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History of the organization

Recognizing a gap

The idea for the Society of Family Planning was conceived in 2001 when Dr. Leon Speroff, one of the world’s leading writers on reproductive endocrinology and contraception, observed that there was no proper forum for American researchers in family planning to share project ideas, form collaborations, review works in progress, and critique assumptions and conclusions. Many other organizations—most notably, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), the Society for Gynecologic Investigation (SGI), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)—welcomed the science of family planning in their meetings and publications, but their interests and missions were much broader than contraception or abortion. And the European Society of Contraception (ESC) met only in Europe and focused primarily on European researchers.

As a result, family planning researchers in the United States—and especially the growing group of young researchers emerging from the Fellowships in Family Planning and the Ellertson Postdoctoral Social Science Fellowships—lacked an optimal setting for presentation and review of new work. Concluding that the solution was an American forum like ESC, where young investigators would feel encouraged to present their work—including work in progress—to an audience of experienced family planning researchers and leaders, Dr. Speroff wrote to some of the fellowship directors to urge them to form an academic society related to family planning.

SFP’s early development

By 2002, the original blueprints for the society had been created and the Directors of the Fellowship in Family Planning had agreed to be the founding members. In May of 2004, revised blueprints had been adopted as the society’s bylaws, and in October of 2004 the first Executive Board, Drs. Philip Darney, Carolyn Westhoff, Jack Sciarra, Mitch Creinin, and Melissa Gilliam, and Board of Directors were elected.

In May of 2005, the first official Board of Directors meeting was held in San Francisco, California. A few months later, in September of 2005, the founding and charter members of the new society met at their first annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, which ran concurrently with the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and the Planned Parenthood National Medical Committee meetings. That meeting included presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Dr. David Grimes and presentation of certificates to all founding and charter members in attendance. Further, the society announced that the journal Contraception would be its official journal.

Organizational growth

After being incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 2005, we opened an office, hired staff, and received foundation support to fund research in the area of family planning and abortion. The first SFP office was located in San Francisco, and the original staff members were Patricia Anderson and Erin Armstrong. In 2008, the Board of Directors recognized that it was time for SFP to function as a stand-alone nonprofit, and upon completing a search for a new Executive Director, hired Susan Higginbotham. Susan subsequently moved the office to Philadelphia, where we’ve been operating since summer of 2008. Contact our staff anytime with questions or comments about SFP.

Since 2005, the SFP membership has grown from a small group of highly motivated individuals to nearly 500 fellows based in the United States and abroad. Our membership has become more diverse as well. Although the SFP founding members were the directors of the Fellowships in Family Planning, and thus primarily obstetrician/gynecologists, we continue to become more inclusive as an academic society by recruiting and accepting physician researchers who are trained in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics/adolescent medicine, and public health, among other specialties. We also have a growing and active constituency of PhDs, including social scientists, epidemiologists, demographers, and nurse researchers.

SFP Grants Program

The purpose of our grant-making activity is twofold—first, to contribute new scientific evidence to the field, and second, to provide career development opportunities for our fellows in an environment where few funding opportunities exist. In 2007, we released our first Request for Proposals and awarded $650,000 to nine grantees working to improve the field of family planning by conducting high-quality scientific research. From that initial RFP in 2007 through our 2013 funding cycle, we allocated nearly $8.5 million in research and career development awards. Further, in 2011 the Board of Directors created the SFP Research Fund in order to focus solely on grant-making. Also that year, we began to manage the Fellowship in Family Planning research grants, and to date have allocated more than $4 million in grants to Fellows in Family Planning.

Annual meeting

Beginning in 2011, together with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, we launched the North American Forum on Family Planning. Starting in 2019, we will host the Society of Family Planning Annual Meeting.

We are grateful to everyone who helped SFP get started, and look forward to working together as the organization continues to grow.

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