Hilary Schwandt

Hilary Schwandt - 2016 Nominee
Position: Assistant Professor
Organization: Western Washington University
She has conducting fp research since 2005, co-authored 17 papers on contraception, abortion, and related sexual and reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan Africa. She is a scholar and rising leader. – Nominator
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

My contributions to the field of family planning are through my research. After finding my inspiration in this field, and the overlap of this inspiration with the geographical region of sub-Saharan Africa in graduate school, I have been working on research in this area. To date, I have published 8 articles specifically on family planning and one DHS report on discontinuation. I have also published research in other related areas of reproductive health. I am continuing to work on research in this area and have many research projects in various stages along the process. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with others who share my passion - in the US and in sub-Saharan nations that we are working in. I see myself continuing to contribute to this area for the rest of my life.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

After I graduated for college I went to Jamaica as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In my community, I spent a lot of time with the children. Many of these children seemed lost and unwanted. It made me think about the power of family planning - not only for the adults using family planning but also for the youth. I find that the impact of planning for children on those having the children, the children themselves, and entire societies can not be overstated. My passion has only grown with time.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my work on family planning is the ability to have complete autonomy over what I research. I am often affected by funder's specific desires or employment needs to do research on non family planning related topics. To overcome this issue, I have tried to advocate for myself as much as possible within organizations, to constantly remind others that family planning is my area of passion, and to only go for funding opportunities that are directly related to FP.

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

My country faces many challenges with family planning; however, my work to date has entirely focused on family planning challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, I find that the biggest challenges are both on the demand and the supply side of family planning. On the demand side, inequity in gender is the largest contribution to the challenge. On the supply side, one of the biggest challenges is coverage of providers and materials - as well as biased service provision.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I would like to continue to contribute to the field of reproductive health through research, primarily, and, secondarily, advocacy based on the results of the research. I am particularly drawn to research work on issues related to family planning in sub-Saharan Africa so will ideally continue to contribute to research projects that focus on this region and in this area of study. I also hope to inspire the students I teach and mentor to enter into this vitally important area of work.

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