Dr. Herminia Palacio, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, announced today that Dr. Aletha Y. Akers has been selected to serve as the Institute’s new Vice President for Research, following a competitive and extensive search. Dr. Akers will lead the Institute’s talented and widely respected team of scientists as they carry out rigorous, innovative and timely research to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. Dr. Akers’s start date is June 16, 2020.

An obstetrician-gynecologist and widely published expert on adolescent health, Dr. Akers joins the Institute’s executive leadership team as it affirms and advances Guttmacher’s position as a leader and effective partner in the rapidly shifting landscape of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Akers to Guttmacher’s executive leadership team. We hold a shared vision for positive social impact, health equity and reproductive autonomy—and a belief that achieving this vision requires research of the highest quality. I look forward to working with Dr. Akers as we advance our efforts to rigorously study and fearlessly protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people around the world,” says Dr. Palacio.

“I am thrilled to join the Guttmacher Institute as Vice President of Research,” says Dr. Akers. “It is an honor to lead this world-class team of experts in promoting sexual and reproductive health and health equity. Today, more than ever, this work requires building an evidence base that speaks not only to policymakers and clinicians but also to other diverse stakeholders across the country and around the globe. I am excited to leverage my clinical, research and policy advocacy expertise to help the Institute to carry out this important work.”

Dr. Akers brings 20 years of experience conducting policy-relevant research on a range of sexual and reproductive health issues, and leading teams of scientists in both academic and medical settings. She has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in the fields of medicine, public health and social sciences, and as a member of the PolicyLab, she is actively involved in communicating research evidence to inform policy and program change. Her research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and other sources, has focused on family communication about sex, disparities in reproductive health services, and evaluation and implementation of interventions to improve health outcomes for adolescents.

Dr. Akers joins the Guttmacher Institute from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she currently functions as a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, Medical Director of Adolescent Gynecology Consultative Services in the Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine, and faculty member at PolicyLab and the Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness. At Children’s Hospital, she founded and directs a complex family planning clinic that provides young women with comprehensive contraceptive services. She is a member of a number of professional associations, including the American Public Health Association, the Society of Family Planning and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine. 

Previously, Dr. Akers was Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh and Assistant Investigator at the Magee-Womens Research Institute, Magee-RAND Women’s Health Initiative. In addition, she has worked as a consultant for the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and the World Health Organization Quality of Care and Technologies Office. She has also served on the Data Safety and Monitoring Board for NIH-funded studies, and she lectures extensively on adolescent sexual decision making and family communication about sexual health for community organizations and outreach programs.

Dr. Akers received her MD from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and her MPH from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; she completed her residency at the University of Michigan. While at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Akers completed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, a health services research fellowship.

Upon Dr. Akers’ arrival at the Institute, Dr. Susheela Singh, who currently serves as Vice President for International Research, will complete her transition to a new position within the President’s Office as Distinguished Scholar and Vice President for Global Science and Policy Integration. As previously announced, Dr. Singh will play a key leadership role in aligning and integrating our global research and policy work.