Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 29

Kelly Blanchard, President of Ibis Reproductive Health

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Show notes

After completing a B.A. in Social Studies at Harvard, Kelly went on to earn a MSc in Population and International Health. Post education, she worked as an Associate for Population in Health before moving on to Ibis Reproductive Health in South Africa where she has worked for 17 years. Kelly has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications in The Lancet, the American Journal of Public Health, AIDS, and Obstetrics and Gynecology and has also published op-eds, letters, and blogs in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and RH Reality Check.


Key points include:

  • 07:35: An Ibis Reproductive Health project
  • 13:33: On self-managing abortion
  • 30:05: On running the organization

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92 Report – Kelly Blanchard


Will Bachman, Kelly Blanchard


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m here today with Kelly Blanchard, who is the president of Ibis reproductive health. Kelly, welcome to the show.


Kelly Blanchard  00:18

It is great to be here. Well, thanks for having me.


Will Bachman  00:21

So Kelly, let’s start with Tell me about your journey since graduation.


Kelly Blanchard  00:28

So I was trying to think about sort of what are the big picture ways to explain this. And I guess I, I left Harvard, with a really strong interest in African Studies. And I was thinking that I would probably get into some sort of international development work and went and lived in Ghana had a Fulbright right after graduation, and got pretty disillusioned by the whole development, industry and, or not industry that the experience I saw there of folks like working at USA ID and everything. But Mark, my rose from our class was also in Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I got a chance to see some of the work going on for guinea worm eradication, which is a sort of classic public health intervention. Very simple ways to manage guinea worm, which is really an awful thing to have. So it’s all about kind of education and treating of water. And anyway, I was fascinated by the public health approach and ended up going back to public health school and went back to Harvard School of Public Health was then called Harvard School of Public Health NOW IT’S THE TH Chan School. And at the Harvard School of Public Health, this is where I think the story I’m not sure how many folks this resonates for but it becomes very much about sort of, like the people who you meet and, and decisions that were made that shaped your trajectory. So I did an internship in South Africa, working for a nonprofit called the Women’s Health Project. And on International Women’s Day, in August of what would have been 1996. I met Charlotte Ellertson, who was also a Harvard undergrad class of 87. And she happened to be in South Africa. She was working for a nonprofit called the Population Council and was investigating some different trials sites and ended up she was chatting with my boss of the nonprofit who said, Oh, I should meet her. And meeting Charlotte, just changed my life personally and professionally, she, I went to work for her at the Population Council after I left public health school. We were originally in New York, and then she left to run. She was the director of reproductive health for Latin America, the Caribbean for the Population Council. I went to South Africa to the office, the Population Council had there was doing a lot of microbicide HIV prevention, research and abortion research. And she decided after I had been at COP council about three years that she felt too constrained by the cop council leadership and their approach to sexual and reproductive health work. And she was going to form her own nonprofit. So in 2002 20 years ago, this year, Charlotte launched Ibis. And in 2003, I opened ibises, South Africa office. And yeah, I have been at Ibis since 2003. Very sadly, Charlotte died of breast cancer in 2004. Yeah, was very tragic. And she was much too, too young. And I spent some time as the interim president and then got this job in November of 2004. Which is crazy that that’s 18 years ago. But since then, have had the pleasure of working on excuse me, working on research on sexual and reproductive health, both in the US and globally. And so at ibis, we work on improving access to high quality abortion care, to advancing technologies that help people access the contraception and abortion care that they need, and to promoting comprehensive approaches to sexual birth that to healthcare that really center, communities that face barriers to access, and we have a real focus on black folks, indigenous folks, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian Islanders, Latinx folks, young people, and almost universally around the world, people who are working to make ends meet who live with on very low incomes and try and ensure that they have access to the care that they need.


Will Bachman  05:31

What happened in your conversation with Charlotte in 1996? That, you know, that got you thinking that this is someone I want to stay connected to? What do you remember what you talked about?


