Who We Are

Beyond the Pill is administered by an outstanding team of physicians, experts in public health and research, and reproductive health advocates.

The Beyond the Pill team includes:

Faculty

Professional Researchers

Research and Training Team

 


Faculty

Cynthia Harper

Cynthia Harper, PhD, Professor and Principal Investigator

Cynthia C. Harper, PhD, is a Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences and a faculty of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. She received her master’s in international and public affairs from Columbia University, doctorate in demography and public policy from Princeton University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research aims to improve family planning policies and service delivery through streamlined access to care. She has worked to remove unnecessary procedures in contraceptive care, including the pelvic examination for hormonal contraception and lengthy protocols for long-acting contraceptives. Her research has supported expanded roles of nursing and pharmacy professions in contraceptive delivery, including over-the-counter access. She has conducted research in emergency contraception that helped to transform clinical practice and policy, and led to the FDA approval of over-the-counter status of levonorgestrel emergency contraception and the removal of the age restriction. Dr. Harper completed a national cluster randomized trial on long-acting contraceptives in 40 Planned Parenthood health centers demonstrating the effectiveness of the UCSF Bixby Beyond the Pill Program's provider training curriculum in reducing unintended pregnancy among family planning clients. Her research team is conducting implementation science with provider training and patient education initiatives in a variety of clinic settings in addition to Planned Parenthoods, including departments of health, hospitals, and primary care. She also heads an initiative to bring contraceptive training and education to community colleges.

Dr. Harper has worked together with investigators in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, including a multi-center NIH study on physicians’ and nurses’ attitudes and clinical practices in HIV prevention and contraception. She has measured the impact of unsafe abortion on maternal morbidity and mortality in developing regions, and has evaluated the impact of policy changes on the safety of services. Dr. Harper is the 2013 recipient of Guttmacher Institute’s Darroch Award in Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research.

Areas of Interest: access to contraception, long-acting reversible contraception, provider training and clinical practices, emergency contraception, adolescent contraception, adolescent contraception, family planning policies, HIV/STI prevention.

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Suzan Goodman, MD, MPH, Director of Training

Dr. Goodman serves as Training Director for Beyond the Pill. She conducted IUD and implant intervention site trainings for the UCSF-PPFA National Trial of Contraceptive Acceptability (2009-14), and intervention studies to improve IUD and implant utilization at Planned Parenthood (2004-08). She is also Fellowship and Curriculum Director of the TEACH Program which provides training support, curriculum development, and advocacy in reproductive health for a northern California residency programs. She serves an Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF Department of Family & Community Medicine, a member of Planned Parenthood’s National Medical Committee and Physicians for Reproductive Health's Residency Education Initiative's National Advisory Committee. In addition to her clinical, research and teaching activities, she brings broad experience in international health training and public health advocacy.

Corinne Rocca

Corinne H. Rocca, PhD, MPH, Director of Research

Corinne H. Rocca, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. She received her doctorate in Epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley; an MPH in Population and Family Health from Columbia University; and a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her research, Dr. Rocca combines the approaches from her training in social epidemiology with those of demographers and clinicians interested in understanding sexual behavior, contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy. Broadly, her research examines how structural factors, such as access to reproductive health care and cultural norms, affect risk of unintended pregnancy among high-risk populations in the US and South Asia. Dr. Rocca’s research has focused on expanding our understanding of pregnancy intentions, including what influences adolescents’ and women’s attitudes towards pregnancy and how intentions translate into behavior. In her work, she has used quantitative psychometric techniques, including item response theory, to improve the measurement of pregnancy intention, childbearing attitudes, as well as other latent variables important to understanding pregnancy risk.


 


Professional Researchers

Alison B. Comfort, PhD, Health Economist

Alison B. Comfort, PhD, is a health economist who received her doctorate in Health Policy (Economics concentration) from Harvard University and her BA in Economics and Spanish from Amherst College. Her research has focused on evaluating interventions to improve reproductive, maternal and child health, both in the United States and in developing countries. She has worked on several randomized controlled trials, including an impact evaluation to assess the effect of providing community health workers with free pregnancy tests for distribution to improve provision of hormonal contraceptives and uptake of antenatal care counseling in Madagascar. She has also evaluated the long-term effects of in-utero conditions on maternal survival later in a woman’s life using secondary data from several African countries and conducted several studies related to malaria, including an impact evaluation assessing the effect of price on demand for anti-malarial bednets. In the United States, she is conducting implementation science research on provider training and patient education in clinic settings to increase contraceptive provision, including through school based health centers. She speaks French, Spanish and Malagasy and previously served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar.

