Women's Global Health Imperative

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Women's Global Health Imperative

The Women’s Global Health Imperative (WGHI) is a global research center based in the Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Our mission is to improve the reproductive health of vulnerable women around the globe by:

  • Conducting rigorous collaborative research to strengthen the reproductive health program evidence base;

  • Developing and evaluating public health interventions;

  • Studying gender and economic inequity;

  • Building international capacity;

  • Providing training and mentoring opportunities.

WGHI pursues prevention through international operations. Currently WGHI conducts over 20 research projects in the Dominican Republic, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Tibet, the United States, and Zimbabwe. The distribution of our research reflects the fact that, in sub-Saharan Africa, over 50% of those infected with HIV are women and girls, and South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean have burgeoning epidemics. Lessons learned in these low-resource settings can help us fight the epidemic abroad and at home.

WGHI is the major research institution exclusively dedicated to developing innovative health initiatives that address gender imbalances and to using expanded educational and economic options for women as effective means to fight disease and promote reproductive health.

Across the globe, WGHI conducts rigorous research and training related to HIV/AIDS, gender, reproductive health, and safe motherhood including primary research, descriptive studies and prevention science. This research is used to design and rapidly implement practical and effective prevention and treatment strategies for women at risk of HIV/AIDS, STIs, unintended pregnancies, and maternal mortality.



  • Study HIV/AIDS and STIs in the context of reproductive health.
    Develop and evaluate gender-sensitive health promotion programs for women that are designed to prevent HIV/AIDS and STIs as well as to promote reproductive health.

  • Prioritize research on microbicides and other female-controlled methods of prevention.
    Implement research on the effectiveness and acceptance of microbicides and other female-controlled methods of prevention of HIV/AIDS, STIs, and unintended pregnancies.

  • Emphasize economic development and economic opportunity as part of HIV/AIDS and STI prevention.
    Develop HIV/AIDS, STI, and reproductive health prevention programs that focus on economic development and economic opportunities including job training, micro-financing, and education initiatives for women and girls.

  • Preventing maternal mortality.
    Develop prevention strategies focused on preventing obstetric hemorrhage and creating safe birthing environments for women.

  • Promote human rights through HIV/AIDS and STI prevention.
    Incorporate policy interventions to promote human rights for women in the design of HIV/AIDS, STIs, unintended pregnancies, and maternal mortality prevention interventions.


Nancy Padian, Ph.D., is the executive director of University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF) Women's Global Health Imperative (WGHI). She is also Associate Director of Research for the UCSF Global Health Sciences, Director of International Programs at the UCSF AIDS Research Institute (ARI), co-director of the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy, and a Professor in the UCSF Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences.

Dr. Padian is an internationally recognized expert in the heterosexual transmission of HIV and other STIs. For the last 17 years, Dr. Padian has developed and directed a range of domestic and international research and intervention projects on sexually transmitted infections, HIV and contraception in high-risk populations in the U.S. and internationally. In 1994, she co-founded the the UZ-UCSF Collaborative Research Programme in Women's Health in Zimbabwe. Her joint research with the University of Zimbabwe on a program teaching women negotiating strategies for condom use has been profiled in the New York Times and Scientific American.

Her current research focuses largely on developing and evaluating female-controlled methods for disease prevention, such as the diaphragm and microbicides, along with alternative strategies for fostering young women's economic independence, and thus reducing their susceptibility to HIV, STIs, and unwanted pregnancies. Dr. Padian was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2004.

Suellen Miller, CNM, Ph.D., is the Director of Safe Motherhood Programs at WGHI. Dr. Miller is a certified nurse midwife and a clinician with nearly 30 years practice in the United States and internationally. She is the co-author of the Hesperian Foundation's Book for Midwives (2nd Edition, 2005), one of the most widely used reference books for birth attendants in the developing world. She has extensive international experience having worked in the Philippines, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Senegal, Brazil in all areas of maternal health:  research policy, program development, implementation, and advocacy, and education. She currently has research programs in the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, and Tibet, and is a consultant to the World Health Organization on their new program on married adolescents and the Partnership for Safe Motherhood. Dr. Miller teaches in the MCH Program, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.