Kelly Blanchard  05:47

I don’t really remember what we talked about. I mean, I have like an image in my brain of where we were when we met. But I think she talked a lot about her work at the Population Council, which, you know, really a lot of the topics and approach the fact that it’s like, Ibis is very similar in the sense we do both clinical research and social science research. We are very interested in access to and development of contraceptives and abortion methods that meet people’s needs. And I think she talked quite a bit about the microbicides work that she was in South Africa doing and I thought it was, you know, just fascinating. This work has always, for me, joined my passion for data. I love research. I love the methodical nature of it, the setting up a question you can answer, but it marries that with a very strong commitment to justice, and especially gender justice, and advancement of people’s women’s rights and health around the world. So I think I was both excited by the substance of the work she was describing, but she was always somebody who is just phenomenally smart and charismatic, also very funny. Yeah, so I think I couldn’t help but be like, find her like very appealing as a person. But also, the work was just really compelling.


Will Bachman  07:19

Tell me a bit about in more a little bit more detail on what Ibis does. So when you say research, as well as social, you give me some examples of the project to help me understand what that means in practice.


Kelly Blanchard  07:35

Yeah. So a couple of examples of that are kind of high profile at the moment. So I this leads a coalition of organizations that is working to move the birth control pill over the counter in the United States. And over the years, for example, we have done nationally representative sample surveys in the US to try and investigate, you know, who would be interested in this, what kind of benefits there would be, you know, to document the interest out there to help inspire a company to come forward and make this switch. So those are some of the examples of where we’re doing social science research to help both answer a question about what would be useful as an intervention to improve access. But also what would be helpful to advance policy or product access. And then another piece of that work is, which leans more towards the clinical side, we also looked a number of years ago, comparing people who live in El Paso on the US side of the Texas Mexico border, we compared people who access their birth control pills on the Mexico side over the counter, versus people who access their pills in on the US side from a clinic because the folks in our sample moved back and forth over the border quite regularly. And in that research, we found that people who got their pills over the counter were more likely to continue using their pills 60%, more likely. So again, that’s the kind of research where it looks at what are the models of care that exist, what are the outcomes? What could help improve access to them?


Will Bachman  09:18

That’s interesting. I didn’t even realize that in some countries, it would be over the counter what? What’s the argument for keeping it as a prescription? Are there some like really, health things that you really want a doctor to make sure that you’re not XYZ, you know, sort of condition or something or that they’re aware of side effects? Like what’s the what’s the argument against doing it?


Kelly Blanchard  09:42

Yeah, so people can access the birth control pill over the counter and more than 100 countries. Do. You the US is an outlier. Yeah. In some of those places like Mexico, it’s de facto over the counter. So technically, you need a prescription but it’s not enforced. And then in a number of countries like, for example, the UK just made a progestin only pill available without a prescription, that’s the most recent change. So it’s kind of a lot of combined factors that lead to the US being behind on this, you know, there is some very substantial data, the birth control pill is one of the best studied medicines on the market, there’s substantial data on safety and effectiveness. But you do need a pharmaceutical company to come forward and make an application to the FDA for a switch. And part of the barriers to that one, there’s been a trend over time, a big reduction in investment in contraceptive development and, and products by big pharma in the US. So that’s been an issue. But second, there’s been a lot of fear about being the first company to put this forward. And this a birth control pill would be the first over the counter method for regular routine extended use. And so there was a belief for a long time that there were going to be a lot of hurdles getting this through the FDA. And indeed, you know, it’s a complicated process, lots of data needed lots of questions. But we are now the first submission to the FDA went in in July, which means we should have a decision from the FDA in


Will Bachman  11:26

April. That’s amazing.


Kelly Blanchard  11:29

It is amazing. Very exciting.


Will Bachman  11:32

So who what sort of what Where does your funding come from?


Kelly Blanchard  11:38

Well, yeah, that’s great question. So about 70% of ibises. Funding is from private foundations. So some of those will be you know, commonly known foundations like the the Hewlett Foundation, the Packard Foundation, we got a number of funding a number of grants from foundations who request to remain anonymous. We also have some funding from the National Institutes of Health. And then a chunk of our funding is actually we will get a grant from a partner so we will be a subcontractor on a broader grant. So for example, we’ve worked with global sexual reproductive health care providers, like the International Planned Parenthood Federation, or MSI, out of the UK to work with them to research projects, which they then fund through their support.


