Grad advocates for women's health

Wendy Voet is now the exeuctive director of Phila.-based Women's Way

· December 8, 2013, 7:43 pm   ·  Updated December 8, 2013, 9:18 pm

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Wendy Voet, who was formerly the Deputy Director of the Center of Public Health Initiatives, is now the Executive Director of Women’s Way, a Philadelphia based organization focused on women’s safety and equality.

For Wendy Voet, Penn has been the center of her work tackling women’s health issues.

On Nov. 13, Voet was chosen as executive director of Women’s Way, an organization dedicated to creating an equitable and safe future for women in the Greater Philadelphia area. But her interest in women’s health began in 1987, when she first stepped on Penn’s campus.

Before graduating from the College in 1991 with a degree in Psychology, she joined women’s health centered student groups and spent a semester abroad in India, which “was [her] first time seeing what abject poverty looked like.”

“The experiences I had as an undergraduate at Penn really enriched my whole career,” Voet said.

Once she left Penn, Voet worked at Planned Parenthood in southeastern Pennsylvania before spending two years in Niger as part of the Peace Corps. Voet then worked at positions spanning a sexuality educator in New York City and an officer for a health service delivery program in Haiti. In 2007, Voet returned to her alma mater as the deputy director of Penn’s Center for Public Health Initiatives.

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In this position, Voet was able to make a major impact on health care in Philadelphia. After meeting with representatives from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, she established a refugee health clinic at the Penn Center for Primary Care, which gives refugees access to health care and health screenings when they come to the U.S. She also established another program called Service Link, which trains undergraduate and graduate students to help people enroll in health care through the Affordable Care Act.

When she wasn’t implementing these initiatives, Voet was in the classroom, teaching two courses — “Developing Effective Public Health Programs Using a Public Health Approach” and “Global Health Policy and Delivery.”

“It was a great experience working for Penn, and it was hard for me to leave,” Voet said. “I got to go back to the place that inspired me to work for public health in the first place.”

Now, Voet hopes to link women’s rights and human rights as the executive director of Women’s Way.

Related: Get Healthy Philly initiative tackles poverty, tobacco use and obesity

“We’re talking about [these issues] through the lens of human rights as well because it brings more people together,” Voet said. “These are issues that we all need to be working for.”

Women’s Way has three major components: grant making to over 20 organizations, lobbying for public policy changes and education on women’s health issues. Some of the group’s current projects include leading a coalition against human trafficking in Pennsylvania and examining the cliff effect — when people maintain a wage below the poverty line so that they can keep their access to health care and public benefits.

Voet hopes to make the organization more results-based by following up on its work, making sure that its funding and practices have an impact.

Even though she’s left Penn, Voet will be back as a guest lecturer twice this spring, when she will discuss maternal mortality and program planning. While she will not teach classes during the spring semester, Voet hopes to co-teach a class in the fall of 2014.

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