Dr. Caitlin Gerdts receives Society of Family Planning’s 2023 lifetime achievement award

August 2023 | Statement
August 2023

August 22, 2023 – Today, the Society of Family Planning announced that Ibis’s Vice President for Research, Dr. Caitlin Gerdts, has received their 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals who have dedicated their careers to advancing the science of abortion and contraception and have supported others in achieving their own success. 

Upon acceptance of this award, Dr. Gerdts released the following statement: 

"With this award, the Society of Family Planning is recognizing a body of work that is profoundly collaborative, and an approach to research that acknowledges the shameful role that research has played in perpetuating systemic inequities and harm and seeks to do better. An award for work that I have engaged in in my lifetime is, in fact, a celebration of the many, many lifetime achievements of the activists, advocates, providers, communities, and colleagues, who have been my partners in research. The work I do cannot, by any measure, reasonably be referred to as my own; research, for me, has always been synonymous with partnership. It is the expertise and lived experiences of my research partners and co-conspirators that inform the questions that need, urgently, to be answered, and their commitment to collaborative study design and implementation that inspires participation in that research. Ultimately, they are the ones who consistently hold the research process, and me, accountable to advancing justice.”

As Vice President for Research, Dr. Gerdts leads the development and implementation of Ibis’s research agenda. She has contributed to the field of global sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice through conducting groundbreaking, collaborative, and partner-driven research; championing the next generation of activist-researchers; and identifying creative and impactful ways to use rigorous research to advance access to high-quality abortion care.  

Beyond her own work, Dr. Gerdts’s legacy will include the research she has inspired through the generations of researchers she has mentored who will continue to support advances in sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice and build the partnerships that share and build power with the advocates and communities who make the change we seek. 

Dr. Gerdts’s leadership at Ibis exemplifies our approach to research, which aims to use a human rights and reproductive justice lens throughout the research process. Ibis understands that research is necessary, but not sufficient for the change we seek, and that large-scale change requires collaboration with advocates and other change champions. Moreover, we recognize that the tools of academic research are a source of power that can be wielded to benefit or harm the communities we seek to serve, which is why we are committed to sharing and building power with our partners through principled partnership

We are heartened that the Society of Family Planning has recognized both Dr. Gerdts and this approach to research with their Lifetime Achievement Award. We hope that this recognition will inspire more researchers in our field to examine their responsibility to the communities they seek to serve, and ground their research in values of respect, mutual accountability, and shared power. At a time when attacks on abortion in the US continue to push clinic-based care out of reach, put abortion-seekers from impacted communities at disproportionate risk for criminalization, and spur the need for broader incorporation of misoprostol-only regimens, this collaborative, person-centered approach to research is more important than ever. 

Read more about Ibis’s approach to research here