Quam taking on global health challenges

Marshall High graduate named CEO of Pathfinder

A former Marshall woman will be facing global challenges as she takes on her new role as CEO of Pathfinder International, a non-government organization dedicated to women’s health.

Pathfinder’s board of directors named Lois Quam CEO last week after conducting an international search. She is a 1979 graduate of Marshall High School.

“I’m very pleased to be taking on this new role,” Quam said Monday. She said she was honored to join Pathfinder’s international team, which has 60 years of experience working to support women’s health. In a news release from Pathfinder International, Quam said she was inspired by Pathfinder’s mission and record of service.

Pathfinder partners with local governments, communities and health systems to help women get vital health services. Those services range from family planning and access to contraception, to efforts to help stop the spread of HIV, and care for women during pregnancy and childbirth.

“Hundreds of women die every day giving birth,” Quam said. She said she would like to like to see every woman be able to have the same kind of medical support and care as pregnant women have in communities like Marshall.

The health services Pathfinder works to support help women in parts of the world where medical care can be difficult to come by, Quam said. Those places can include less-developed countries, and conflict zones. Pathfinder International currently works in 19 countries around the world, including nations in Africa, Asia and South America.

Quam will be bringing her leadership to Pathfinder International at an important time for women’s health issues, Pathfinder spokespeople said. Last week, President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which has also become known as the “global gag rule.” The rule, originally put in place by President Ronald Reagan, prevents health organizations from receiving U.S. government funding, if the organizations provide or give information related to abortions.

“My colleagues have seen how things work when the gag rule is in place,” Quam said. The rule can make it more challenging for women to get the full range of medical care or advice they may need.

However, Quam said Pathfinder International will continue to work with its partners around the world to help serve women’s health. Having local partners has always been important for Pathfinder. Quam said it helps find solutions that work best for communities in different parts of the world.

Quam said she was “very excited” about taking on a leadership role with Pathfinder International. In March, she will have a chance to visit some of the places around the world where the organization works.

“We’re going to try to get to two or three countries in Africa,” Quam said. It will be an opportunity to learn, and to see the impact that health programs have.

Quam has gone on to serve a variety of leadership roles. She was the founding CEO of Ovations, a division of UnitedHealth Group. She has served as chief operating officer of the Nature Conservancy and as executive director of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Health Initiative. Quam is a faculty member at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

Quam said she felt her work and life experience — including her time in Marshall — has helped prepare her for her new role at Pathfinder.

“I feel that it’s important for each of us to use our skills to do the most good we can,” Quam said.


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