“If we’re going to have progress in women’s health then we have to have a pipeline of young scientists who are excited about that work and incentivized to do that work.” -Peggy Joy
Margaret “Peggy” Prine Joy doesn’t do anything halfheartedly. She’s a law partner at McCarthy McDonald Schulberg & Joy. She’s an avid horseback rider. (That’s her horse, Eddie, left.) She’s a mother and doting grandmother of three. And on top of all that, she finds the energy to be actively involved with foundations and non-profits throughout the Pittsburgh region. One that’s particularly important to her is Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation.
Peggy Joy’s connection with Magee started in her 20s when she had surgery at the hospital. “I was a patient back in the late 70s on two separate occasions,” she remembers. “I was treated so well and felt so cared for that I was impressed with the place. My mother had had surgery there prior to me, and I always had a very good impression of the hospital. I knew it was a place that cared especially for women. It was confirmed by my own experience.”
Later, in the 80s, Ms. Joy was asked to join the board of Magee-Womens Foundation. Eventually she became a board member of the hospital as well. Through these appointments, Peggy grew more and more engaged, becoming fascinated with the hospital’s clinical work and research enterprise.
“When I came onto the Foundation board, they were helping to raise money for the Research Institute,” she recalls. “That excited me. I felt it was a new opportunity for Magee to work towards finding the causes of diseases they were treating and perhaps coming up with longer-term solutions.” At this time, Peggy got to know senior researchers such as Dr. Jim Roberts, Dr. Sharon Hillier and others. “They were so impressive in terms of the kinds of work they were doing,” she says. “They were making Magee into a leader of women’s health research. As someone who was always interested in women’s issues in general, that really appealed to me.”
Ms. Joy’s passion for promoting women’s health has translated into countless volunteer hours as a member of the Board of Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, including a 10-year stint as Chair of the Board.
Still, she wanted to do more. “I was looking for an opportunity to make a lasting gift, in addition to an annual gift,” says Ms. Joy. She consulted with Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, who suggested sponsoring a lectureship. The idea immediately clicked with her. The Margaret Prine Joy Lecture in Reproductive Sciences was born. “It’s an education piece that I really feel is important. If we’re going to have progress in women’s health then we have to have a pipeline of young scientists who are excited about that work and incentivized to do that work.” The idea of bringing together scientists from the youngest medical students to the most senior people at the Institute also excited Ms. Joy. “To have those people come together in that kind of a forum to discuss their work and be mentored is very important.”
“The standard of care still has gender-based concepts to it, even though there is more attention being paid to the fact that women do not respond to drugs and surgeries in the same ways that men do all the time. That’s a very important concept that we need to keep working on.” -Peggy Joy
Peggy likes that the lecture is ongoing, held every year on Research Day at Magee, an event where fellows and residents of Magee-Womens Research Institute and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital gather to showcase their work through oral and poster presentations. She is pleased that her new lectureship joins a second new lectureship, sponsored by Dr. Allen Hogge and his wife, Joan. “The fact that our lectureships are on the same day is a real draw for people,” she remarks.
Reflecting on her long relationship with Magee and the growth of the Research Institute, Ms. Joy believes she’s gotten more out of the experience than she’s given. “It’s been a really exciting opportunity,” she says. “And with the growth of UPMC and the prominence of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and some of the other pieces that have come to be part of the ecosystem of Magee, it has really launched the Institute well beyond what we ever expected in 1992 when this was started.”
She’s also keenly aware that there’s more work to be done. “The research funding for women’s health is far less robust than for conditions that affect principally men or only men,” she states. “The standard of care still has gender-based concepts to it, even though there is more attention being paid to the fact that women do not respond to drugs and surgeries in the same ways that men do all the time. That’s a very important concept that we need to keep working on. That battle is not over.”
Ms. Joy credits Dr. Roberts and Dr. Sadovsky with keeping the flame burning. To every board meeting or donor event, they bring researchers of all levels to deliver scientific presentations that are both enlightening and inspiring. “I’ve heard many of the researchers speak and had a chance to talk to them informally,” says Peggy. “To see some of them progress from being junior to mid-level to senior researchers is just terrific. It’s a career that you have to be passionate about. They’re so excited about the work they’re doing and making a difference. It’s really inspiring. I think it’s one of the most important things we do at our board meetings. It helps us understand why we’re doing all the work that we’re doing—to advance knowledge and the scientists who do that. That’s a very important polestar to always hold on to.”
“Everybody wants to be with a winner. Everybody wants to support an organization that is going to make a difference, so you know your dollars matter.” -Peggy Joy
In some ways, it reminds Peggy of how much they have accomplished and how far Magee has come. “Back when I first became involved with Magee, it was primarily an obstetric hospital. That has changed significantly over the years,” she says. “Today, we are making progress with diseases that primarily affect women such as lupus, ovarian cancer, pelvic floor issues and aging issues, such as menopause and osteoporosis. Our researchers are informing the clinical population at Magee, too. We’re becoming nationally known in these areas, in addition to what we’ve always been experts at, which is obstetrics and birth.”
With typical resolve and enthusiasm, Peggy Joy can’t say enough about how critical she believes it is to support such efforts at Magee. While she points out that the NIH funds much of the research, she also knows that the budget has declined over the years and that government grants don’t cover everything. “There are many important kinds of research enterprises which are not funded by the NIH,” she remarks. “Those include certain kinds of start-up funds for investigators to try to do early work that they can later turn into grant requests to NIH. It involves funding promising investigators who are between grants and have a gap in funding. It’s so important that we have individual philanthropy to bridge that gap. It’s becoming more and more pressing.”
According to Ms. Joy, philanthropists would have to search high and low for a better investment than Magee. “Everybody wants to be with a winner. Everybody wants to support an organization that is going to make a difference, so you know your dollars matter. We are the leader. Period. We are the best in the country, and perhaps the world, at women’s health research. For me, that’s a real bang for the buck. I like to invest in people that I think have the capacity, will and infrastructure to make some of these discoveries and advances that are going to make a difference. We have a huge hospital right across the street that has about 11,000 births a year and thousands of cases of cancer, pelvic floor and geriatric issues and so on that we can translate these discoveries into right away. Nobody else has that. We are truly unique. So if you want to invest in women’s health, this is the place.”
Summing up her experience with Magee, Peggy Joy wholeheartedly remarks, “It’s so much fun to be involved with this kind of an organization. The board attracts fantastically talented people whom I would never have met otherwise—all of whom share a passion for women’s health. It’s a labor of love for me. I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it.”