Cynthia C. Harper, PhD, is a Professor in Residence in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and is the Director of the UCSF-Kaiser Permanente BIRCWH (Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health) K12 scholar training program. She is a member of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health Executive Committee. Dr. Harper conducts research on contraception with the aim of improving access to care and women's health outcomes through clinical practice and health policy changes.
With a team at UCSF Bixby, she conducted a series of studies over many years and policy contexts that helped to transform emergency contraception from a little known regimen of cut up packets of pills to a product widely available over the counter to everyone, including teens and undocumented populations. The research informed judicial and FDA decisions to ultimately move emergency contraception over-the-counter in the U.S. It also had a wide impact on policy and regulatory decisions in other countries where women can now access emergency contraception.
Dr. Harper and her research team developed a provider contraceptive training curriculum that successfully reduced unintended pregnancy by nearly half among women in family planning clinics. The clinic intervention, tested in a large, national randomized trial, was a the first one to effectively decrease unintended pregnancy. The intervention also was demonstrated to respect women's autonomy in contraceptive-decision-making.
Based on this effective intervention, Dr. Harper and her national training team, led by Dr. Suzan Goodman, have built a contraceptive training program, Beyond the Pill (beyondthepill.ucsf.edu), that offers a UCSF-Continuing Education-accredited course to physicians, nurses and health educators. They are bringing their intervention to scale reaching practices across the country, including large urban hospital systems, departments of health, FQHCs, family planning clinics, teen clinics, school-based health centers, and community colleges. The Beyond the Pill program has trained over 6,000 providers, reaching more than 2,000,000 contraceptive patients annually. In response to the Zika public health emergency, they partnered with the CDC Foundation and local stakeholders to train obstetrician-gynecologists in Puerto Rico. During this implementation science phase, the intervention has continued to have a significant impact on clinical practice changes and patient outcomes.