Will Bachman  12:44

I just listened to this Derek Thompson podcast episode, where he interviewed New York Times reporter about abortion pills. And I had been very interested to get your perspective on what is now going on, in the US Post Dobbs with all these states that are banning abortion and with you know, abortion pills that in some cases, people can get a prescription from someone in the UK, or Europe, and companies in India will mail them to you. And it’s, you know, what some what’s going on with abortion and abortion pills. Curious if you’re doing any work in that area and your perspective.


Kelly Blanchard  13:33

Wow, it’s a really big topic and a very salient one at the moment. So yes, Ibis. We have had research and policy work in the US and globally on medication abortion since we were founded. So for all of our 20 years of work, one of the most recent exciting pieces of research that we did was called the safe study. And that study evaluated people self managing an abortion with abortion pills, and what that means is people accessing the pills for medication abortion, it’s either to drug regimen, Mr persona and misoprostol, or you can also use misoprostol on its own, but people using those drugs on their own without interacting with the healthcare provider. And we did this study in Nigeria, Argentina and Indonesia, and basically found that people using these methods on their own, it’s equally as safe and effective as it is to have it provided to you from a health care provider. And medication abortion has been around for decades, millions and millions of people have used it. It’s very safe and effective. So this study which came out at the end of last year was really important and help shift the World Health Organization guidelines on you know, who is appropriate to use and what sort of use of medication abortion is safe and effective. And so you have that happening at the same time, as you have had. You know, for decades, people in places where abortion is legally restricted, have access to those medications through various strategies. In some countries, you might have a safe abortion hotline that operates sort of around the edges of the law, but where you can call and get information about how to use the drugs where you can get them, you were also alluding to online providers. In the US, one of the more popular ones is called eight access you to access medication, abortion, abortion through eight access, you fill in a an online form, they review it, and then depending on where you live, and that you get a prescription and the medicines mailed to you either from somewhere in the US or potentially, as you mentioned, from a pharmacy in India. So those models also have been shown to be safe and effective. And then, you know, we’re also seeing well, and I will say even before the jobs decision, there are a range of restrictions in the United States, for example, a number of states ban telemedicine, so doing an online interaction with a health care provider who then prescribes you medication abortion. But we showed I mean, more than a decade ago, that telemedicine provision of medication abortion is as safe and effective as in person provision. So there’s a lot of there has over the years been a lot of restriction of access to medication abortion, and that, since the DOPPS decision is only getting worse, as we see many states completely ban medication, abortion and abortion more broadly. And as the Dobbs decision came down, and as we see those restrictions increase, we know that there are increases in requests for pills via eight access, for example, we know that people, unfortunately, because it will cost a lot of money. And it’s a real barrier for some, but we’ll drive across state lines to go to a provider in another state and get either a surgical abortion or a medication abortion. Or there are some services out there talking about how you can you know, if you’d live close to a state border, you could have it mailed to a post office box near you. I mean, there’s a real proliferation of these interesting advances and how you can access the pills. And I think just super important, all of those strategies have been been shown to be safe and effective. I will mention to anyone listening to this that if you’re looking for a safe abortion, whether a medication abortion or surgical abortion, it’s important to go to reliable sources because there’s a lot of misinformation, particularly on the internet. And there’s a website called I need and a so I N E. D Ana that has reliable information at where you can find the closest clinic to you. Then, eight access is a reliable online source. But yeah, it is really a moment of I guess, I would say kind of chaos in terms of where people can access abortion, the laws are changing all the time, we’re seeing a lot of legal fights against different restrictions in different states, which mean, you know, law turns on and off, we’ve seen a large number of abortion providers, particularly independent abortion providers in states where abortion has been banned, they’ve had to close their clinics, some are moving to other states. And again, lots more travel, lots more expense, and many, many unbelievably unnecessary barriers to people accessing the care that they need.


