Photo: Women's Health

The Power of Connective Tissue

Posted on December 18, 2022 by Rachel Ploss, TPF Fellow 2022/23
One thing has become apparent while working at The Patterson Foundation — TPF is driven by its values. Whether it's being accessible and engaged with others or demonstrating integrity blended with joyful stewardship, the values are present as the guiding star for all its work. Seeing this model of highly integrated values inform how people perform their work inspired me to reflect on my career goals as I am halfway through my fellowship. What came out of my reflection is that I value the potential contributions philanthropy can make to women’s health and how it can be a leader in bridging the gaps addressing inequities, and creating platforms for women to be heard and make meaningful change. When I expressed how I value the way philanthropy can be an integral innovator for the changes that need to happen in women’s health to Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, she immediately connected me with Barbara Zdravecky, the former CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

Barbara and I instantly clicked over our shared values. She was a dynamic force to be reckoned with during her time as president. She made waves and extensive strides for the Florida Planned Parenthood chapters. Her leadership in local, regional, state, and national healthcare circles is stellar. Under Barbara’s leadership, the Planned Parenthood in Sarasota became the first affiliate in Florida to offer abortion services. She also was the leading force in merging the Planned Parenthood affiliates from Tampa to Orlando to Naples and creating the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. Meeting Barbara and sharing the same drive and values has been a key influence in my fellowship. The more I learn about Planned Parenthood, the more it reaffirms my values. But if The Patterson Foundation didn’t believe in building connective tissue the way it does, I would never have met Barbara.

The willingness of TPF to open doors, and then for Barbara to open doors, inviting me to the Planned Parenthood 2022 luncheon and becoming a mentor, is outstanding. Connective tissue is a powerful thing, and because of it, I find myself immersed in the critical nature of Planned Parenthood and enjoying a space where my values become a burning passion.

Looking at where healthcare stands for women today, I can’t imagine a more critical thing than for women and allies to build connective tissue, talk, and share ideas with organizations like Planned Parenthood. With a mission “to provide affordable access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and accurate health information through patient care, education, and advocacy,” they cover a litany of important services beyond what everyone knows them for, abortions. As a space where health centers are welcoming to all, regardless of race, ancestry, national origin, creed, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, income, or age, combined with all their services from pelvic wellness examines, to birth control, to STI testing and treatment, and more, I can’t help but think about what the power of connective tissue can do for women’s healthcare.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations need to continue strengthening them through building connective tissue because when we make connections, doors open. Philanthropy in various forms can be, and should be, a dynamic force for women’s health, but it’s going to take equally passionate people building connections with people on both sides of the Planned Parenthood fence to create the power needed for change.

This is the space I am focusing on growing to be a dynamic force creating change for women’s health through philanthropy, but I couldn’t be one of them without building connective tissue.

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