Cynthia Harper, PhD

Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
Director, Beyond the Pill Program
Overall Director, UCSF/KPNC BIRCWH Program​
Research Director, Bixby Population Sciences Research Unit


Dr. Harper is the director of the UCSF-Kaiser Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program. She leads the Beyond the Pill research and training program, which aims to improve family planning policies and service delivery through streamlined access to care. Dr. Harper has worked to remove unnecessary procedures in contraceptive care, including the pelvic examination for hormonal contraception and lengthy protocols for long-acting contraceptives. Her research has supported expanded roles of nursing and pharmacy professions in contraceptive delivery, including over-the-counter access. She has conducted research in emergency contraception that helped to transform clinical practice and policy, and led to the FDA approval of over-the-counter status of levonorgestrel emergency contraception and the removal of the age restriction.

Dr. Harper recently completed a national cluster randomized trial on long-acting contraceptives in 40 Planned Parenthood health centers demonstrating the effectiveness of a UCSF Bixby provider training curriculum in reducing unintended pregnancy among family planning clients. Her research team is conducting implementation science with provider training and patient education initiatives in a variety of clinic settings, including departments of health, hospitals, and primary care. She also heads an initiative to bring contraceptive training and education to community colleges to help support student degree completion.

Dr. Harper has worked together with investigators in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, including a multi-center National Institutes of Health study on physician and nurse attitudes and clinical practices in HIV prevention and contraception. She has measured the impact of unsafe abortion on maternal morbidity and mortality in developing regions, and has evaluated the impact of policy changes on the safety of services. 

Areas of interest:

  • Access to contraception
  • Long-acting reversible contraception
  • Provider training and clinical practices
  • Emergency contraception
  • Adolescent contraception
  • Family planning policies
  • HIV/STI prevention among women


Honors and awards: 

  • Guttmacher Institute’s Darroch Award in Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research, 2013



  • University of Pennsylvania, Postdoctoral Fellow 
  • Middlebury College, Bachelor's in Political Science
  • Columbia University, Master’s in International and Public Affairs
  • Princeton University, Doctorate in Demography and Public Policy