Research & Education

Through our affiliations with nationally recognized institutions, the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women's Sexual Health has been able to assist with research and education initiatives designed to improve the lives of women around the world affected by sexual dysfunction. 


University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine - Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology

The Patty Brisben Foundation has chosen to support the University of Colorado, Denver, by funding a study of sexual dysfunction in women who have been diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer.

Gynecologic cancers (which include ovarian, cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and uterine cancer) are the third most common malignancies affecting women in the United States, with an estimated 83,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 alone. Even though there have been significant advances in treatments in the last decade, knowledge of psychological and social issues impacting the patients undergoing these treatments has not advanced.

This study has two aims: to evaluate the extent and scope of sexual dysfunction that women face after a diagnosis/treatment of gynecologic cancer, and to examine the effect that a diagnosis of gynecologic cancer has on marriage and domestic partnerships, with specific regards to the incidence of divorce, infidelity, and depression as a result. The goal of this study is to raise awareness among healthcare providers of the specific sexual and marital problems created by the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological cancers.


University of Cincinnati Foundation on behalf of UC Health Women’s Center

The Patty Brisben Foundation supports UC Health Women’s Center with the goal to develop a novel strategy to educate women about sexual health in the doctor’s office. The foundation is funding the production of three different videos on sexual health: one for younger premenopausal women, one for midlife and older women, and one for women with a history of cancer. The purpose of these videos is to educate women about normal sexual function, sexual dysfunction, and available treatments; and to increase patients’ comfort in discussing their sexual concerns with their healthcare providers.


Cancer Family Care

The Patty Brisben Foundation collaborates with this program created by the Center for Individual and Family Counseling to provide psychosocial counseling for women coping with cancer and its impact on their sexual health. A grant from the foundation supports the licensed oncology counselors and social workers who are the backbone of Cancer Family Care.

The Cancer Family Care program provides counseling that focuses on the patient’s mental health and psychological, emotional and social well-being. Additional services include cancer education, links to support groups, advocacy for the cancer patients, and information libraries. Cancer Family Care serves nearly 1,000 individuals every year, 75% of whom are women. Counselors note that a number of women whose lives have been touched by cancer experience intimacy and sexual health issues, which can cause women to feel de-sexed, unattractive, and undesirable. This can worsen existing feelings of depression, isolation, and hopelessness. Talking about these issues can help dramatically, especially in a one-on-one session where women share their most private thoughts.


The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University

The Patty Brisben Foundation collaborated with this center on a groundbreaking research study, the largest to date that documents breast cancer survivors' sexual difficulties and assesses survivors' interest in sexual enhancement products as a means to improving their sexual function.

This study was accepted for publication in a top peer-reviewed scientific journal, Cancer Nursing, which is read by the women and men who most commonly interact with and support breast cancer patients. It was published in fall of 2008.

This study was important for several reasons:

  • One of the few papers to focus exclusively on women who received a breast cancer diagnosis prior to age 50, and who often have unique sexuality and fertility concerns, particularly if they are experiencing complications related to treatment such as premature or surgically induced menopause.
  • These young survivors had significantly lower sexual functioning scores across most domains (e.g., sexual arousal, desire, satisfaction, orgasm).
  • More than 95 percent of the survivors studied indicated that cancer had adversely affected their sexuality.
  • Those who were currently in active treatment very often were experiencing problems related to pain.
  • Important to note that 61% of the women in treatment were experiencing vaginal dryness.


University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The Patty Brisben Foundation supports the University of Cincinnati’s Postgraduate Fellowship Training Program in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REO). Support targets the fellows’ research and training related to women’s reproductive and sexual health taking place at the Center for Reproductive Health.The fellows’ current research studies include: intimacy after cancer treatment, menopause, and treatment of pelvic pain.


National Vulvodynia Association

The Patty Brisben Foundation has funded a National Vulvodynia Outcomes Treatment Registry, a research study focused on finding the best course of treatment for patients suffering from vulvovaginal pain.

The Foundation has funded "Everything You Need to Know about Vulvodynia" an online tutorial for women with vulvodynia on the association’s site,, which has brought awareness to the under-researched and typically little-discussed topic of vaginal pain disorders.

 The tutorial:

  • Teaches women about their anatomy and physiology, vulvodynia, chronic pain and sexual health
  • Helps women overcome feelings of isolation and embarrassment about having vulvodynia
  • Encourages women to speak openly about their condition with their medical providers, family members, and friends
  • Provides coping strategies for the life challenges having vulvodynia presents
  • Encourages affected women to maintain healthy intimate and family relationships
  • Emphasizes the importance of seeking appropriate medical care
  • Empowers affected women to advocate for themselves and others suffering from vulvodynia.

The Patty Brisben Foundation’s partnership with the National Vulvodynia Association has also introduced an online educational program to healthcare providers.  The goal is to share knowledge about vulvodynia, its causes, and possible treatment options.


North American Menopause Society

The Patty Brisben Foundation supports “Sexual Health and Menopause,” an online educational program that can be found at“Sexual Health and Menopause” is designed to share information with the millions of women entering menopause (and their partners) who want to get a handle on what menopause might mean for their sex lives. Although most women experience some changes in sexual function as they age, menopause and aging certainly do not signal the end of a woman’s sex life.


Apply for Funding

What is the process for choosing organizations to support? The Patty Brisben Foundation's Board of Directors votes on the grants that it will fund. Any nonprofit that seeks funding from the Foundation for a project/program related to women’s sexual health is invited to submit a grant request.

Click here to download the 2014 Grant Application.