Craig Cohen, M.D. is an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.  He conducts medical research in two major areas: female reproductive tract infections and HIV/AIDS care and support in developing countries.  For nine years, based at the University of Washington he established a research program in Nairobi, Kenya.  This program, known locally as the "PID project," is based both at the University of Nairobi and Kenya Medical Research Institute.  In addition to conducting research, the goal of the program is to develop enhance local capacity to conduct biomedical research through training and infrastructure development.  Overall, the "PID project" employs approximately 70 full-time staff in Nairobi including epidemiologists, physicians, nurse-counselors, laboratory technologists, field workers, data managers, biostatisticians and administrative staff. 

Suneeta Krishnan, Ph.D. is an epidemiologist and a member of the research faculty in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.  She has conducted community-based research on the links between gender and other social inequalities and reproductive and sexual health in India.  Dr. Krishnan is currently conducting research on gender-based power and reproductive health among adults and adolescents in Karnataka State, India.  She is the principal investigator of an NICHD-funded study on gender-based power and susceptibility to HIV/STIs in Bangalore, India. Dr. Krishnan is also a co-investigator on studies related to gender and adolescent girls’ susceptibility to HIV/STIs, adherence to anti-retroviral therapy, and AIDS-related stigma in Karnataka State, India. 

Dr. Zvavahera Mike Chirenje, is a gynaecological oncologist recognized internationally for his work on cervical cancer and HIV/STI prevention studies.  He is an Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Zimbabwe.  He has been a recipient of research grants from Rockefeller Foundation, PATH, Commonwealth Regional Secretariat and WHO.  Dr. Chirenje is a Co-founder of the collaborative program in women’s health between University of Zimbabwe and UCSF (UZ-UCSF).  Currently he is the local Principal Investigator for HIV Prevention Trials Network on Microbicides clinical trial funded by NIH.

Dr. Tsungai Chipato chairs the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Zimbabwe Medical School. Dr. Chipato received an MBChB in Medicine from Bristol University, and an MS in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Chipato’s research career has focused largely on HIV/STI transmission and prevention among women. Currently he is the co-PI for the San Francisco/Zimbabwe Unit of the HPTN, the PI for an NIH-funded observational study of hormonal contraception and HIV, and PI for a WHO-funded study of the effects of steroid hormone contraception and the clinical course of HIV-1 infection. He also oversees the CONRAD-funded study of diaphragm acceptability in Zimbabwe. Among many other research projects directed in the past, he recently supervised a study examining the safety and preliminary effectiveness of the Buffergel and Pro 2000/5 candidate vaginal microbicides. He has also researched the effects of vaginal cleansing practices on bacterial vaginosis, chronic inflammation, and HIV. Dr. Chipato was a lead investigator on studies of visual inspection methods for assessing cervical neoplasia. He has also studied the relationship between contraceptive practices, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and HIV, and has worked on reducing HIV risk by preventing HSV-2. Dr. Chipato represents Zimbabwe in Reproductive Health at the East, Central and Southern African Commonwealth Regional Health organization. He also chairs the CRHCS ECSA Steering Committee for Reproductive Health Research. He serves on the National Board of Trustees of the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, as well as on the Steering Committee of the WHO Infertility Task Force, and the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe.

Institutional Affiliations

WGHI is a program of the UCSF Global Health Sciences, the AIDS Research Institute (ARI), the UCSF National Center for Excellence in Women's Health, and the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy.

Based at the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF, the Women’s Global Health Imperative draws upon a wide range of expertise within the University and affiliated researchers around the world. ARI encompasses a dozen research centers and institutes at UCSF and brings together researchers with expertise in biomedical sciences, epidemiology, public health policy, and prevention sciences.


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