Health for All

Annie Griffith turned to Montana to serve in an Oberlin alumna’s reproductive health clinic.

June 20, 2023

Tyler Applegate

Annie Griffith and her internship mentor, Helen Weems, outside All Families Healthcare.
Annie Griffith (right) with Helen Weems ’91, director of All Families Healthcare in Whitefish, Montana, where Griffith served as an intern.
Photo credit: courtesy of Annie Griffith

Annie Griffith found her passion for reproductive health issues stoked by ongoing conversations soon after she arrived in Oberlin. Those campus connections inspired her to become involved on a national level—and this year led her to an Obie mentor in a somewhat unlikely place.

In January, Griffith completed a Winter Term internship at All Families Healthcare, a reproductive health clinic in rural Whitefish, Montana, where she worked under the guidance of nurse practitioner Helen Weems ’91, the clinic’s director. A former environmental studies major at Oberlin, Weems was celebrated locally for rebuilding All Families after its original location was intentionally destroyed, then for successfully suing the state of Montana to expand abortion access. Inspired by Weems' monumental victory—and with key support from biology professor Maureen Peters—Griffith secured an internship at Weems’ clinic during Winter Term of her junior year.

Now a rising senior with majors in psychology and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies, Griffith gained unique insight into the clinic’s day-to-day operations and the lives of the people who depend on them. "I was exposed to all aspects of a small, community-engaged, reproductive health-care clinic,” she says. “This included learning about administrative and clinical facets, research projects, continuing education, and community outreach." 

One of the things I find both interesting and disheartening about the health-care industry is the amount of medical gaslighting and trauma people experience upon entering a doctor’s office.”

— Annie Griffith

But the impact of Giffith’s experience extends far beyond the daily tasks she performed. From her clinic co-workers, and particularly Weems, she came away reassured by a field that had previously left her feeling discouraged. “One of the things I find both interesting and disheartening about the health-care industry is the amount of medical gaslighting and trauma people experience upon entering a doctor's office,” she says. 

Nuances of human interaction are central to Griffith’s Oberlin studies too. She is a psychology research assistant under professor Sara Verosky, with whom she has worked on experiments that focus on how people make judgments about one another based on facial perceptions.

The compassion she witnessed at All Families turned her passion into a drive to pursue a career that supports reproductive rights, and she credits Oberlin with fostering that devotion. She considers campus a safe space for students to express their beliefs, grapple with societal issues together, and expand their understanding and expertise. She trained to be an abortion doula with the Oberlin Doula Collective, where she learned how to care for people experiencing abortions. During spring semester, she presented at Oberlin’s Reproductive Justice Symposium, joining fellow students in detailing practical implications related to abortion access in Ohio since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Her presentation included resources currently available as well as those no longer available as a result of the Supreme Court decision.

Griffith believes that academic institutions are the perfect place to cultivate sexual and reproductive health advocacy. “The best way for Oberlin to be supportive of their students who are passionate about these topics would be to support, advocate for, and fund the organizations that are already in place,” she says, emphasizing the importance of the Sexual Information Center (SIC) and Survivors of Sexual Harm and Allies (SOSHA), among other groups.

To Griffith, the simple things—such as donations of time, money, and activism—go a long way in alleviating the challenges faced by citizens in regions that are restricted in their access to reproductive health care. “Vote in local and national elections, call your representatives, talk to your older relatives who may have different opinions, and share your story,” she says.

Perhaps more than anything, Griffith’s journey underscores the transformative power of a dedicated community.  

“Working at the clinic reinforced my passion for reproductive justice and health care equality,” she says, “and reminded me how important this work is.”

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