Leana Wen named president of Planned Parenthood

By TRISHA PARAYIL | September 27, 2018

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Charlotte Cooper/ CC BY 2.0 

Planned Parenthood provides health care services to 2.4 million patients every year. 

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City’s health commissioner, has been selected as the new president of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides health care to 2.4 million patients. The organization is known for offering women’s health services such as screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Since Planned Parenthood’s inception in 1942, Wen is the second doctor to lead the organization. According to Wen and some officials, her medical knowledge will help to make her a strong advocate for Planned Parenthood.

“I bring a deeply personal experience to this because I see what happens when people can’t access the health care that they need,” Wen said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun.

Cecile Richards, Wen’s predecessor, announced that she would leave her position in Planned Parenthood in January 2018, after 12 years as president. 

Unlike Wen, Richards came from a political background. She is a former Democratic staff member on Capitol Hill and daughter of late Texas governor Ann Richards.

Planned Parenthood has garnered significant attention over the last few years, especially since President Trump has repeatedly announced his intention to decrease its funding and to appoint a Supreme Court judge who will overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that legalized abortion. Despite Trump’s popularity, according to a Gallup poll released in June, 62 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood.

When asked in a National Public Radio (NPR) interview if she believes that her lack of a political background is a disadvantage, Wen said that she does not subscribe to the politicized view of Planned Parenthood.

“For the nearly two and a half million people who walk through the doors of Planned Parenthood every single year, it’s not about politics. It’s about basic medical care. And that’s what I’ve been doing my entire career,” Wen said.

During her four-year tenure as Baltimore City’s health commissioner, Wen improved the Baltimore health-care system by reducing infant mortality and beginning a program to provide free glasses to every child in Baltimore. 

Her successes in addressing the opioid epidemic throughout her appointment earned her a national spotlight. Wen issued a standing order three years ago which made naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medicine, available over-the-counter to Baltimore City residents. 

Wen led the effort to preserve Title X funding for Baltimore’s health clinics for low-income women. She was also part of the successful lawsuit against the Trump administration for cutting teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Wen admits that there are still many issues in the Baltimore health-care system that needs to be addressed.

“The work of public health never stops. I love Baltimore. I love my team... I mean, there’s so much that we have done. There’s a lot more to do,” Wen said on NPR.

Wen has also supported multiple events at Hopkins. She was the 2018 keynote speaker at the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Convocation ceremony. She also spoke at the 2018 Undergraduate Conference in Public Health organized by the Public Health Student Forum.

Jennifer Aufill, a Hopkins alumna that has worked as a public information intern at the Baltimore City Health Department, believes Wen’s background as a doctor will be an asset to Planned Parenthood.

“Dr. Wen is uniquely poised to leverage her position as an MD to add volume to their advocacy,” Aufill said. “I think that as a clinician who values research and evidence driven policy, she will only elevate their position.”

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