Dr. Sharon Camp, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, has advised Guttmacher’s Board of Directors that she is stepping down, effective July 15. The Board has accepted Sharon’s decision with regret, but also with gratitude and appreciation for her decade of outstanding service to the organization. Sharon’s decision to leave the Institute came sooner than anticipated because of health concerns.
Sharon’s time at Guttmacher has left a profound mark on the organization and all those who have been fortunate enough to work with her over her remarkable 40-year career. During her tenure at Guttmacher, Sharon has led the Institute through its evolution into the leading think tank on sexual and reproductive health and rights, raising the profile of the Institute both in the United States and globally. Throughout her tenure, Sharon has embodied the Institute’s unique combination of rigorous research, incisive policy analysis and strategic communications, and has continually challenged the staff to find new and better ways to reach influential audiences—whether by finding answers to important questions or by developing new platforms for the dissemination of information. She has also been a consistent and passionate supporter of the Institute’s staff, constantly seeking to raise the visibility of Guttmacher experts and promoting professional development at all levels of the Institute. Under her leadership, the Institute’s annual budget has nearly doubled, and its staff has grown by 33%. In part because of Sharon’s leadership, in 2010 the Institute was voted the nation’s number-one reproductive health, rights and justice organization in the first-ever survey of experts in the field, conducted by Philanthropedia.
A key writer of the landmark Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, Sharon brought to the Institute extensive expertise in international sexual and reproductive health issues, and helped lead a major expansion of the organization’s global program. During her tenure, the Institute has conducted research projects on a wide range of topics in 29 countries around the globe, along with its activities conducting research and monitoring policies and programs at the national and state levels in the United States. In almost every case, these studies have been carried out and disseminated in partnership with national institutions, in keeping with Sharon’s commitment to ensuring in-country ownership of research studies and building the capacity of local scholars and advocates. Sharon has been similarly influential in forging strategic partnerships with leading international organizations; notably, under her leadership, the Institute became an official World Health Organization collaborating center on reproductive health and developed formal institutional collaborations with Columbia and Johns Hopkins universities. In shaping the Institute’s research program and in communicating findings to global audiences, Sharon has left a lasting imprint on sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. In recent years, she has contributed to the effort to put family planning back on the global health and development agenda, worked to raise awareness of the devastating public health impact of unsafe abortion, and articulated the synergies between reproductive health and maternal and newborn health services.
Sharon has also recognized the interconnectedness of international and domestic concerns, and has had an abiding belief in using sound science to guide the simultaneous development of policies and related programs, both overseas and here in the United States. Her testimony before an expert panel convened in 2011 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM)—focusing on the essential role of contraception in women’s health—was widely quoted in the IOM’s report recommending that contraception be included on the list of preventive services women should receive without cost sharing under the Affordable Care Act. When the Obama administration largely upheld the panel’s recommendation, Sharon’s testimony was again heavily cited. Sharon’s commitment to the role of science in shaping public policy has also been manifested in her efforts to address the rising threat of misinformation and junk science. With the late Cory Richards, Guttmacher’s Executive Vice President and longtime leader of its Public Policy Division, she led the development of an Institute program that works to debunk flawed studies and respond rapidly to the misuse of science in policy debates.
Prior to joining the Guttmacher Institute, Sharon founded and served as President and CEO of Women’s Capital Corporation, the company responsible for the development and commercialization of the Plan B emergency contraceptive. A forward-thinking leader, Sharon led a dedicated group of women’s health professionals to establish this small pharmaceutical company in 1997, with the sole purpose of bringing emergency contraception to the market for U.S. and Canadian women. She was also largely responsible for bringing together the highly successful International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and served until April 1998 as its Coordinator. Sharon argued passionately for many years that the decision to make Plan B widely available and easily accessible be grounded in sound scientific evidence. Indeed, Sharon’s quest recently culminated in the method’s being approved for sale over the counter to women of all ages.
From 1975 to 1993, Sharon was Senior Vice President of Population Action International, managing professional staff in lobbying, media, policy research and publications. For many years the leading spokesperson in Washington, DC, for international family planning programs, she was a widely quoted authority on the national and international politics of contraception, a popular public speaker, and the author or coauthor of more than 70 publications on family planning and related subjects.
Beyond Population Action and Guttmacher, Sharon has held leadership roles on the Boards of Family Health International (now FHI 360), the National Council for International Health (now the Global Health Council) and the International Center for Research on Women, and was founding Chair of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. She has served on the Boards of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, AVSC International (now EngenderHealth), Management Sciences for Health and Population Action International. More recently, Sharon has served on the Board of Medicines360, a start-up not-for-profit pharmaceutical company organized to bring low-cost, high-quality contraceptives to women in the United States and globally.
The Guttmacher Institute’s Board of Directors will soon begin a search for a new President and CEO, seeking to build on Sharon’s extraordinary record of success in furthering the Institute’s mission to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights through research, policy analysis and public education.
The Institute’s Board of Directors has appointed a team of senior executives to lead the organization while the search is under way. This team consists of Kendell Burroughs, Chief Financial Officer; Susheela Singh, Vice President for Research; and Cynthia Summers, Vice President for Public Education.