Will Bachman  19:13

The do people would need to get the surgical abortions, if they are sort of past a certain number of weeks, because you would think like, geez, I mean, if you needed to just take these like two pills, boom, boom, that would be so much easier than having to do a drive to a clinic somewhere. Right? And you, I guess, I’m just wondering, like, why hasn’t just medic medication abortions just sort of completely dominated the market, if you will.


Kelly Blanchard  19:50

Yeah. So there are lots of reasons that people would choose one option over the other. So in There are surgical abortion options all throughout pregnancy, right. So starting early going until later in pregnancy, for medication, abortion, it’s similar, there are medication, abortion options all through pregnancy. But as you are later in pregnancy, the regimens change and the there are potentially more significant bleeding and other side effects. So you just need to be prepared for the side effects when you’re later in pregnancy. But we have shown in our research, for example, that folks are able to self manage an abortion up and up to and we’ve shown safe and effective use up into and beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy. But back to like, why you choose one or the other. So the benefits of a surgical abortion are that you know, you have an appointment, you go in and you walk out and you’re finished, it’s very quick, very safe and effective. Some people prefer to not be at home, they may have a home situation where I don’t, people are not supportive, or they don’t necessarily want anyone to know that they’re having an abortion. Or again, they may just prefer a faster method. For medication abortion, you take the first pill, two days later, you take a second set of pills. And then the effects of the pills are that you will experience bleeding and cramping for at least a few days, you know, again, you ideally would be in a safe place with support, you would ideally have time off work to manage it, it’s people find it highly satisfactory the experience. But again, for some people, they would prefer not to have it take that number of days. Or they feel like the environment that they’re in, they don’t have a place they can. Or they can take off work or you know, lots of reasons why that experience of taking the pills and then having experiencing the effects over time might not work well for their either their job, their care responsibilities, just their preference.


Will Bachman  22:13

Tell me, I’d love to hear more details about how you run one of these studies. And maybe we talk about the safe study that you mentioned that you did in Nigeria, the two other countries, what’s involved in it, like? How do you recruit people to it? How do you sort of measure a control group versus that just walk me through what one of these studies looks like? What’s the organization required to, you know, to carry it out?


Kelly Blanchard  22:42

Yeah, it’s a great question. And, you know, depending on what the study is, it can look a little bit different. But, you know, some of the core components and the safe study is great example of this, first of all, you know, the partnerships that we have, that helped us identify what is the right research question? What’s going to be useful in terms of the individuals in the community, the policy environment access? For folks in those communities, the partnerships are critical. And so we worked with accompaniment groups in each of the three countries who were long standing partners of ours, and to all we’re providing support services for people seeking abortion care. And so essentially, we recruited folks from their intake process. So as people came to their services, as people reached out to them for information, they were invited to participate in the study. And then, in this study, we didn’t have a control group, we were really it was just following people clinically, and their satisfaction, their opinions about the experience over time. And then we compared our the outcome, the number of people who had a complete safe abortion at the end of the follow up period, which, you know, in the study was 98 99%. We compare that to historical data for complete abortion at the end of a medication abortion in a clinic setting and showed that it was comparable.


Will Bachman  24:30

What what are some of the other issues that you work on? So you could perhaps go more into depth on the contraceptive or the other sexual health we talked about abortion? So what are some of the other issues that that Ibis is working on?


