Meet Sarah Miller, MD, MPH, Associate Fellowship Director at the Institute for Family Health and faculty at the Institute for Family Health’s Harlem Residency. She is a family doctor, reproductive health specialist, vasectomist, activist and educator. In celebration of World Vasectomy Day today, we asked Dr. Miller to share her thoughts on vasectomies, family medicine and reproductive health.
“On my journey into medicine it became clear to me that I needed to provide all basic health care to men, women, children and families—so I chose family medicine. Although reproductive health is a basic health care need, it’s not always covered in the normal training to become a family doctor. In order to provide full spectrum family planning in the primary care setting—in order to set up that system—I had to specialize.
Despite my years of residency and fellowship training focused on family planning and reproductive health, something was missing in my work as a family planning specialist. I found that men were not routinely part of the population that was being addressed in family planning. So I traveled to Florida, Quebec City and the Philippines in order to be trained as a vasectomy provider.
Men should be a part of the discussion around reproductive health care. Involving men in the conversation levels the playing field by making reproductive health not just a women’s issue. Today we celebrate World Vasectomy Day, a day to bring awareness to vasectomies and involving men in reproductive health. It’s also a day when many men can get free counseling on birth control and discounted procedures.
I enjoy being a reproductive health provider because respectfully and professionally addressing patients’ sexual and reproductive health needs is both basic and fundamental and at the same time revolutionary. Because no matter what stage of life a person is in, no matter their gender or age, they have sexual and reproductive health needs. Think about what it is that is important to our sense of self as humans—our connections, our bodies, our families, our children, our independence—these are all integral to our reproductive lives.
Unfortunately, the stigma we put on sexuality, on birth control, on women and their bodies, on men seeking family planning, on abortion, on genitalia and so on, leads to many layers of barriers to addressing reproductive health—not to mention all those crazy laws! There is so much satisfaction in being able to meet my patients’ most basic human needs, while also fighting the fight to subvert the societal pressures that lead to shame, holes in healthcare norms, and horrible, unhealthy laws that interfere with our patients lives, health and sense of dignity.”