Planned Parenthood announced Dr. Leana Wen as its new president on Wednesday, becoming the first physician to lead the organization in 50 years. Photo by Hotchocolita/Wikimedia Commons
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Planned Parenthood announced Wednesday Dr. Leana Wen will serve as its new president, becoming the first physician to lead the organization in 50 years.
Wen, an emergency physician and patient advocate, will become the Planned Parenthood's sixth president after serving as health commissioner for the city of Baltimore since 2015, the organization said in a news release.
"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," Wen said.
"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 added. "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."
Wen replaces Cecile Richards, who announced her plans to step down in January after serving as president of the organization for 12 years.
Under Richards' tenure the organization faced a congressional investigation in 2015 over allegations the organization sold fetal tissue.
The Trump administration has also issued a directive to block funding to a Planned Parenthood program to prevent teen pregnancy in Western states, which a federal judge in Washington state ruled against in April.
Wen and the Baltimore City Health Department filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for cutting funds for teen pregnancy prevention and she also led a lawsuit against the administration for intentionally and unlawfully sabotaging the Affordable Care Act.
As Baltimore's health commissioner she oversaw projects to issue a blanket prescription for the opioid antidote, Naloxone, to the city's 620,000 residents, reduce infant mortality rate by 40 percent and deliver medications and improve food access to seniors.
"Anyone who has worked with Dr. Wen knows that when it comes to protecting her patients, she doesn't back down from a fight," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. "In Baltimore, she has been a true partner in our shared mission to provide access to quality health care for all."
Wen and her family immigrated from Shanghai, China when she was eight yers old and she later went on to graduate summa cum laude from California State University, Los Angeles at the age of 18 before attending medical school at the Washington University School of Medicine and obtaining a master's degrees at the University of Oxford.
"A dynamic public health leader and practicing physician, Dr. Wen is the first doctor to lead Planned Parenthood in nearly 50 years," said Naomi Aberly, Chair of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Board of Directors. "Not only will she help Planned Parenthood continue to provide high-quality care to women, men, and young people across the country, she will be a powerful voice in our fight to ensure women have the ability to make their own health care decisions -- no matter what."
Wen will serve her last day as Baltimore's health commissioner on Oct. 12 and will begin at Planned Parenthood on Nov. 12.