Dr. Lucia McLendon was RHAP’s 2012-2013 Reproductive Health and Advocacy Fellow. We recently spoke to her about some of the projects she worked on as a Fellow that are still an important part of her work today.
“I became involved in reproductive health care because of my experiences growing up in the rural south. I saw first hand how young women didn’t get access to comprehensive reproductive health education and then had a hard time getting appropriate reproductive care. I watched close friends struggle to get the care that they needed, at times having to travel great distances for appropriate care. When I realized that family doctors could provide the full spectrum of reproductive health care, it immediately became clear to me that family medicine would be the perfect fit for me. I have found working in family medicine to be extremely rewarding because I really enjoy taking care of the full spectrum of life – caring for men, women, and children at all different stages of their lives.
My residency experience allowed me to work closely with faculty at Beth Israel and former fellow Erin Hendriks. Watching them, I realized I wanted to be a teacher, and applied to the Reproductive Health and Advocacy Fellowship. Through the fellowship I was able to lead two exciting projects, the Birth Control Pop-up Clinic and the Women’s Health Free Clinic.
In 2012, the Fordham Law School asked us to partner with them to advocate for their students to be able to get contraception at their student health center (being a Jesuit college they don’t provide contraception at their own student health center!) The initial advocacy event was across the street from the school health center. Providers handed out information about birth control, took medical histories, and prescribed birth control to women on the spot – literally seeing patients on the sidewalk. It was such a success; the students decided to expand the program to John Jay College – closer to their undergrad campus and in order to provide care to more women. The event was expanded to include John Jay students – we saw two distinct population groups in need, (1) women who already had a family and a career and had a hard time fitting in their healthcare needs, and (2) students who weren’t getting access to reproductive health care because their university was limiting it.
Since Fall of 2012, we’ve been organizing group birth control pop-up clinics at John Jay College which use a small group discussion model to provide information to women and men. For women who want a prescription that night, they complete a brief medical history evaluation, and meet with a provider. Students who opt for something more long term such as an IUD or implant – they leave with an appointment to be seen at our center! To date we’ve had 7 events and have served about 350 students. It is great to bust those birth control myths and to facilitate an educational experience for two very different but also very similar groups of students. It is so fascinating to hear the commentary between the students in the discussion groups. They are educating each other! I think this is a model that is highly replicable. The college setting is a great location for it as far as maximizing your audience, and it requires very few resources. The biggest challenge I’ve found is just getting providers to donate their limited time. Luckily I work with two residency programs and the residents love to attend and help out!
Another project I’m really proud of is the Women’s Health Free Clinic where I work one Saturday a month and serve as the Medical Director of the Women’s Clinic. It is a place where women can get free pap smears, birth control consultations, screening for STDs, IUD insertions, hormonal implants, and more – the full spectrum of reproductive health care – and it is run entirely by medical students. We have so many people that are uninsured, that can’t afford the exchange, or are undocumented. I think it is an important public health measure to provide this service for women that might never qualify for insurance and can’t afford the reproductive health services that they need.
The fellowship helped me be a stronger advocate for my patients and a better teacher. I definitely wouldn’t be doing all I am today without that experience.”