Background & Philosophy

The mission of FOCUS is to support the advancement and leadership of women in academic medicine and to promote education and research in women’s health and women's careers. FOCUS in led by a multidisciplinary group of women faculty with expertise and interest in faculty development, women in medicine, and women’s health.

FOCUS was founded in 1994 within the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Its principal purpose was to create a collaborative and multidisciplinary network that would encourage interest and investment in women’s health research.

In 1997, FOCUS began to address another key national issue: the under-representation of women in senior levels of academic medicine. With generous support from the Dean, FOCUS launched initiatives designed to help recruit, retain and promote women faculty. These efforts include seminars, workshops, and conferences related to career development and mentoring; faculty research seed grants and recognition awards, and medical student fellowships in mentored projects involving women’s health research.

The majority of FOCUS programs are open to men and women with the belief that all faculty benefit from enhanced mentoring and networking. Selected sessions are reserved for women in order to create a community of women faculty with commitment to improving the environment of academic medicine for their junior colleagues.

Since 1999, FOCUS has compiled comprehensive faculty gender statistics (Benchmark Data) to monitor trends, document progress, and identify barriers to women’s advancement in academic medicine. FOCUS presents these data to the Dean, senior institutional leadership, and department chairs.

FOCUS continues to provide programs which simultaneously promote women’s health research, enhance medical faculty professional development, and aim to create an institutional culture and policies that foster a more diverse faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.