Practicing Family Planning Procedures on Papayas


Nursing Students for Choice and Medical Students for Choice have once again coordinated the student-led elective, Family Planning and Reproductive Choices this winter.

The course focuses on the legal, political, structural, and cultural factors preventing people from exercising choices about their reproductive health care. Lectures and workshops are led by renowned health care providers, counselors, and activists as well as some of the U.S.’s leading abortion scholars.

Among its activities was the January 13 workshop for hands-on practice with IUD insertions and manual vacuum aspirations (MVA.)

More than 40 students representing the schools of nursing, medicine, and pharmacy got to practice skills using papayas to simulate a uterus with guidance from UCSF Family Planning Fellow, Valerie French, MD, MAS and her colleagues from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.

Most of these students have little exposure to hands-on training for manual vacuum aspiration, so this was a rare opportunity to learn more about the equipment and technique.

On her experience at the workshop, one first year Master’s in Nursing student said, “I was really glad I did it. I defend the right to access abortion on principle, but never really had the chance to understand the exact process involved because I’ve never worked in an abortion clinic. It was nice to actually handle the instruments versus just seeing pictures of them. The tenaculum can look kind of scary in pictures!”

Other topics include an update on the current state of the abortion conflict in the U.S., a panel discussion on how to bridge the divide between pro-choice and pro-life colleagues as well as lectures on the history of adoption, the Turnaway Study, the provision of obstetric care in Catholic hospitals, how to use a reproductive justice framework in health care, and more.

The elective has no assignments; students must only attend eight of the 10 class meetings to get credit, with make-up sessions available. Students from all UCSF schools are warmly welcomed.

Keep the elective in mind for next winter quarter. It is open to all UCSF schools and is held Wednesdays at the lunch hour. Nursing or medical students interested in joining UCSF Students for Choice can email Kathleen Reutter or Nisha Patel for more information.