Kelly Blanchard  24:46

Yeah. Um, so we touched a little I talked a little bit about later abortion. We have a number of pieces of work both in Latin America and The United States in South Africa that are looking at ways to advanced clinical services for later abortion to either shorten the time that’s needed for the care to improve access to medication abortion where people might want that option to document again, these support type of services later in pregnancy. later in pregnancy, particularly new as the US restricts abortion more and in other places can be harder to access, they’re often fewer services. So we have placed a priority on working to ensure continued attention to that needed care. So that’s one piece. We also in out of our South Africa office have that’s we have a project that’s led by an engage developed in partnership with young people in South Africa. And it is it’s built on a website platform, but it’s really a built on a website platform across social media. And it’s built out of our research with young people about their access to abortion, contraception, sexually transmitted infection, HIV prevention, and gender based violence services. So their experience accessing all of those types of services. And it’s in partnership with those young people, we develop and test messages and share information and work with youth serving organizations across Africa to add sexual and reproductive health information components to their work. And as we go, we’re conducting evaluation research to assess how the different modalities help improve information and access to provide documentation of ways other people might adopt similar approaches to improve young people’s information and access to care. And I guess I would also mention, there’s a significant gap in the sexual reproductive health field, in terms of data about how transgender gender non binary intersects gender queer gender nonconforming folks that the types of access they have to contraception and abortion care and sexual reproductive health care broadly. And so we’ve been partnering on research to try and address that gap and have released some really important information that shows that, in fact, there are lots of folks who need access to abortion and contraception care, and are not getting it or not getting high quality care, because there’s not there are not inclusive services that really address their gender identity or allow them to come in their identity and receive the high quality care and information that they need. So that that work has been focused in United States, but is obviously important globally, and is another place where what what research into that question is doing is help us understand the types of training the ways that the types of language and how healthcare providers can be more inclusive, but also how our research methods need to change how we need to make sure when people are joining studies, how are we asking the right questions and keeping a really open space for people to explain their gender in their own terms, because a lot of the data that we have, from the past just never allowed for a more complex breakdown of gender identity, which means we can’t really know what the gender identity was many of the people who are in our study. So that’s also in terms of methods advance and advancing our research process. We’re trying to improve the questions that we ask and particularly the way we allow people to report out their gender identity.


Will Bachman  29:21

Yeah, even even, he’s still we have some forms of more options, but sometimes he’ll fill out a form online or something that’d be like, male, female,


Kelly Blanchard  29:31

correct? Yeah. Is a lot to to advance in many areas of our lives, right, where those are, where it’s only that binary option.


Will Bachman  29:42

You’ve talked me a bit about the services. But tell me a little bit about your role in running an organization in terms of how you spend your time and what you’re focused on. I imagine there’s you know, the financial side of running organization is the recruiting and P Pool development. Talk to me kind of about how you spend your days.


Kelly Blanchard  30:05

Such a great question. Um, I mean, I do a lot of engagement with our funders, looking for new funders, building funding partnerships. I also work very closely with our senior researchers with our research staff broadly on our research agenda on how we learn from research that we’ve conducted or feedback we’re getting from partners or developing partnerships about what’s needed. And then yeah, there is a lot of managing an organization in terms of trying to ensure we have the staffing, the systems, be it the, the finance, the communications and development teams, to enable all our work to be a success. Because, you know, research itself is super important. But we are not interested in doing research that just is published in a paper, right? So our engagement with partners is critical our ability to communicate out our work. I’m also involved in ensuring that we are sitting at different tables and in different spaces where people are talking about what research is important for their work. So for example, one of my highlights, this is like a highlight of a someone who has defined himself as a social scientist was that their Ibis research was cited in the Supreme Court case whole Women’s Health vs. Heller stat. Which reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, in 2016, not too long ago. So 2016 might have been earlier than that. But in that, Ruth Bader Ginsburg mentioned some of our research about how the Texas abortion restrictions had closed clinics and increased distance to care and increased barriers to access to care. So we are working closely to understand how our litigation partners the information that they need for their work, how our clinical provider partners, what information they need for their work. So that some of the highlights are getting into spaces with those folks and really trying to identify the best way research can be used to advance those different pieces of the of the field.


Will Bachman  32:33

So I was just looking on LinkedIn and got a sense of the scale of the organization. But just for listeners, can you share either your, your sort of budget or your number of employees to give people a sense of that scope and scale?


Kelly Blanchard  32:48

Yeah, our annual budget is about $7 million. And our number of employees is somewhere between 36 to 38, depending on the moment.


Will Bachman  32:57

What have you learned as a leader over, you know, running this organization now for about 18 years? Are there things that you did early days, where now you look back and say, Ooh, kind of wipe your head or talk to me about your growth as your leadership style.


