Karen and Rob Hale

$1 million gift from the Hales amplifies women's health research

Since launching in 2003, the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at the Brigham has gained the national spotlight for conducting sex- and gender-specific research to improve care for women. Previous decades of research across the U.S. focused on male physiology, presuming that findings for men could be applied to women. This led to better understanding of medical conditions and treatments in men and health disparities in women.

Karen and Rob Hale, two of the Brigham’s foremost philanthropic leaders, want to help close gaps in knowledge and advance research in women’s health. The Hales’ recent $1 million gift through the Fox Rock Foundation is enabling Connors Center Executive Director Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc, to further understanding of brain chemistry linking stress and female hormones to women’s cardiovascular and brain health, including depression and other mental health disorders.

Rob and I want to give the Brigham resources to deepen research and get more answers to improve women’s health.



“Examining how stress and hormones affect the brain and overall health in women is a major theme of investigation in the Connors Center,” says Joffe, the Johnson Professor of Psychiatry in the Field of Women’s Health. “The Hales’ meaningful gift invests in our team and accelerates our work to gain new insights.”

With its expanded research footprint, the Connors Center is supporting the careers of a growing number of early-career researchers. The Hales’ gift also created a new director of research training position. The Connors Center selected Brigham neuroscientist Laura Holsen, PhD, to guide projects and mentor investigators.

Through their leadership roles, the Hales understand the importance of prioritizing women’s health research. Karen is a member of the Board of Trustees, Women’s Health Advisory Board, Cancer Research and Care Advisory Board, and a longtime participant on the Women’s Health Luncheon committee, which hosts the Connors Center’s largest annual fundraiser. Rob served as co-chair of the hospital’s $1.75 billion fundraising campaign.

Karen says, “Learning that women bear a greater burden of certain diseases, such as depression and Alzheimer’s, and that stress has been understudied in women, Rob and I want to give the Brigham resources to deepen research and get more answers to improve women’s health.”