What drew you to this position/work?
I have wanted to play a leadership role in Planned Parenthood since I was in college taping safe sex slogans to condoms to hand out at the student center, but there are several things that draw me to PPSNE now. I am intrinsically motivated to ensure access to safe reproductive health care – it is part of my DNA. I believe reproductive health is foundational for all other health and wellness. I often described my work as a nurse-midwife as a vocation, in that it was a calling for me. I feel the same way now. I am inspired by the commitment PPSNE has demonstrated to reproductive freedom and health care and its partnerships with other organizations fighting for reproductive justice. After the presidential election I was both sad and angry, but I was also activated. I knew, deep in my heart that I needed to invest all my energy in protecting and advocating for the mission of Planned Parenthood. It is an incredible honor to be entrusted with the responsibility of this role, at this affiliate, at this time.
What did you know about PPSNE before being hired as President and CEO?
I have been connected to PPSNE in several ways since I moved to CT in 1995. I trained as a nurse-midwife at PPSNE and in my 10 years in clinical practice, I had many patients who also received care at PPSNE. I have attended several PPSNE events in recent years and I am fortunate to know several people who work at PPSNE and PPFA. As a result, I knew a number of things about the organization. PPSNE delivers the highest quality of care – care that is safe, effective, timely, equitable, efficient and patient-centered. PPSNE is recognized as an exemplary Planned Parenthood affiliate, which often leads the way for other affiliates across the country in piloting and launching new programs. The PPSNE leadership team is dedicated, experienced and highly respected by the board and their colleagues across the country. Finally, PPSNE has incredible support from the community and its donors. That support is vital and continues to lift us up. Taken together, what I knew and know is that PPSNE is a strong and solid organization that survives and thrives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
What excites you most about this new chapter in your life?
This next chapter is truly a dream come true; I keep catching myself thinking “wow!” I am beyond excited to go to work every single day knowing that I am doing something that makes the world a better place with people who share my devotion to the cause. I love being on a steep learning curve and doing work that is “intrapreneurial.” Joining Planned Parenthood at such a pivotal time energizes me – this is a time to think about “what else, what more and what next?”. I am excited to dig in, knowing that my work and my passion are the same. I can’t imagine anything better.
Who inspires you?
My mother had a poem taped to a mirror in our house called “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy. It starts off “The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows…” I am inspired by people who live the message of that poem, most of all by my mom herself, who died in 2015 after a long battle with cancer. My mom was the daughter of immigrants, the oldest of seven children who all but raised several of my aunts and uncles and was the first person in her family to graduate high school and go to college. While raising two children, she went to law school. She was brilliant, brave and loving. I like to think she would be so proud right now. If I live up to the example she set, that will be a life well-lived.
What do you think is the most pressing challenge facing PPSNE today?
The current administration and the policies it supports, including the budget proposals we have recently seen, are devastating for the health of women, men and young people. I have been in health care for my entire career and I have never seen an administration so focused on dismantling access to care and using reproductive health as a political pawn with no regard for the human and societal consequences.
What is your prediction for PPSNE one year from now?
Challenges bring opportunities for us to be innovative and engage even more deeply with our community. One of the surprising outcomes of the election is a surging of activism and engagement in the fight for reproductive freedom. I was at the Women’s March on Washington in January and was in awe and overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of people from all generations raising their voices and taking action. At Planned Parenthood, we provide care, no matter what. I know a year from now we will be providing care, no matter what, to the people who need and rely on us. I also believe that PPSNE will be stronger than ever, that we will be even more connected to our communities and our partners – organizations and people – advocating for reproductive freedom and social justice, and that support for PPSNE will be at record levels.