As Baltimore health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen was outraged last summer when she found out that President Trump planned to cut a grant for teen pregnancy prevention programs in a handful of cities, including hers. “This grant allowed us to have comprehensive reproductive health education in middle schools and high schools throughout our city,” she told CNN at the time. “We see it as being irresponsible to cut this program.” So she got the city to sue the administration, and they won, keeping the programs in place.
Now, according to an announcement on Twitter, Dr. Wen is taking that commitment to healthcare to Planned Parenthood as its new president. Cecile Richards, who has led the organization since 2006, announced in January that she was stepping down from the post. Now, Dr. Wen will be taking the reins.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) September 12, 2018
As she explains in a new video posted by the nonprofit, Wen emigrated to the United States from China when she was eight, and her family relied on Planned Parenthood for their healthcare. “I became an emergency physician because I never wanted to turn any patients away,” she says in the video. “In the ER, I saw what happens every day when people don’t have access to the basic right to healthcare.” She describes a woman who came into her ER who had subjected herself to an at-home abortion; the woman, she says, did not survive. “She died because of a failure in our system,” she says.
Wen, 35, comes with an impressive resume — she completed her undergraduate degree at 18 before getting a medical degree, becoming a Rhodes Scholor, taking a fellowship at Harvard Medical School and being elected president of the American Medical Students Association. As health commissioner in Baltimore, she issued a “blanket prescription” for the overdose-reversal drug Narcan to the entire city of Baltimore; she began treating gun violence like a contagious disease; and she decreased the infant mortality rate in the city by 38 percent.
Since Trump took office, Planned Parenthood — an organization that provides abortion cervices as well as an essential swath of basic family planning and healthcare for both men and women — has been under attack.
“Anyone who has worked with Dr. Wen knows that when it comes to protecting her patients, she doesn’t back down from a fight,” Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, told the New York Times. “In Baltimore, she has expanded care, found solutions around obstacles and, most important of all, saved lives. While Baltimore is losing its ‘Doctor for the City,’ Planned Parenthood is gaining a powerful new advocate.”