Director, Reach the Decision-Makers


Marj co-created and directed Reach the Decision-Makers, a training program designed to increase advocacy leadership toward reducing a growing threat to reproductive health.  A rapidly expanding body of research indicates that exposure to chemicals that are widely dispersed in our environment may cause many reproductive health problems.  These health problems include infertility, miscarriage, poor pregnancy outcomes, abnormal fetal development, early puberty, endometriosis, and diseases and cancers of reproductive organs.

However, environmental protection from harmful chemicals lags far behind current scientific research.  Reach the Decision-Makers, a fellowship program of the UCSF Program for Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), aimedto improve protection from harmful chemicals via science-based advocacy.  The fellowshiptrainedscientists, community-based leaders, health care providers, and public health professionals towork in teamstoeffectively promote science-based health standards and public health policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Piloted in California in 2010 and expanded nationwide in 2011, the annual training program was ten months long and ran for six years.  Working with staff at PRHE, Marj developed curriculum, selected and prepared trainers, ran the program, and conducted some of the training.

Fellows worked in mentored teams of three to five to identify an engaging team project that addressed a pressing environmental reproductive health issue and also provided a good learning vehicle. Team projects could include working on specific regulatory activities (e.g., registering a particular pesticide), proposing new areas of research for funding or emphasis (e.g., a particular children’s environmental health issue), requesting EPA listening sessions on a particular environmental health issue, or asking for an EPA report on a topic of interest, such as improved air toxics monitoring near schools. 

Fellows learned how to identify the appropriate EPA office(s) and staff to address their policy issue, how to compile study results and stories for greatest impact, and how to prepare to make a specific policy ask.

“Marj’s development and facilitation of the Reach the Decision Makers program is inspired and inspiring.  Passionate about the intersection of environmental and reproductive justice, Marj has found an effective way to pull together representatives from many disciplines who work together in teams to educate the US EPA about issues of health relevant to communities.  It’s an opportunity to give people a voice in Washington and in policy making that they might not otherwise have.  Excellent work!”

—Traci Townsend
Program Manager, Pajaro Valley Health Action Team, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte

Watch this inspiring 9-minute video about the Reach the Decision Makers Program

Listen to powerful personal and professional change that happens when community members, public health professionals, scientists, and clinicians come together to advocate for reproductive environmental health with the US EPA.

“Marj brings a unique blend of both curriculum design skill and the ability to facilitate learning across the different groups. We’ve achieved more already then I ever thought possible.”

—Tracey J Woodruff, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor and Director Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment University of California San Francisco