Advocates Aligning – Lynette Ingram

Lynette Ingram has traveled to 39 states – but Omaha, Nebraska, is her home. 

It’s where Lynette attended Clifton Hill Elementary, Robbins Elementary School, Monroe Middle School, and Benson High School. It’s where she grew up on 45th and Pinkney, and where she finds her family. It’s where she believes institutional change must happen. 

Lynette is an Omaha professional that has long championed and supported Nebraskans. She’s worked at Bellevue University, now works at the Women’s Fund of Omaha as the Adolescent Health Project Director, and volunteers with the Women’s Center for Advancement and SAVE (Students. Activities. Values. Education.). She has a bachelor’s and graduate degree — and is ready to address systemic barriers in Nebraska. 

“There’s a lot of systematic and individualized racism that exists [in Nebraska],” Lynette states. 

It exists at all levels, Lynette explains. It begins with hatred at home, but people carry this into their professional lives, allowing the racism to impact systems. 

A study entitled “Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration” found major challenges for Black professionals in the workplace. 79% of black professionals in the Midwest say they have experienced racial prejudice at work, compared to 66% in the West, 56% in the South, and 44% in the Northeast. 

“It’s not in anyone’s imaginations,” says Lynette of referencing racism in the workplace. “There’s issues that exist.” 

This racism further impacts the ability of Black professionals to rise into leadership positions. A study by Lean In found that Black women are promoted at far lower rates than their White male counterparts — despite seeking promotions at similar rates. 

One solution Lynette offers is allyship. 

“Allyship is going to play an important role,” she says. “People have to be courageous and speak up and say something and do something. Those in areas of authority have abilities to make decisions on leadership and mentorship.”  

Organizational allyship can extend to other areas — including medical institutions that have historically, and currently, failed and fail Black women and women of color. 

According to the CDC, the pregnancy-related mortality ratio for black and AI/AN (American Indian and Alaska Native) women over the age of 30 is four to five times higher than it is for white women. 

Lynette cites this disparity as well and offers a few solutions: targeted trainings for medical professionals to listen and learn from Black women, understand the backgrounds of African American men and women, and the improvement of bedside manner. 

Listening and building positive relationships at all ages is an important part of Lynette’s experience. One of the lessons Lynette learned from her mom is the power of giving your time to others. 

Lynette both serves on the board and volunteers with SAVE, a program that assists Greater Omaha youth in grades 3-8 pair education and extracurricular activities. 

When volunteering, Lynette was once pulled aside by one of the students – they were considering transitioning.  

“I just want to know, when that times comes, will you help me?” the student asked Lynette. 

“There was something that she saw in me, and she had me crying like a baby,” Lynette said. “That’s a connection she will have for the rest of her life.” 

This level of care from Lynette echoes her insights on Black women in leadership connecting with youth.  

“We as Black women play a critical role in that — when they are able to see themselves in you and then hear your story, they are taking bits and pieces of what they are experiencing.” 

These bits and pieces can come from larger inspirations, as well. The recent nomination of Vice President Kamala Harris and the presidential inaugural poem read by poet laureate Amanda Gorman sent a message to young black girls worldwide says Lynette: anything is possible. 

“It takes not only a certain level of commitment and to be driven, but also to be compassionate, dedicated, and very open,” she says. “It’s something that really aided in Kamala Harris being chosen — she’s not like this cookie cutter mold we’ve seen before.” 

While Lynette was in disbelief when she found out Kamala was on the ticket, she cried when she and Joe Biden were elected. 

“When you look at all the presidents and vice presidents from the beginning of time, there’s no one who looked like me until these past ten years or so. That really speaks to Black women and young Black women.” 

As she champions change, Lynette Ingram lives her life as a true advocate: one that sees where change must be made — and works to make it happen. 

Seek, speak, and stand up: Jean Brinkman’s journey

From the Senate floor to the town of Tecumseh, Jean Brinkman has offered her time, dedication, and advocacy to family planning for over 40 years. In all of that time, she says, she has never had a dull day. 

When she started in 1980, Jean realized she could support women and families through her finance and accounting experience. Jean manages payroll and funding for the WIC and family planning services and serves as Deputy Director at Family Health Services, located in Tecumseh and Lincoln.  

Tecumseh, or as Jean calls it, “a little corner of the world,” has a population of 1,620. It is a small city that merges farm with town, family with community. 

This community is home to Jean’s 40 years of advocacy for Title X and family planning: she has taken the stories of clients and the need for these services to her community, to the Unicameral, and to Congress. 

This advocacy can be an uphill battle.  