Kelly Blanchard  33:14

So when when I think about having had this role for 18 years, it is technically the same job, but it has evolved in in very interesting ways over that period. So I feel like the job has changed a lot. I mean, you know, I took this job, after the founder of the organization had died in an organization had only been around for less than two years. Or sorry, a little more than two years. So, you know, the first five years or so we’re a real crash course in kind of crisis management and a real focus on explaining over and over again, why our vision of how we do this work is important, and why funders should continue to support us. And then, you know, we sort of got over some of that hump. And then there was another sort of like, five to seven year chunk, where we were, we were growing, we were consolidating some of these core partnerships. You know, I was, I think very focused my own work focused on getting in the the staff and growing the leadership within the organization to be able to really continue to expand our work. And then in 2016, we received a transformative grant for this work to move the birth control pill over the counter. And that really allowed us to grow in to a place where at that point, my focus was much more on you know, I had a strong leadership team, but what does it mean to you know, better clarify roles? To clarify decision making to, again, to build an organization where not only do we do research with a human rights and reproductive justice lens, because research itself has been a force for harm in history, and we want to shift how research operates and ensure that research is a tool for shifting power for following the lead of communities. But in order to do the work in that way, it means operating an organization that has similar values in terms of how it treats its staff, and its people. And so a lot of work, I would say, over the last five to seven years on what does it mean to embed justice equity in our work? What does it mean to provide professional development opportunities, training support to our staff, and to figure out channels for and strategies for engaging staff more actively, both in the workplaces that we want to be in the policies that we want to see and, and the sort of mechanics of how we run our organization, and also in how we build out our strategy and how we do our work and build the partnerships that we need? So over time, I think the the balance of those things has shifted. And, you know, I if I had to sum up, one thing I’ve learned is, you know, I think that there is communication and feedback is so critical at all, in all pieces of that work, right? Like whether it’s with your senior team with people, you supervise them to partners with your funders. And that is requires like attention and time and skill.


Will Bachman  36:40

Talk to me about to what degree do you interact with people in similar leadership roles that other research organizations, either executive directors or presidents at other nonprofits, either in the sexual and reproductive health space or related spaces to kind of share notes on lessons learned?


Kelly Blanchard  37:03

A lot, actually, and particularly during COVID, those relationships were invaluable. I’m I’m part of one large group of CEOs of organizations that work in the global sexual reproductive health and rights space. That’s a larger group, it’s probably about 30 people. During COVID, we were meeting almost monthly, you know, really just sharing them information, sharing strategies, that’s the pandemic evolve, sharing tools, you know, if someone has developed a policy for acts like sharing it amongst ourselves really to provide support, so people don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And then I’m also part of a smaller group that was focused on leaders of organizations that do work in the United States. That is a group that started out with CEOs of quote unquote, smaller organizations, some of the challenges, I think, when you run a small organization versus a very large one can be different. But that group is a group of folks that’s been meeting regularly now for more than a decade. And you know, that space has been not only are we professional colleagues, we are friends. And it has really been an amazing space for support for some of the things that it can feel challenging to try manage inside your own organization. And, as you’re alluding to, it’s just so great to have the perspective of people who might come across a similar challenge or have ideas or strategies for how to handle something from a slightly different perspective.


Will Bachman  38:47

I’m gonna shift gears and ask you about college. Were there any courses or professors that you had at Harvard that have continued to resonate with you, either, whether it was in or outside your going to professional area? Anything that sort of stuck with you over the years?


Kelly Blanchard  39:07

Well, to I’ll mention, one is I placed into Chem 10 As a freshman, which I thought was fabulous, but actually ended up changing my life because it was such a disaster that I was going to be pre med. It was such a disaster. I mean, I remember flipping through the pages of an exam, trying to figure out if there’s anything that I was going to be able to answer, I was terrified. So there’s that. But then on the positive side, I took I can’t remember if it was called political development or political economy might have been political development. And that professor was who changed to Hobie. And it was sort of a survey course looking at and a lot of it was focused on Sub Saharan Africa, but not exclusively. But it was one of my poor first introductions to sort of political political economy globally and really helped form what became I was a social studies concentrator, but within social studies really crafted my own African Studies concentration. And that really was critical to sort of what I did my thesis about, which then led to my Fulbright, which goes back to, you know, getting into public health, and so was really foundational in where I ended up even though it really has very little to do with my day to day life at this moment.


