Meet Dr. Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood's New President

by Vanessa Taylor

After a search that began in February 2018, Planned Parenthood has finally announced its new incoming president. The organization's announcement came on Wednesday, Sep. 12, and its supporters are definitely pleased. Considering president of any organization is a pretty big role, it's important to be familiar with the person in it, so who is Dr. Leana Wen? Planned Parenthood's new president has made some waves of her own.

Planned Parenthood has made a lot of important moves in the time it's been around. In October 2016, Planned Parenthood celebrated 100 years strong, according to its website. Planned Parenthood described itself as being "founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams — no ceilings, no limits."

About two years later, in January 2018, Cecile Richards announced she would be stepping down after serving as president of Planned Parenthood since 2006, as reported by CNN Politics. Then, in February 2018, Planned Parenthood launched a committee to find a new president.

After almost seven months of searching, Planned Parenthood has finally settled on who will serve as Richards' successor.

For the first time in 50 years, as noted by Planned Parenthood, a doctor will lead Planned Parenthood Federation of America. On Sep. 12, Planned Parenthood's official Twitter account shared the announcement via a new video, captioned, "Meet our new president, @DrLeanaWen."

The video is a heartfelt one in which Wen outlined her personal and family history. "I'm an immigrant," Wen says in the video, "When I was 8, my parents brought me here from China. We came to the U.S. with $40 to our name."

Wen went on to say that her family relied on Medicaid, food stamps, and on Planned Parenthood for health care. "I became an emergency physician because I never wanted to turn any patients away," Wen said.

In the video, Wen went on to share a story from her own medical career:

In the ER I saw what happens every day when people don't have access to the basic right to health care. I remember seeing a young woman lying on a stretcher, pulseless and unresponsive, because of a home abortion — because she was too scared to seek medical care. I did everything I could to resuscitate her, but she died.

The video clearly helped introduce Wen, and her commitment to reproductive justice, to a new audience.

Some, though, as CNN reported, may already be familiar with Wen for her recent position as the health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. Described in her Baltimore Health Department biography as an emergency physician, patient, and community advocate, Wen has quite a few impressive roles on her resume.

"In 2005, Wen was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human services to serve on the Council on Graduate Medical Education, an advisory commission to Congress," her biography notes, and in 2010, "she served as Chair of the Young Professionals Council, a global leadership network of medical, nursing, and public health professionals."

In a statement for Planned Parenthood, according to CNN Politics, Wen wrote:

For more than 100 years, no organization has done more for women's health than Planned Parenthood, and I'm truly honored to be named its president. As a patient, I depended on Planned Parenthood for medical care at various times in my own life, and as a public health leader, I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities.

She continued, "As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight with everything I have to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood has faced continuous backlash throughout its existence and especially during the Trump presidency. From shortened funding periods, as reported by Fortune, to new rules putting its federal funding at risk, according to NBC News, Planned Parenthood has faced a continuous uphill battle.

It will be interesting to follow Wen through her journey as Planned Parenthood president. From Wen's background, it's clear that she has a real commitment to her patients.