A Doctor Fighting for Reproductive Health Rights

Her day is mostly spent running walking up and down the hallways of Medstar Pediatrics in Tenleytown. A string of hellos ring through the hallways, and the nurses walk with clipboards writing vigorously. The quick taps of the keyboards from the receptionists can be heard in the back of the sleek doctor’s office.

“Dr. Holder may see you now,” her nurse says happily as she holds the door for the patient to walk through.

Dr. Nneka Holder is a doctor in the heart of Upper Northwest D.C. at MedStar Health. Holder is a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and, inspired by her mother, later went on to study at Harvard Medical School and graduated in 1997. She specializes in reproductive and sexual health with an emphasis on adolescent medicine.

When Dr. Holder first started her career as a reproductive health specialist and doctor, she devoted a lot of her time to advocating for women’s health rights. Many of those rights fall under Title X.

“Before the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was passed when I was practicing 15 years ago, I would have to write the insurance company to convince them to pay for birth control for young women and some who had bleeding disorders… I would have to convince the company that it was cheaper to pay for a pack of pills than it was to pay for a blood transfusion in the emergency room,” Dr. Holder stated. After the Affordable Care Act, she no longer had to do this.

In February of 2019, the Trump Administration issued a rule that would cut tens of millions of dollars to numerous health clinics and Planned Parenthood included. Over four million people rely on Title X annually, and Planned Parenthood serves 41% of that population. Almost 4,000 clinics across the country rely on Title X’s funding. As reported by Planned Parenthood, 78% of all Title X patients have incomes 150% below the federal poverty line.

Two out of the three Planned Parenthood DC Health Centers are Title X Health Centers, which serves patients from all across the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.  

“It is imperative that women seek medical care from a physician that is competent in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment disease. It is equally important for the physician to be aware of social determinant of health and reproductive health. Reproductive rights – having the ability to decide whether and when to have children – are important to women’s socioeconomic well-being and overall health,” stated Dr. David Williams, the Regional Vice President and Senior Medical Director of National Inpatient Care Management for UnitedHealthcare Clinical Services.

Who Is Impacted (Title X Patients) – InfographicDr. Holder continually states how important it is to have a doctor that is always stressing the importance of reproductive health, but now doctors in her field are scared for reproductive health rights being cut as a whole. This is being called a “trickle-down effect.” Before the Affordable Care Act, a pack of birth control pills cost upwards of $45, and Dr. Holder’s patients were stuck doing the math whether it would be cheaper to pay $300 for an IUD or pay monthly for birth control pills.

Dr. Serina Floyd, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC Medical Director said, “Yes, the [Trump] administration has definitely made many aggressive attempts to set back reproductive health rights through multiple different means…Even more locally where the attempt to allow employers to prevent coverage on the basis of moral or religious objection, which significantly affects many different individuals who work in places where their employer can basically say, ‘I don’t want to cover your contraception’ without having the same protections in place that were under the Obama Administration.”

Dr. Holder works closely with nutritionists and psychologists to completely utilize her experience in reproductive health and gynecology. She is currently a member of The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM). She also serves on the Meningococcal Vaccine Work Group on the advisory committee on Immunization Practices and the General Exam Committee of the American Board of Pediatrics.  

As for the future, Dr. Holder will be opening up a reproductive healthcare practice in Olney, MD to help Medstar expand their outreach. No one is currently practicing in that region. “I want to continue to be a resource for my colleagues in medicine in general for issues that many face,” Dr. Holder stated as she continued to ponder over how she wanted to make an impact in the medicine world.