Doris Howell Foundation continues founder’s legacy of women’s health advocacy

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research was established in 1995.
(Howell Foundation)


The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research — founded by Dr. Doris Howell, known locally as the “mother of hospice” — has a continuing mission to support women’s health.

Though Howell died in 2018, the foundation continues her legacy. To learn more, the La Jolla Light posed the following questions to the Howell Foundation.

Q. When did your nonprofit start? Who founded it? What is its mission?

A. The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research was established in 1995 with the support of Soroptimist International of La Jolla, recognizing Dr. Howell and her work addressing women’s health. During her career, Dr. Howell recognized the critical need to improve women’s health care and research, not only to help women but also for the sake of their families and communities.

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research invests in scholars to inspire the next generation of women’s health researchers, educates the public on women’s health topics and partners to expand our efforts to improve women’s health in our community.

In the words of Dr. Howell: “How many of you have wives; how many of you have daughters; how many of you have sisters? And I know you all have mothers. ... What do you do to help them stay healthy?”

Q. What services do you offer?

A. Under our guiding principle of “Keeping the women we love healthy,” our programs are meant to create a positive and long-lasting impact on women’s health. We have two main approaches.

Our scholarship program aims to inspire the next generation of researchers addressing women’s health. We award scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students researching women-specific issues. Over the last 25 years, the Howell Foundation has invested over $800,000 in 280 research scholars. It is inspiring to know that the vast majority of Howell scholars (87 percent) go on to pursue careers in bioscience, medical and public health fields.

The Howell Foundation organizes an exceptional lecture series featuring researchers, medical experts and health-care professionals who explain research-based findings impacting women’s health and wellness. With access to the latest research, women in our community can make informed decisions about and self-advocate for their own health, as well as their families’ health.

Q. What makes you and/or your nonprofit unique compared with similar nonprofits?

A. The Howell Foundation donors think we can address gaps in knowledge about women’s health at the research level. For decades, women have been either underrepresented or excluded in medical research efforts. We know that accurate diagnosis, effective treatments and drug development rely on gender-inclusive research results.

Dr. Howell recognized that future generations of physicians, medical researchers and health-care providers could correct this knowledge gap if they were trained to address it early in their careers. The Howell scholarship program helps to inspire students, clarifies their career goals and sets them up for success in medical or graduate school. Indeed, many of our scholars wouldn’t be able to participate in research without our financial support.

Today, the Howell Foundation partners with UC San Diego, California State University and the University of San Diego Hahn School of Nursing to recruit and support undergraduate and graduate student researchers in women’s health.

Q. What’s new recently with the nonprofit that you want everyone to know about?

A. We are very excited about 2023. Our lecture series will continue to highlight cutting-edge research, starting with the “Top Ten Issues in Women’s Health” in February. Check with us at for details on that event and others throughout the year.

While we’ve organized over 100 lectures reaching over 9,000 people, we want to expand the audience we reach. We’re working on a May symposium to celebrate Women’s Health Care Month. We are working with our health-care partners to offer a terrific program to the general public and patient-facing professionals across San Diego.

We are also seeking additional educational partners in the San Diego region to offer more Howell scholarships more widely. We are particularly interested in supporting student researchers who are currently underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.

Q. What are the advantages of working in La Jolla?

A. La Jolla is the founding home of the Doris A. Howell Foundation. Since 1995, the dedicated core of donors in La Jolla worked hard to grow its impact. We have now grown to involve people from all communities in San Diego.

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