By Sandy Banks | Cal State LA News Service
Cal State LA alumna Dr. Leana Wen has been named president of Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of health care and reproductive services to low-income women.
Wen, 35, graduated summa cum laude from Cal State LA when she was only 18. She was a product of the university’s Early Entrance Program, which allows exceptionally gifted students as young as 11 to enroll as full-time students. Wen was admitted when she was 13, and earned her B.S. in biochemistry.
She exemplifies the potential and promise of many young students who enroll at Cal State LA through the Early Entrance Program, said Honors College director Trinh Pham. The program is housed in the Honors College and graduates about 20 students each year.
“What really stands out about the students is how remarkably brilliant they are—especially considering their ages—and the sense of community and connections they make while they’re here,” Pham said.
Most are coming directly from middle school to college, and thrive in the company of classmates who challenge and support them. “The students are extremely motivated and driven, and very passionate about learning,” Pham said.
Wen has credited her Cal State LA professors and mentors with exposing her to new ways of thinking about the world. “I feel strongly that I received an excellent, diverse education from Cal State LA,” she said in a 2009 interview with the university magazine.
After graduation, Wen attended medical school at Washington University, trained at Massachusetts General Hospital as a Harvard Medical School Clinical Fellow, and studied public health at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
She currently serves as Health Commissioner for the city of Baltimore, where she’s been hailed as a strong advocate for expanding access to health services in vulnerable neighborhoods. Before taking that post in 2015, she was a university professor, author and emergency room physician.
A native of Shanghai, Wen was almost 8 years old when her parents, Chinese dissidents, immigrated to the U.S. and were granted political asylum. They settled in Compton, where her family had to confront what she describes as “the challenges of seeking healthcare with limited resources.”
As a child, Wen was chronically ill with asthma. She, her younger sister and her mother all “depended on Planned Parenthood for medical care at various times,” she said in a statement announcing her new position.
Wen will step into her new role on Nov. 12. She will be Planned Parenthood’s sixth president—and only the second physician to lead the organization in its 102-year history.
Photo: Dr. Leana Wen. (Credit: Baltimore City Mayor's Office)
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 245,000 distinguished alumni.
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