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With each affiliate visit, I’ve gained an even stronger appreciation for the unique work of each affiliate and all that they do to serve their patients. Recently, I spent time with Planned Parenthood Southwest Central Florida (PPSWCF), which serves 39,000 patients across 10 health centers in 22 counties, and learned about their innovative and exciting work.  

This work is led by their outstanding President/CEO, Stephanie Fraim. Stephanie’s ties to Planned Parenthood go far back - 17 years with the PP family: she was previously the Senior Vice President of Brand and Marketing at PPFA, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, and the Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood Orange and San Bernardino Counties . She is a champion for reproductive health and rights, and has contributed so much to our Planned Parenthood family over the years.

At PPSWCF’s “Fighting for Truth + Care for All” dinner in Sarasota, I met the fabulous and legendary Barbara Zdravecky, former CEO of PPSWCF, who led PPSWCF for 24 years. At the dinner, I was glad to meet the incredible PPSWCF staff and many of the generous and committed supporters that help us continue to provide, protect and expand our impact.

In speaking with the staff and supporters, I learned about a number of new and noteworthy initiatives pioneered by this affiliate. PPSWCF has taken to heart its commitment to improving teen and sex education and established a peer-to-peer education program that trains and empowers teen educators to teach fellow youth about learning their own bodies and adopting healthy lifestyle habits. PPSWCF is also launching a national abortion training school and center for excellence. This local and national residency program will address the critical shortage of medical professionals who have the skills and commitment to provide abortion health care --  training that has been limited by traditional educational institutions. This rare opportunity to train under the clinical leadership of renowned PPSWCF staff includes a provision for office, clinicians, and other health center staff to manage and run an abortion facility. It will draw trainees from all over the country - and, it will be the only location in the southeastern United States, located at PPSWCF’s downtown Orlando facility.

I was also amazed by the creative ways that PPSWCF advances our vision. The educational theatre and production company affiliated with PPSWCF, SOURCE Productions, recently produced a film called “First Time Club,” which screened at the Orlando Film Festival and the Sarasota Film Festival, and  is now available to stream on Amazon!. SOURCE Productions is even premiering another feature film called “Surviving Lunch,” which has been accepted to three film festivals: the Artemis Women In Action Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Fort Myers Film Festival, and the Sarasota Film Festival. Surviving Lunch is a compelling drama ripped out of today’s harrowing headlines – it chronicles teenage bullying and the unthinkable gun violence in schools. The film will make its debut on April 9, also at the Sarasota Film Festival. I had no idea before coming on this visit that we have such talented young movie producers in our midst! You can take a peek at the trailer here.

I also wanted to share some pretty outstanding statistics that I learned about PPSWCF on my visit. PPSWCF clinics saw 39,000 patients last year, 66,000 individuals sought contraceptive care in their catchment area, and PPSWCF had 1,500 transgender visits. I am even more confident, after seeing the commitment and passion of its staff, that PPSWCF will only continue to grow and expand.

As their fearless leader said, “We will not fall into the shadows when the political storm clouds roll in… We will fight the next unfair law. Because Planned Parenthood means it when we say truth and care for all” – Stephanie Fraim.

My next and final stop was Orlando - just two hours northeast of Sarasota. There, I enjoyed meeting some of the city’s most passionate activists during a public health roundtable, hosted by PPSWCF’s RaÍz organizers, that centered on the health issues most prominent in the Latinx community. RaÍz is a Planned Parenthood program that works to build long-term, sustainable, community organizing structures in partnership with the Latinx community. Thanks to RaÍz, Planned Parenthood has expanded its outreach and interactions with Latinx and immigrant populations.

At the roundtable, there were representatives from QLatinX, Organize Florida, Orlando United Assistance Center, Zebra Coalition, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, the UCF chapter of Medical Students for Choice, and others. The conversation was a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the specific challenges and needs within the Latinx community in central Florida and the surrounding area. Many of the more than 500,000 members of the Latinx community that receive care at Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide turn to Planned Parenthood as their only source of trustworthy health care. With the incredible young activists at the roundtable, we discussed how health disparities are pronounced for these patients, many of whom are immigrants who come to the United States without traditional access to care. As an immigrant myself, their stories were familiar stories: my family and I relied on Planned Parenthood for affordable healthcare because other services were out of reach.

PPSWCF thoroughly impressed me with its energetic staff, innovative programs, and commitment to youth education. As I reflected on what it means to fight for Truth + Care for All, I was reminded of the work that PPSWCF and all of our affiliates across the country do every single day. We are speaking the truth about sexual and reproductive health care as health care, through nonjudgmental education and the practice of honest, non-political medicine, and we always provide care for all - no matter what.  

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