Conversations in Science
for K-12 Educators

A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.


Thursday, April 22, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy: What's Hot and What's Not

Dr. Molly Carnes
Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Industrial Engineering U of W-Madison

About the conversation :

The Women's Health Initiative (WHI) included randomized, prospective, controlled clinical trials at 40 centers comparing placebo with Premarin (women without a uterus) or PremPro (women with a uterus) in postmenopausal women. Before the WHI, observational studies strongly suggested that treating postmenopausal women with these drugs would decrease heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke and that such treatment would increase feelings of well being and quality of life. WHI proved that such treatment actually increased the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and stroke and had no clinically meaningful benefit on quality of life. WHI illustrates the importance of conducting randomized controlled trials before any treatment can be widely recommended with confidence. We will discuss WHI and why we were so wrong.

About the professor:

Dr. Molly Carnes did her undergraduate wor k at the University of Michigan and received her M.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo . She trained in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at the University of Wisconsin where she earned a Masters of Science Degree in Population Health.

At the University of Wisconsin , Dr. Carnes is a Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Industrial Engineering . S he directs three federally-funded training programs all aimed at developing academic leaders in women's health research. She is co-director with Professor Jo Handelsman (Plan t Pathology) of an ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Award from the National Science Foundation which will focus on the development and evaluation of strategies to increase participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering.

Dr. Carnes is committed to transforming the academic culture to be more welcoming of women and supportive of their career advancement. She is using women's health research as a venue to accomplish this. In 1999, Dr. Molly Carnes received the distinct honor of becoming the first Jean Manchester Biddick Professor of Women's Health Research. She is the recipient of 2001 Addis Costello Internist of the Year Award by the American College of Physicians American Society of Internal Medicine - Wisconsin Chapter, the 2002 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, and the 2003 University of Wisconsin Doris Slesinger Women Faculty Mentor Award.

Dr. Carnes states, There was a time when women's voices were not heard. Now is an exciting time we have reached a critical mass of women in leadership positions, so that if we work together, not only will we be heard, but we will create a symphony of positive, healthy changes throughout the world.


References and Suggested Readings:

Shumaker SA, Legault C, Rapp SR, et al. Estrogen plus progestin and the incidence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in postmenopausal women. The Women's Health Initiative Memory Study: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2003;289:2651-2662.

Writing group for the Women's Health Initiative Investigators. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2002;288:321-333.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy for primary prevention of chronic conditions: recommendations and rationale. Ann Intern Med 2002;137:834-839.