Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance Research Symposium

Female Athlete Performance

Female-focused research, from basic science to translational, is innovating ways to improve the health of girls and women of all abilities through athletic participation and performance. Half the world’s population is female, and more girls and women are participating in sports than at any time in history; however, exercise and sports science research is still conducted predominantly in male populations. 

Speakers in the session will share how approaches as diverse as benchtop science, multi-scale modeling, and digital education interventions are helping to tackle significant problems in female athlete health and performance, such as low energy availability and bone stress injuries. Speakers will discuss both the needs and challenges of female athletes, including how sexism, racism, and ageism intersect to create unique barriers to women’s performance. They will also highlight new data, insights, and solutions to enhance the participation and performance of female athletes throughout their lifespan.



Heather M. Owen, JD | Stanford University 

Heather M. Owen, JD, is the Deputy Athletics Director/SWA at Stanford University. She oversees the department’s Student-Athlete Performance Team. Ms. Owen also serves as a Sports Administrator for football, field hockey, men’s golf, and women’s basketball.  A standout basketball student-athlete at Stanford, Ms. Owen competed for Tara VanDerveer from 1994-98 before graduating with a degree in political science and a minor in sociology. Ms. Owen was a two-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection and helped lead the Cardinal to three NCAA Final Four appearances. Ms. Owen played professionally in the WNBA for two seasons with the Washington Mystics and abroad in France, while also pursuing a law degree from Santa Clara Law School, which she earned in 2003. She practiced law at DLA Piper for several years before returning to Stanford University.

Amplifying the Female Athlete Voice: Setting Sports Research Agendas and Translation Based on What the Athlete Wants

Emily Kraus, MD | Stanford University

Emily Kraus, MD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford Children’s Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center trained in the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) sports medicine. She has research and clinical interests in endurance sports medicine, injury prevention, running biomechanics, prevention of bone stress injuries, and the promotion of health and wellness at any age of life. Dr. Kraus is also a member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Women’s Health Task Force and is the medical director of the Stanford Children’s Motion Analysis and Sport Performance Lab. She has completed nine marathons including the Boston Marathon twice and one 50k ultramarathon.

How Can Multi-scale Modeling Benefit the Female Athlete?

Silvia Blemker, PhD | University of Virginia

Silvia Blemker, PhD, is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. Her research uses experimental and computational models to characterize the relationships between muscle structure, biomechanical properties, biology, and function in order to develop new treatments for musculoskeletal disease. Her team’s ultimate goal is to improve treatments and quality of life for individuals suffering from muscle-related clinical problems. Dr. Blemker did her undergraduate and Master’s work in Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She has received the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows, Commonwealth Endowed Associate Professorship in Engineering, and the Hartwell Foundation Individual Biomedical Research Award. 

Sexism, Racism, Ageism, and Other Unfortunate Isms that Present Impediments to Women’s Physical Activity and Performance

NiCole Keith, PhD, FACSM | Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

NiCole R. Keith, PhD, FACSM, is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and the Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs in the School of Health & Human Sciences at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Dr. Keith specializes in community-based participatory research with a focus on health equity. She co-created the Physically Active Residential Communities and Schools (PARCS) program which provides exercise opportunities for more than 3,000 adults and children living in Indianapolis inner-city communities. Dr. Keith was the 2014–16 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Vice President of membership, communication, education, and policy, served as the 2020-2021 ACSM President, and sits on ACSM’s Exercise is Medicine and American Fitness Index Advisory Boards as well as several other ACSM national committees.

Updated Screening and Prevention of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport

Kathryn Ackerman, MD, MPH, FACSM | Boston Children’s Hospital 

Kathryn (Kate) Ackerman, MD, MPH, FACSM, is the Founder and Director of the Wu Tsai Female Athlete Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Biennial International Female Athlete Conference and also an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ackerman is the chair of the US Rowing medical committee and a member of the World Rowing medical commission. Her research focuses on female athlete health and the various aspects of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). She has authored/co-authored over 100 articles and book chapters related to sports medicine, endocrinology, rowing, bone health, and female athletes, including position statements with the International Olympic Committee. Athletically, Dr. Ackerman represented the US as a lightweight rower at the World Championships. She has multiple National Championships titles and still competes with her teammates for life as a masters athlete.

Boston Marathon Prospective Study: Medical and Performance Outcomes Associated with Indicators of Low Energy Availability | Poster 5

Kristin Whitney, MD, MA | Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Lightning Talk

Mouse Model for Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S) | Poster 33

Laura van Rosmalen, PhD | Salk Institute

Lightning Talk

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