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Old Friends, New Synergy

by Geoff Brumfiel

When Jane Bertrand and Amy Tsui studied sociology and demography at the University of Chicago in the late 1970s, they were more than just friends—"We were commiserators," recalls Tsui. The PhD candidates attended the same courses, shared the same advisor, and took the same exams. But after graduation, the two went their separate ways: Bertrand traveled to Tulane University in New Orleans, where she began investigating the role education campaigns play in reproductive health, while Tsui stayed in Chicago to continue her population research.

In the ensuing years, both women became leaders in their fields. In 1982, Tsui joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina where she began research aimed at understanding why people use contraceptives and how programs can further encourage their use. Recently, she's been working on expanding family planning services. "There's interest now in further integrating family planning into [other] health care services," she says. Meanwhile, Bertrand, who joined the faculty at Tulane in 1979, has worked on different aspects of family planning campaigns in Guatemala, Zaire, and Morocco, and she's seen results. "Family planning, to the surprise of many, has been phenomenally successful," she says. For example, the birth rate in Latin America has dropped from six to three children per family over the past 30 years. In 1991, both Bertrand and Tsui headed a six-year comprehensive USAID evaluation of family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide.

After two decades of achievements, this duo has been reunited at the School. Bertrand will soon head the School's Center for Communication Programs (CCP), and Tsui will direct the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. The two hope to use their skills to take the CCP and the Gates Institute in exciting new directions. Bertrand would like to use her experience in family planning to help the CCP strengthen campaigns for HIV/AIDS prevention, and Tsui wants to promote research aimed at furthering civic and governmental leadership skills and improving reproductive health. Both women bring great leadership and expertise to their positions, says Bernard Guyer, MD, MPH, chair of Population and Family Health Sciences. "Together they will continue to work towards improving the lives of millions," he says.