The Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette (PPCW) has elected small-business owner Sita Symonette as its new Chair. A practicing acupuncturist who owns Black Pearl Acupuncture, Symonette has served as a Board Member since 2012 and as Vice Chair since 2015. She is the first African-American woman to serve as Chair.
"Sita has provided steady leadership and a bold vision at a critical time for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette," says PPCW Interim President & CEO Anne Udall. "Health disparities in racial and ethnically diverse communities remain a serious issue, and we are committed to working with and within the communities we serve to transform our world from one divided by disparities to a world united by health equity."
During Symonette's board tenure, PPCW has intensified efforts to enhance services for patients in Oregon and Southwest Washington:
* Implemented a strategic plan to increase equity and inclusion, including the creation of two positions, Equity and Inclusion Director and Equity and Inclusion Program Manager.
* Launched transgender hormone provision for people 18 and older at select health centers.
* Launched early prenatal care at select sites, including ultrasound, counseling, lab tests and referral for ongoing care.
* Launched a telemedicine program to create greater access to medical abortion appointments when availability is limited in certain health centers.
* Opened the Milwaukie/Oak Grove Health Center to serve 7,000 patients annually in Clackamas County.
* Upgraded health centers in Bend and Beaverton.
* Significantly increased the PPCW donor base, including a major $1 million gift from the Henry, Juliet and Summer Hillman Foundations to help fund a new, state-of-the-art health center in Southeast Portland.
"As an African-American queer woman, I am proud of the critical role that Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette plays in reducing healthcare disparities in our region. The Board of Directors is committed to integrating equity and inclusion so that PPCW can better meet the needs of the diverse communities we serve."
Symonette earned a bachelor's degree in biological psychology from Western Washington University in 2003. While doing her undergraduate work, she participated in neuroscience research studies that were funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. She then earned her master's degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine from Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.
Symonette lives in Vancouver, Wash., with her wife, Lai-Lani, and their daughter.