2018 Woman in Science Award goes to UIC women’s mental health expert
Dr. Pauline Maki, professor of psychology and psychiatry in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, will receive the 2018 Woman in Science Award, given by the American Medical Women’s Association at its annual meeting March 24 in Philadelphia.
Maki, who is also senior research director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at UIC, has focused on menopause, sex steroids, cognition and mood. Her studies have identified risk factors for brain aging and dementia in healthy women and women living with HIV.
“Earning this award has been such an honor,” Maki said. “Mentoring women scientists has been one of my priorities for more than 20 years. Empowering and supporting young women scientists helps them become the researchers that will make discoveries that will improve health for all.”
Maki is best known for her contributions to the field of menopause and cognition. A central focus of her research has been the effects of hormone therapy and alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms on cognition, mood and brain function in women.
Previous studies have provided conflicting evidence on whether hormone therapy increases the risk for dementia among women. Maki demonstrated that the effects of hormone therapy on cognition and brain function depend on both the timing of initiation and the use of progestins.
Maki is also credited with the seminal study of cognitive function in women with HIV. She directed the implementation of the largest longitudinal study of cognitive function in HIV-infected women. Her research revealed a significant and prominent deficit in verbal memory in HIV-infected women compared with at-risk women without HIV, a pattern that appears to differ from that of HIV-infected men.
Maki works closely with the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois Hospital to address disparities in the screening and treatment of mental health disorders of pregnant and postpartum women. She has pursued innovative approaches to fill in gaps in depression screening by creating a research infrastructure that involves undergraduate research assistants who screen for perinatal depression during routine clinic visits. With input from clinical staff in psychiatry and OB-GYN, she is helping to address barriers to treatment through the delivery of cognitive behavior therapy via the web.
Maki is currently examining the role of vasomotor symptoms on cognition and brain function. She has shown that hot flashes are associated with memory deficits, ischemic brain lesions and functional alterations in the brain at rest.
Maki received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and postdoctoral training at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging. In 1999, she joined the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging. In 2002, she joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
She is past president of the North American Menopause Society, chair of the Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Network on Alzheimer’s Disease, and immediate past head of the Neurocognitive Working Group of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. She has won a number of NIH awards for her research and service, is a research and career mentor to many students and junior faculty, serves on executive committees for several women’s health advisory boards, and is a frequent international and national speaker on menopause and women’s cognitive and mental health.