expand fundraising reach across Alberta