Maya Chandra

Amanda Skinner NUR ’98 SOM ’08, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, visited the Yale School of Nursing on Thursday night to discuss leadership and advocacy in challenging political times.

Skinner’s talk covered a wide of range of topics, from the impact of a hostile political environment on Planned Parenthood to the rapidly changing health care landscape. The event was organized by the Student Government Organization at the School of Nursing.

“It is clear that the Trump administration will make every effort possible to defund Planned Parenthood,” Skinner said. “This is what I perceive as an all-out war on women.”

In the hour-long talk, Skinner covered her personal experiences working in the health care system and later at a Planned Parenthood affiliate. She went on to discuss the larger threats facing the organization nationwide. The talk was attended by approximately 30 people and was followed by a 45-minute Q&A session.

As the talk progressed, Skinner dove further into two specific mechanisms through which the Trump administration could potentially undercut Planned Parenthood: refusing to reimburse the group for services provided through Medicaid and depriving women of access to fundamental reproductive health care. At the moment, she said, there are 72,000 patients in Connecticut and Rhode Island who rely on Planned Parenthood as their care provider.

She went on to talk about her leadership role at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, beginning in June 2017. Skinner, along with her team, is focused on building a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization, she said.

“We are committed to bringing a social justice lens to everything we do, from our advocacy to the way we provide education and health care,” she said.

To pursue that goal, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England employs a full-time staff member who focuses on building relationships with the Latinx community in New Haven.

After attending the March for Women’s Lives as a college student in 1992, Skinner said she was inspired to write a letter to Faye Wattleton, then president of Planned Parenthood for America. In the letter, Skinner told Wattleton that she aspired to be like her one day, and asked her what exactly that would take.

After earning her nursing degree from the Yale School of Nursing, Skinner practiced as a midwife for ten years. She then returned to Yale, this time to the School of Management, to earn a degree that would prepare her to take on management roles.

“I basically spent my entire adult life plotting to have the job I have now,” she said.

Attendees interviewed said they were impressed by the range of Skinner’s speech and her focus on practicality in approaching challenges in the health care sector. The value of bringing in “awesome role models” is that students can learn how people who have accomplished really amazing things got to where they are, said Justin Branham NUR ’19, president of the Student Government Organization. That is important in order to support the group’s goal of building cohesion and community at the Yale School of Nursing, he added.

“Our campus is all about health care justice, and making sure we are advocates for our patients, and I think inviting people like Amanda Skinner to speak is a really extraordinary way to showcase that interest,” said Beeba Mathew NUR ’19, vice president of the Student Government Organization.

Audience members also expressed surprise at the candor Skinner displayed in speaking about her organization and its work. Skinner said her leadership style favors transparency, and a strict open-door policy.

Planned Parenthood has more than 650 affiliated health centers operating in the United States.

Maya Chandra | maya.chandra@yale.edu