Shanthi Ramesh 2006

  • Medical Director | Virginia League for Planned Parenthood
  • B.S., French (with a Chemistry minor) | Sweet Briar College, 2006
  • M.D., Obstetrics & Gynecology | Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, 2011 

As medical director of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, Shanthi Ramesh has a powerful voice in one of the most politically fraught issues of our day. She credits Sweet Briar with helping her find her voice.

It was the riding program that drew Shanthi to Sweet Briar, and like many students, she fell in love with the college as soon as she saw the beautiful campus. But its lasting impact, she says, came in the friends she made and the confidence she gained in her coursework.

“A lot of girls who are smart, they start to doubt it in high school. Do you raise your hand in class? Do you answer the question? Sweet Briar was a place where I could raise my hand,” she says.

A French major with a minor in chemistry, she started medical school in Ohio a year after graduating from Sweet Briar in 2006. She chose obstetrics and gynecology as her specialty because she wanted to focus her career on serving women. She did her residency in Chicago and was struck by how much more access women there had to health and abortion services than those in Ohio. She pursued a fellowship in family planning at the University of North Carolina, before returning to Virginia.

Three days a week she sees patients at Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Richmond and Virginia Beach, and she supervises the work of nurse practitioners in the clinics, which provide regular check-ups and contraceptives, as well as abortions. Her job also has an advocacy component: She testifies before the General Assembly, appears at rallies, and speaks to reporters.

In 2020, Shanthi and her team advocated successfully for turning back some of Virginia’s most restrictive policies on abortion. Now, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to ban the practice, she’s gearing up for a battle over new restrictions. She’s also watching the number of out-of-state women at her clinics swell from 10 percent to 30 percent of the patient load. “We are seeing people who can’t get the help they need where they live,” she says.

Shanthi doesn’t expect the issue to be resolved any time soon, especially since there’s no consensus at the federal level about how to handle abortion access. “So we’re going to see states pushing the envelope of what their voters will accept,” she says.

She says the confidence she gained at Sweet Briar has helped her take on this leadership role at a critical time and is pleased to see the college’s explicit emphasis on women’s leadership. “The intentionality is really important.”