Jennifer Yarger

Jennifer Yarger, PhD, Assistant Researcher

Jennifer Yarger, PhD, is an Assistant Researcher in Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences. She received a doctorate in public policy and sociology (social demography concentration) from the University of Michigan, and a BA in Political Science from Wellesley College. Her work focuses on improving access to sexual and reproductive health information and services and reducing disparities in unintended pregnancy, particularly among adolescents and young adults in the United States. Dr. Yarger has published papers examining racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in the use of family planning services and related attitudes. In her work with Dr. Harper and Beyond the Pill, she is conducting a cluster randomized trial to test an intervention to increase awareness of and access to contraception among students aged 18-25 in community colleges. She is also engaged in developing and testing new youth-friendly, digital materials to educate youth about the full range of contraceptive methods available to them. Other areas of interest include health insurance and access to care, confidentiality in the provision of family planning services, and the evaluation of state family planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs.


 


Research and Training Team

Maya Blum

Maya Blum, MPH, Project Director

Maya directs and manages research, training and education activities for Beyond the Pill. Her work focuses on promoting reproductive health through innovation and rigorous research. She has extensive experience implementing high-quality studies in the US and globally, including in Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Maya received her MPH in Maternal and Child Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and served as Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa.

Stephanie De La Melena, Program Analyst

Stephanie is a Program Analyst for Beyond the Pill, implementing a cluster randomized control trial at community colleges to increase awareness and access to contraception among students. Although she is new to the field of sexual and reproductive health, she has experience assisting physical exams in free clinics in Cape Town, South Africa. She also has experience teaching about reproductive health and nutrition in San Pedro de Cajas, Peru. Stephanie received her BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and has a passion for reproductive justice.

Sarah Elmes, MS, Research Data Analyst

Sarah is a Research Data Analyst for Beyond the Pill. She received an MS in International and Development Economics from the University of San Francisco and a BA in International Affairs and Human Services from Northeastern University. Sarah has a background in research design and econometric evaluation. She has conducted global health research using geospatial and nutrition data as well as conducted empirical field research in Latin America. She is passionate about using data and research to improve access to health services.

Connie Folse

Connie Folse, MPH, Lead Health Educator

Connie is a Certified Health Education Specialist and has provided health education and counseling in a number of settings, including Title X and STD/HIV clinics, school-based health centers, and university campuses. Since earning her Master’s in Public Health in 2005, she has been providing direct services as well as training medical providers and allied health professionals to talk with both youth and adults about sexuality and contraceptive decision-making. As the lead health education trainer for Beyond the Pill, Connie trains staff and providers on client-centered counseling approaches and supports educational and outreach efforts.

Julia Hankin, Training Coordinator

Julia is the Training Coordinator for Beyond the Pill. She has a background in training and health education, most recently with Planned Parenthood Northern California. She is deeply passionate about health equity and believes in empowering communities through bolstering reproductive autonomy. She holds a BA from Bennington College with a concentration in Anthropology and Biology.

Nina Pine

Nina Pine, MSc, Contraceptive Training Specialist

Nina is the Contraceptive Training Specialist for Beyond the Pill. She received her MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and her BA in Critical Theory and Social Justice from Occidental College. She has a background in global and domestic sexual and LGBTQ health, health promotion, and growth marketing. Prior to joining the Bixby Center, Nina served as the Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Exhale where she managed their national, nonjudgmental after-abortion peer-counseling talkline. She was also one of the first employees at Samahope, a non-profit crowdfunding website for surgeries for women and children in low-income countries, which later merged with Johnson & Johnson's CaringCrowd platform. Nina has also worked with a number of community-based organizations and health-tech startups to further client-centered programs and resources.

Lavanya Rao

Lavanya Rao, MPH, Research Manager

Lavanya is a Research Manager for Beyond the Pill, managing implementation science research on contraceptive training initiatives and a research study focused on developing measures of patient autonomy in contraceptive decision-making. Lavanya has a background in epidemiology, family planning, and women’s health. She previously served as a Fulbright scholar in India, conducting research on the intersection of women’s rights and public health. Lavanya received an MPH from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a BA in Economics from Rice University.

Dani Van Liefde, Research Coordinator

Dani is a Research Coordinator for Beyond the Pill, working on a randomized control trial to increase awareness of and access to contraception among college students. She has a background in global health, previously working in West and Sub-Saharan Africa coordinating malnutrition research with Washington University School of Medicine and non-profit organization Project Peanut Butter. She also has experience working for the CDC’s National HIV Behavioral Surveillance project at SFDPH. Dani received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo..