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. 


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 2015 grant form.

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.


Cancer Support Community

Reclaiming Intimacy is a program exclusive to Cancer Support Community and specifically targets women, focusing on intimacy and sexuality after a cancer diagnosis. The program has seen significantly success in previous years, and it always popular and well-attended. Survey data shows that 100% of attendees that previously participated in Reclaiming Intimacy (indicated by marking “strongly agree” on survey forms) had a better understanding of their own sexuality, felt empowered, felt that Cancer Support Community created a safe and supportive environment to explore intimacy and sexuality and increased their understanding of the impact of a cancer diagnosis on sexuality.


Dana Farber Cancer Institute

Restoring Sexual Health after Ovarian Cancer: Delivery of Targeted Behavioral Health Intervention

Serious sexual dysfunction is one of the most distressing consequences of ovarian cancer treatment. Pain with sexual activity, vaginal dryness, and loss of desire are some of the common symptoms that women face after undergoing cancer treatments. Despite the magnitude of sexual side effects, medical professionals rarely address treatment related sexual problems, and it is often assumed that sexuality is no longer an important issue for ovarian cancer survivors because of the seriousness of the diagnosis.

This innovative sexual health intervention will provide state of the art sexual rehabilitation in a group setting in order to help restore sexual health and improve the quality of life for women who suffer from distressing sexual problems after undergoing ovarian cancer treatments This study will also help lay the groundwork for revolutionizing sexual health interventions for survivors of other cancers and medical conditions.


Maricopa Health Foundation

A Culturally-Informed Educational Program to Promote Sexual Health and Well-Being Among Refugee Women

Arizona has over 65,000 refugees who have been displaced from war-torn regions around the world. These refugee women are particularly vulnerable, having survived human rights abuses, including traumatic rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as having undergone such traditional cultural practices as Female Genital Cutting for which the impact on women’s sexual health is poorly understood.

This project will develop a culturally informed educational program to promote sexual health and well-being among newly-arrived Somali- and Swahili-speaking refugee women. The results of this program will demonstrate enhanced health literacy, and greater women’s empowerment and self-efficacy in seeking care for sexual health concerns. It will also impact the lives of refugee women as it will enable this culturally-tailored educational program to create a safe space for refugee women to have candid discussions often for the very first time in their lives around sexual health concerns of great importance to women in their communities.


Massachusetts General Hospital

The goal of Massachusetts General Hospital’s project is to develop and evaluate a novel intervention to address the many causes of sexual dysfunction in women survivors of bone marrow transplantation. Sexual dysfunction is a major issue facing cancer survivors that negatively impacts their quality of life and mood. Bone marrow transplantation is a medical procedure used for the treatment of patients with blood cancers. Bone marrow transplant survivors, like many cancer survivors, experience a significant and drastic deterioration in their sexual function that persists for many years following the therapy. In fact, 40% of women surviving bone marrow transplantation report that they are not sexually active any point after their transplant. Women who experience sexual dysfunction have worse quality of life, higher rates of depression, and more difficulty achieving intimacy with their partners. 

There are many causes of sexual dysfunction affecting women after bone marrow transplantation including problems with sexual desire and pleasure, hormonal deficiencies, premature menopause, vaginal changes and scarring, pain with intercourse, and psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and changes in body-image. Therefore, an intervention that assesses a wide range of physical and psychological conditions is needed to address the range of sexual problems seen in this population. Unfortunately intervention to improve sexual function in bone marrow transplant survivors are lacking and doctors are reluctant to address sexual function with their patients due to their lack of training and discomfort in engaging in these conversations. Therefore, there is a compelling need to develop interventions that encourage doctors to discuss sexual health issues with their patients, using a comprehensive approach to address the diverse sexual needs.

In this project, Massachusetts General Hospital will develop and evaluate the feasibility of a multimodal sexual dysfunction intervention that addresses the many causes of sexual dysfunction in women bone marrow transplant survivors. They will determine whether it is feasible to implement this intervention and integrate it into the bone marrow transplant practice. MGH will also assess how effective the intervention is in improving women’s sexual function, quality of life, and mood. They will also interview women who participate in this project to get their opinion regarding the content and acceptability of the intervention.


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.

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.


The Regents of the University of California

Development of a Therapeutic Yoga Program for Female Genito-Pelvic Pain

One in five women experience chronic or recurrent genital or pelvic pain that interferes with their sexual activity and is not easily explained by another reversible medical disorder. Treatments that have been explored for genito pelvic pain rely on costly or time intensive visits or procedures with specialized health care practitioners, making them inaccessible to many women in the community. However, yoga is a complementary behavioral intervention with the potential to improve female genito pelvic pain through multiple mechanisms.

Yoga is taught in a way that can emphasize awareness and control over individual muscle groups through the practice of specific yoga postures. It can also help women identify and relax their pelvic floor muscles without traditional pelvic rehabilitation therapy. This study will follow up to 30 women who are 21 years or older who report persistent difficulties with the genital or pelvic pain interfering with sexual activity for at least 6 months. Women will attend a lyengar based yoga class twice a week for six weeks, as well as practice an additional hour of yoga at their home. The women in this study will be assessed by both self-report and independent evaluation and changes in the severity and impact of women’s pain will be evaluated using validated questionnaires and diaries.


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.

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.

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.