A Social Justice Advocate’s Winding Path to Public Health
By Mindy Eve Myers
In a wide-ranging audio interview, Dr. Vicki Breitbart tells Mindy Eve Myers, an Open Society Presidential Fellow, about the evolution of her career fighting for women’s health and reproductive rights. As part of her fellowship, Myers examined the varying career paths of women who work in the field of public health.
How does a career spent working for social justice unfold? Does it spring from a single, focused vision of a better world from which one never wavers? Or does it evolve over time, leading its protagonist down unforeseen paths as fresh challenges emerge and new opportunities present themselves?
For Dr. Vicki Breitbart, director of the Health Advocacy Program at Sarah Lawrence College, the journey was very much the latter. Her roots in early childhood education and social work eventually steered her into the realm of health policy, which ultimately led her into an impressive career in public health. A staunch advocate for women’s health and reproductive justice, she also embodies the Open Society Foundations’ mission to support efforts that address inequality across gender, race, and class lines, and that promote fairness in political, legal, and economic systems.
Over a career spanning more than 40 years, Dr. Breitbart has worked to reduce infant mortality in New York City and to ensure that city policies contribute to healthy pregnancies for pregnant women and teens, including those dealing with substance abuse or HIV.
Before rejoining Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater, she spent nearly 15 years with Planned Parenthood in roles spanning clinical services, strategy, and research and evaluation. In addition to her current post, Dr. Breitbart has taught at New York University, the CUNY School of Public Health, and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Mindy Eve Myers was a 2014 Open Society Presidential Fellow.