Five Questions with Lisa Garland

Lisa Garland is a reproductive health educator and undercover Spanish speaker.


Lisa spends some quality time with a four-legged friend. (Contributed photo)

Lisa spends some quality time with her cat, Archie. (Contributed photo)

Name: Lisa Garland
Position: Graduate student in the Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP)
Years at Gillings: I’m in my second year.


What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): I study reproductive health. The great thing about PHLP is how flexible the program is, how it lets you take classes in other departments at Gillings. I’ve been learning from my core work how to conduct program evaluation, and I’ve also been taking courses in the maternal and child health department that support my specific career interests.


I got into this field of study: when I started working as a peer educator with Planned Parenthood at the age of 15. I grew up in a pretty conservative household, but getting the training for that job really opened my eyes to what else was out there, and my love for reproductive health blossomed. I completed my undergraduate studies at UNC with a degree in sociology. During that time, I conducted a lot of sex education with Latino communities, and I also did two advocacy-focused stints with Planned Parenthood.

My story before Gillings taught me that advocacy work is really cool, but I love teaching more. After college, I spent three years in the Bronx teaching sex education. Then I returned to Planned Parenthood in North Carolina, and now I work twenty hours a week running two programs for middle school girls and high school youth. I also conduct trainings as requested, usually to explain birth control or talk about healthy relationships.


If I could have one superpower, it would be: flying. I mean, I’m a classic do-gooder, so my first instinct is to figure out a power that can serve the public good… but it’s hard. Flying doesn’t really help people, unless I carry them from place to place. I could be invisible or read minds, but that seems like an invasion of privacy. You know, I’m just going to choose this answer for myself and say I would be able to fly! On my first trip, I’d go see my grandma in Guatemala.


Something most people don’t know about me is: I’m actually Hispanic. I look white, so it can catch people off-guard and lead to a lot of funny incidents. For example, sometimes I’ll overhear my students talking among themselves in Spanish about the material I’m teaching, and I’ll drop the bomb of, “Hey, I speak Spanish too, you know.” It usually ends up with the whole group laughing.


Something I dream of doing down the road is: taking care of animals. I really love them – they are my second great passion after reproductive health – and I used to volunteer a lot with AnimalKind in Raleigh to give out vouchers for spaying and neutering. Like I said, my family is from Guatemala, and Central America doesn’t have many good animal shelters. I’d like to get a grant one day to travel there and start a no-kill shelter to keep dogs and cats off the streets.


Lisa was nominated by Mara Howard-Williams, a fellow PHLP student, who said:Lisa has a broad and valuable experience teaching teenagers about sexual and reproductive health. She has worked with several different populations, and I believe her experience should be shared with the greater Gillings community.”