Will Bachman  40:38

We’re all, I think, so much more aware now of the field of public health. For the past two years, sort of something that, you know, so many of us just kind of ignored as even a, you know, professional field, right.


Kelly Blanchard  40:54

And everybody thinks they’re an independent epidemiology expert. But anyway, that’s yes.


Will Bachman  40:59

When they’re not like an expert on inflation, and what are some of your reflections over the past couple years of maybe some areas where you think public health, the field of public health, perhaps, either did particularly stunningly Well, during COVID, or maybe were areas that they failed us?


Kelly Blanchard  41:32

So public health is a very big field. And I think one of the key pieces of public health that was really exposed to our CRUD as how critical it is, during COVID is, you know, like the local and state public health infrastructure, right, which, you know, whether it’s Department of Public Health in your state, or even in your smaller town or city, like those folks are like the frontlines of doing what we need to do in a pandemic, right, like helping, you know, whether it’s getting out vaccines or sharing information about about what what we know about COVID or another, another pathogen. And so I think, I hope that there is a lot of learning about the importance and value of that infrastructure. And, you know, there are many, many ways that that infrastructure, should we hopefully be sensible, and build it up, again, can be useful, you know, and across a whole range of different public health challenges. So I would say that, I think is super important. The second thing is, you know, like, it’s, yeah, I really, although there are some things that I personally disagreed with around the response, I think there’s a huge amount of respect for the folks who day to day we’re working on this, not only the frontline health care providers, but also the folks trying to make policy at the CDC and other public health departments, it is really hard to communicate clearly and to make good policy in a moment of such evolving evidence and information. And, you know, I think the the folks who weren’t collecting the data that the the folks who were, you know, I mean, really, I just I know, personally that there are people who worked for more than a year for two years flat out, you know, trying to have the best information we could possibly have to make these decisions. And that is really challenging. And, and again, it really requires investment in the infrastructure. So it’s ready in these moments. And sadly, that infrastructure really has suffered in the United States especially but, you know, we also need it globally.


Will Bachman  43:55

Yeah, that really came to the fore when we experienced it. So you talked to me about a couple of courses any What about outside of class, any experiences that you had kind of shaped the path of your life?


Kelly Blanchard  44:15

Well, just as I wrote in my thinking, I wrote in my red book entry for the 30th I am still extremely close with my roommates and what you know, the crazy like chance of coming across those people at that time in my life and the fact that after you know, 35 years that they are still just a huge part of my my family, my support network, my things I do for fun, the Yeah, I just enjoy them and their families and being with them so so so much and I think It is just a phenomenal thing about the experience having those people come into my life.


Will Bachman  45:06

That’s wonderful. Something special about friendships that you can form in college. It’s hard to form those when you get older. For some reason, I don’t know, but it’s harder in your 40s or 50s to form that kind of friendship. So Kelly, for folks that wanted to find out more about the work that Ibis is doing or about you Where would you Where would you point them online?


Kelly Blanchard  45:31

Great. So Ibis is website is www dot Ibis reproductive You can also follow us on Twitter and all the socials it’s our handle is at Ibis R h. And just would love for people to follow amplify share high quality evidence about sexual reproductive health and rights. It’s it’s really a time where disinformation is is out there everywhere and really want to see more and more evidence based and science on these topics get out into our public discourse. Yeah, and then my email I think it’s in the Red Book Kay Blanchard at Ibis reproductive We’d love to hear from from our classmates, anyone who’s interested. Yeah, and the reunion that we just had was terrific. So encourage everybody who can to come to the next one. And we can connect in person there.


Will Bachman  46:37

Come to 35th Kelly, this was so fascinating and great speaking with you, and thank you for the wonderful work that your organization does. And listeners, if you are so inclined to give this show a five star review on iTunes. It helps others discover the show. And if you haven’t yet, you can go to nine to 92 Sign up for the newsletter to get notified of each episode. Kelly, it’s been fantastic speaking with you, thank you for joining.


Kelly Blanchard  47:07

Thank you so much. Well