“I wish the Senate could understand us better… I just want it to be accepted. Not just a little bit, not just by a few. By everyone.” 

She asks elected officials to look at their families: their daughters, wives, cousins, aunts and everyone around them to see how necessary these services are – and use that to promote Title X services nation-wide. 

Her friends would ask her if these challenges she faced ever made her want to throw in the towel. 

“No,” she would answer, “it made me want to be there more because I knew we could make it through it.” 

Jean has traveled down the road of women’s healthcare for 40 years and answers a critical question: why does women’s healthcare matter? 

“Women’s healthcare is something a woman must do for her lifetime – it’s ‘forever’ in a woman’s life. So why shouldn’t it be more available? Why must it be hush-hush?” 

Jean Brinkman

It’s clear that she has asked this question many times and has come to a few conclusions. Awareness and acceptance of these topics is key to helping people understand what family planning services are – and why they’re so important. 

Family planning encompasses a breadth of services in these clinics. Services include women’s annual appointments, cervical and breast cancer screenings, HIV testing, STI testing, birth control, pregnancy testing, and pap smears. 

The Guttmacher Institute reports that more than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. They also note that some 60% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method. 

“I want people to be open-minded. There are so many stories to listen to from these clients.” 

Stories of women feeling scared and alone, of young people seeking advice, and of Nebraskans in need of critical reproductive screening services are just a few of the tales Jean tells. They all revolve around the same mission of the clinic: we are here to help you, not to judge you. 

Out of the many, one stands out to Jean more than the rest.  

A couple came into the clinic seeking a pregnancy test. They were scared: the husband had recently lost his job and without insurance, the timing just wasn’t right. 

“They would’ve been okay, they knew whether positive or negative, they would have been okay.” 

In that moment, they needed someone. And in that moment, it was Jean Brinkman. Jean told the woman everything would be okay; she gave her a hug. 

The woman eyes filled with tears as she said she had never received a hug during a medical encounter. 

“I can’t forget her. I can’t forget her face,” Jean says. 

As the test came back negative, she embraced the husband as well. They left with a smile on their face. They had received the care and service necessary. 

They came back to the clinic a few years later with a cradled newborn. This time, the timing was right – the husband had found a steady job and they were ready to welcome a new life into their own. 

While Jean’s number-minded approach is her job, she embodies much more than that. She’s a welcoming face in this clinic – and these stories leave one stirred, empathetic, and uplifted. 

“Everyone has a purpose in this world. I feel my purpose is to help people,” she says. 

Jean’s help extends beyond Tecumseh and Lincoln as Family Health Services serves the southeast corner of Nebraska with suitcase clinics in Beatrice, Peru, and Crete. 

“We see everyone. We want to see everyone. And we will not refuse anyone,” Jean states. 

With retirement on the horizon, she says plainly, “As I retire, I don’t know how to retire. There is so much good in this work.” 

Jean realized she loved her job when she could help and support women every day. This program, she notes, is one of the most important she has ever seen, heard about, and one that everyone needs to know about. 

She offers sage advice for those who wish to advocate on behalf of women’s healthcare: if you can help people in the littlest of ways, that is what matters. 

And it’s clear she has done that hundreds of times over.  

Providing Choice in a Pandemic

Jessica Lothrop serves as Choice Family Health Care’s Director of Clinical Services.

Jessica Lothrop spends her days in Choice Family Health Care’s clinics in Grand Island and Kearney helping patients and addressing their sexual and reproductive health needs. As Director of Clinical Services, Jessica is adaptable — and ready to take on any health challenge arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Choice Family Health Care website notes that the clinics are operating in a “manner that reduces risks to staff and patient while supporting public health efforts within the community.”

Jessica described some steps Choice has taken to tackle pandemic-related challenges: “We were working from home during part of the pandemic, but we were able to give out extensions on pills, telehealth, curb-side pickup and Depo shots. Now, if someone asks for telehealth, we will do that.”

A June study by the Guttmacher Institute found that 24% of women using the pill had switched to a telemedicine appointment with their health care provider to have their prescription refilled during the pandemic.

So what does telehealth look like for a patient seeking reproductive and health services?

Jessica said the process is simple as Nebraska allows providers to prescribe birth control without an in-person visit.

Patients can call to request a telehealth appointment or use the choicefamilyhealthcare.org website to schedule appointments. Jessica suggests calling a receptionist at (308) 384-7625, who can walk a patient through the process.

During the appointment, Jessica says that patients and the doctor we will go over health history and verbally agree on consent forms.

People can explore different options and decide which contraceptive is best for them. Choice Family Health Care offers many options for those seeking birth control: pills, the Nuvaring, Depo shot, Nexplanon, Paragard, Mirena, and condoms.

