Kassadi Anthony is finishing a three-month internship at Choices as part of fulfilling the requirements for her B.S. Degree from SUNY Cortland, near Syracuse, NY, with a Community Health major and minor in Women’s Studies. She plans to enroll this fall in a Physician Assistant program. We asked her to tell us about her background and how she became interested in women’s health issues.
When I was younger, I never had an issue learning about sexuality. My mom and I had a close relationship. She didn’t gatekeep information about sexual health. This was very important, especially with a Caribbean background where most people don’t talk openly about sex. My dad was very uncomfortable with this topic, and I had five brothers, so he didn’t want to talk about it. My mom was more open to education and felt that if you hold back education from the youth, they can be easily misinformed and misled.
Every time I had a conversation with my mom about this subject, I would go on the internet afterwards. I did more research myself – that’s how I developed the interest. I also had a friend in community health who told me it was about helping underserved communities. When I got into these classes, I became even more interested and continued on to get my BS in community health.
I needed to find an intern program to complete my degree, and I knew about Choices. My mom had been a patient at Choices, and I had, too. We live in the area, and I preferred a location close to home. So, my internship has roots there. My school had a list of fieldwork sites, and when I looked into Choices, I liked their values and focused on women’s health and all aspects of GYN care. For my internship, I work in various departments and observe medical staff doing different procedures and tests. I keep a daily log as well as fulfill college assignments. Now I see myself on a clinical path and taking more medical training and sciences.
Is there anything that stands out in particular about your experience here?
I’m impressed that Choices’ staff is so inclusive and diverse. Queens is very diverse, and it’s important that the staff reflects the patients, showing they are people like them with similar backgrounds – from the Front Desk to registered nurses, GYN care, surgical, and patient support. Counselors play a very important role here, helping patients work through any conflicts they may have about abortion and encouraging them to speak about their feelings.
Women’s health is very important to me and should be to everyone. Women of all ages need to know about their bodies and how to keep healthy. For example, sometimes elderly women don’t think they need annual checkups, but they do. I would encourage other students that if their values line up with Choices about the importance of women’s health, they should come here. I’ve learned a lot, and they will, too.
Shernice Martin interned at Choices through The Moxie Project at Duke University which sends students to intern for two summer months at women’s organizations in NYC. She is an aspiring physician who will be a senior at Duke this fall, completing her major in Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. We asked her how she became interested in women’s health.
My first encounter with women’s health was learning my grandma had passed away from cervical cancer. I never got to meet her but hearing her story piqued my interest. Consequently, I got involved in research at Duke to help gynecological cancer patients so I could learn about the illness while contributing to the science. I spent 1.5 years on the research team and analyzed women’s stories of navigating their disease, their lifestyles of living with illness, their self-confidence, and their relationships with others. I started to realize there were a lot of gaps in women’s health due to social issues that needed to be addressed. Even though their medical providers did an excellent job of keeping them alive, the women shared that there was not much support for their lifestyles beyond their illness. I wanted to do that, help them not just survive but thrive; mentally, emotionally, sexually, everything…because their illness affected everything.
I started considering becoming an ob-gyn, but I had no knowledge of what the medical specialty looked like in daily practice. I began looking for an environment that could teach me and challenge me to learn more about women’s health in the context of women’s rights. The Moxie Project was a perfect fit. It was the perfect program to challenge my perception of how I saw the world and the women who lived in it. The Director created a space for students to tackle the difficult questions about accessibility, equity, discrimination, systemic barriers, all of it. And not just in theory. She was offering the ability to partner with amazing organizations like Choices to give us hands-on experience in an everyday context. Choices has surpassed all of those expectations I had for this program.
Over the past eight weeks that I have been at Choices, I have grieved with women who aborted their children, I have breathed a sigh of relief with women who got their lives back, and I have celebrated with women who are preparing to bring lives into this world. Interning here has challenged me to take a deeper look at myself, my morals and values, and the kind of provider and woman that I want to be.
I have gotten the opportunity to work with incredible people who inspired me in more ways than one. And I have learned far more than I imagined. I got to do things that I never thought I could do, like plan and execute an entire health fair for mothers-to-be. I have heard the stories of women that I never thought I would hear. I will leave Choices holding their eyes, their smiles, and the many lessons they have given me. I now have a greater appreciation for the intersection of medicine and activism, as I carve my own path forward.
Theiija Balasubramanian is an intern with the Duke University Moxie Project majoring in Public Policy and Global Health and will be a junior this year. She is especially interested in the social determinants that impact women’s health. We asked her to tell us about this.
After my first year at Duke, I took a summer internship with a nonprofit organization that studies family planning issues, how family planning improves women’s health, and also impacts climate. My intern project there was researching global barriers to contraceptive access, including basic things like transportation and costs. The things that hinder and prevent access, even if contraception is generally available.
I wrote a paper that detailed how the scholarly perspective on reproductive justice can be removed from the practical arena, from the actual people affected, and does not effectively address real problems with access. I also wrote an Op-Ed in Newsweek on the “fetal heartbeat” bill. That summer was an important experience, but it was not one where I got to see and talk with the people actually affected.
Choices has been a real building block in my intellectual and practical understanding. I found out about it through the program at Duke where the director matched students with programs she thought would connect with them. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of abortion, the social causes that bring people into Choices. My understanding of prochoice activism also has become more encompassing – why women should have this choice, to bring a child into a world that is ready for them; to be able to succeed and be loved. At present, our society devalues being a mother, it underestimates what it takes and means to be a mom. Then, it’s easy to take away the right to choose. This right has to do with more than just autonomy, it affects all parts of a woman’s life.
How did you gain this expanded understanding?
Sitting in on options counseling at Choices was very important to hear each person’s story. Even I, as a woman of color from a diverse city, learned a lot from women who have multiple children and various difficulties. A choice about abortion is made out of love. It’s more than I’m young and I want to be free. It’s about making the world a better place. Different factors impact on women’s lives; and reproductive justice impacts on all aspects of it. The diversity of the Choices staff has also affected me – women talking about being a mother and about having a fast-paced profession. For me, this was my first working experience, and I saw how much it means for women to take on all these different situations. There is so much expected of you, and it’s very important for all women to have this choice
As a Pre-Law student, along with studying for a health career, I saw a profession where you can have a real tangible impact. I don’t know what kind of a lawyer I’ll be, but I know I want to be one. Before being at Choices I think I underestimated how much it mattered to me in my career to have meaningful exchanges with the people I’ll be serving. Now I know I want to be an advocate, in whatever capacity that may be. Anyone who wants to enter the medical profession or understand the issue of abortion access needs to see the people affected to be able to deliver on what you’re standing up for. Until you see it, it’s a different story. In that sense, Choices has been an invaluable experience.