Women's Health Integrative Research Center

Our vision is to transform through collaborative initiatives the study and practice of healthy, vital lives for women.

Our education and research efforts involve faculty, staff, and students across St Catherine University, as well as innovative partners in the wider community. The WHIR Center Lab contains a variety of fitness and health assessment equipment available for classes, research, and outreach.


Interdisciplinary Projects
The Women's Health Integrative Research (WHIR) Center is committed to giving students and faculty an interprofessional research experience. Students and faculty from multiple disciplines work collaboratively to address modern-day challenges in healthy living. Research at the WHIR Center involves mentorship from senior research experts and teamwork between students and faculty from a variety of health-related disciplines.

Prevention of falls in community-dwelling elders is a primary focus of the WHIR Center's research agenda. Falling, or fear of falling, can be a critical constraint on the independence and vital activities of older individuals. Falls are the leading cause of injury and hospitalization in older adults (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2008), leading to heavy costs for the U.S healthcare system. These figures are expected to grow substantially each year. As a national priority, research is needed to decrease the number of falls, and in turn, decrease the associated healthcare costs. Falls are a preventable condition, and are most effectively addressed through multi-pronged interventions. At the Women's Health Integrative Research Center, we are working to solve the timely issue of falls prevention through inter-professional interventions that involve St Kate's faculty, students and external partner collaborations.

Professional Development
Students are part of a unique experience at the WHIR Center. Through educational opportunities and research mentorship at the WHIR Center, you will gain valuable practical experience, giving you a leading edge in preparing for graduate school and for the workplace. You will achieve interpersonal and analytical skills by conducting hands-on assessments and designing research studies with the guidance of highly trained expert faculty.

Hands-On Learning

At the WHIR Center, we pride ourselves on giving students hands-on experiences in the lab. Top-notch faculty will guide you expertly through lab courses. Hands-on personal training opportunities will give you a chance to work with a range of adults to practice what you've learned in your textbooks.

Students design experiments, conduct collaborative research, perform health assessments, and develop interpersonal skills at the WHIR Center. Guided by strong faculty mentors, you will develop leadership and professional skills informed by ethics and a view toward the common good.

Lab Classes
The WHIR Center engages students in hands-on learning through lab classes in a variety of different disciplines. Departments that regularly engage in WHIR Center research and laboratory activities include: Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Biology, Exercise Science, Nursing, and Physician Assistant programs. In lab classes, you will learn to conduct health assessments, design independent research experiments and replicate seminal research studies.

Women's Fitness and Wellness
Women's Fitness and Wellness is a unique course that combines the knowledge of nutrition with the practice of exercise science to help students develop healthy lifelong habits. First-year St Kate's students improve their knowledge and practice of healthy living through classroom didactics and group workout sessions. As an important part of this process, WHIR Center staff and EXSS faculty, staff and students conduct fitness assessments at the beginning and the end of the semester-long class, to help students achieve their fitness goals.

Outreach Programming
Staff, faculty and students at the WHIR Center are working to actively promote health in the community.

  • Marcie Myers, WHIR Center Director, works with incoming first-year students of color to introduce high school students to biology and science-based careers.
  • Mark Blegen, WHIR Center faculty, works with athletes, teams, and Olympians to measure fitness and to promote healthy living.
  • Alvina Brueggemann, WHIR Center Coodinator, conducts workshops on stress reduction, mindfulness, and mind-body health research to community members of all ages.

Collaborative Research

Students from a variety of disciplines gain valuable experience working with faculty mentors at the WHIR. This experience places them at a unique advantage for graduate school and for professional life.

Faculty collaborate on projects ranging from KidCarry (how carrying kids affects metabolic cost, walking speed, and body temperature in women), to the effects of Exercise and Massage on Weight Loss in Women, to measuring range of motion and proprioception in athletes with shoulder rotator cuff injuries.

New projects and collaborations are happening all the time!

Past and Ongoing WHIR Projects

  • Influence of Fatigue on Jump and Land Movement Patterns. (J. Bjornaraa, B. Cooper, S. Bard, K. Thorwick, K. Kosel, and O. Runion)
  • The influence of music mode on perception of food quality. (M. Blegen and A. Adrian)
  • Determining where athletes get their nutritional rules: Importance of coaches knowledge (M. Blegen)>
  • Is there a running pace that minimizes the metabolic cost per mile? Olympic athlete versus recreational runner (M. Blegen and M. Myers)
  • Adapting an intervention proven to reduce falls (Matter of Balance) to increase and sustain effect for ambulatory elderly individuals (K. Matuska, L. Dutton, A. Brueggemann, M. Myers, M. Hughes, P. Moyers)
  • Factors affecting gerontological nurse practitioner perception of complementary and alternative medicine dialog with patients (A. Brueggemann, C. Geisler, C. Cheung, S. Steinhagen)
  • Three-dimensional scapula and shoulder biomechanics (C. Cieminski, E. Boldt, M. Burg, L. Jackson, L. Prokop)
  • Range of motion patterns in the upper extremity (C. Cieminski, L. Prokop, E. Boldt, M. Burg, L. Jackson)
  • Is there a running pace that minimizes the metabolic cost per mile? Olympic athlete versus recreational runner (M. Myers and M. Blegen)
  • KidCarry 1: Where to carry kids? A comparison of women and men during walking (M. Myers, C. Wall-Scheffler, A. Myhre, M. Kpanquoi, L. Stearns, A. Fasnacht, K. Boeff, A. Kennedy)
  • KidCarry 2: Self-selected walking speeds and core body temperature as a function of load in reproductive age women carrying an indigenous pack basket (M. Myers, C. Wall-Scheffler, M. Lovstad, L. Barton, A. Fasnacht)
  • KidCarry 3: How does infant-carrying device type influence walking kinematics? (M. Myers, V. Nguyen)
  • Adapting an intervention proven to reduce falls (Matter of Balance) to increase and sustain effect for ambulatory elderly individuals (K. Matuska, L. Dutton, A. Brueggemann, M. Myers, M. Hughes, P. Moyers)

Contact Us

St. Paul Campus
Fontbonne Hall
2004 Randolph Avenue
Mailbox# 4237
St. Paul, MN 55105



Regular Hours:
8:00 AM–12:00 PM
(closed over lunch)
1:00 PM–4:30 PM

Summer Hours:
June 15 to August 15