Jessica notes that Choice has been fortunate to not experience any supply chain interruptions for prescriptions, a common worry for many health clinics across the nation.

Patients can come pick up their prescription at the Choice office or the doctor can call in to a pharmacy.

The June 2020 study found that over one in three women had trouble getting birth control services or had to cancel or postpone a sexual health appointment due to the pandemic. Being able to pay for contraceptives is a driving concern as well; 27% of women reported worries about affording and obtaining contraceptives in the pandemic.

Family planning services offered by Choice Family Health Care and many other clinics across the state can help alleviate these needs through low-to-no-cost birth control options.

“I feel family planning services are one of the important parts of health care. If they were not federally funded by Title X, many of our patients would not have access to birth control. It’s extremely important to provide birth control for young people, people who can’t afford these services, or anyone else who wants them,” Jessica says.

Living in the central part of the state adds another unique challenge.

Location makes all the difference in family planning services. The urban metropolitans of Omaha and Lincoln contrast to the sprawling rural farming land across the state. Nearly a third of Nebraskans live in rural areas.

Grand Island and Kearney are distinctive in landscape; they are the fourth and fifth largest cities of Nebraska, respectively, but are also surrounded by swaths of corn and soybean fields. This mix of town and country lead to a diverse group of patients: those from the urban cities, as well as those patients from smaller, rural towns such as Lexington, Shelton, Gibbon, and even Holdrege, 20 to 45 minutes outside the city.

Get a sense of Grand Island’s unique landscape in this drone video from JB Cinema.

Jessica advises all people, regardless of location, to not be apprehensive about coming into a clinic or setting up an appointment via telehealth. With pre-screening, masks, hand sanitizer, and temperature checks, Choice Family Healthcare is working to provide health care as safely, and quickly, for all Nebraskans — rural and urban.

The clinic welcomes all people, offers many birth control options, tests and treatment for STDs, HIV testing, annual exams, pap smears, pregnancy tests, testicular and breast cancer screenings, and more.

To learn more about your low-to-no-cost contraceptive options and to schedule an appointment, go to nefamilyplanning.org and click on the Clinic Locator.

Meet Angie Moon

Angie Moon’s passion for advocacy and teaching led her to Nebraska Family Planning. 

“Health care is a right,” says Angie Moon. “Everyone deserves to receive quality health care. Regardless of your background, your income, every variable. Regarding family planning services, it truly affects everyone.”  

At Nebraska Family Planning, Angie serves as Healthcare Strategist. Her day-to-day is filled with analyzing data, connecting with other health professionals and bringing together diverse groups to help Title X Agencies succeed by taking down structural and social barriers to health care. 

Nebraska’s diverse metropolitan and agricultural populations lead to unique challenges in providing health services, she says. But Angie is clear: location should not be a barrier.

“No one should be excluded from family planning services, regardless of where they are from,” she says. “We must not only provide these services, but make them readily available for anyone who wants them.”  

Location isn’t the only barrier to providing family health services.  

Poverty, education, insurance access and discrimination contribute to health disparities; underserved populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, women and other groups who persistently experience social disadvantage are also often affected. 

“We need to identify all of the health disparities at play. We must identify and examine,” Angie says. “Then we strategize and take down barriers. My role is to develop and implement strategies to take those barriers down.” 

Angie’s unique perspective is an asset to achieving Nebraska Family Planning’s mission.  

“In one aspect, I represent Asian-American heritage and am a minority. I think this helps me provide care for our patient population — who I think yearns for others who look like them. I also grew up in a small town, but I’ve transitioned to urban metropolitan Omaha. All of these aspects help me provide a unique perspective to Nebraska Family Planning.” 

In Angie’s eyes, she believes cultivating diverse relationships is necessary to achieving better family planning health outcomes. 

“We need to connect at a level we can all find joy in. Trust is not given, it is earned. We are struggling as a society to build trust and it needs to be secured. If we don’t offer and extend trust, we won’t accomplish anything as a state, a nation or as a world.” 

Angie believes Nebraska Family Planning will form these bonds and serve the state in a way that benefits all Nebraskans. 

“I want us to be the organization that doesn’t judge, doesn’t discriminate; we are inclusive, we are welcoming — one that is known for helping build families across the state.” 

Angie, DNP, FNP-C, APRN-NP, works as a Family Nurse Practitioner at CHI Health. Angie’s career spans multiple degrees from Creighton University, the UNMC Pediatric ICU, ConAgra Foods, CHI Health and even a candy striper in her hometown hospital.