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The University of Utah’s Family Planning Group developed the ASCENT Center for Reproductive Health, an interdisciplinary collaboration of passionate health care providers, researchers, educators, and administrators committed to elevating the health and wellbeing of our community through essential sexual and reproductive health care, education, and advocacy.

The Center supports and promotes proactive sexual and reproductive health policy and service provision and acts as a regional resource on sexual and reproductive health in the Mountain West by focusing on expanding and improving local contraceptive access and sexual and reproductive health care for all to support multi-disciplinary and collaborative goals. 

The ASCENT Center includes  members from the University of Utah’s:

There are many opportunities to blend different perspectives to find answers to important questions in the field. The ASCENT Center researchers and collaborators have been extremely productive in engaging quantitative and qualitative techniques to address important issues in family planning.

research programs

The state of Utah and the university have several established programs that facilitate family planning research.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The department has an extensive history of productive NIH-funding. Corresponding with this are long-term positive relationships between U of U investigators and NIH program scientists and administrators. The Department has become a leading academic force over the past 30 years. The Department has had a sustained academic focus and now has nationally recognized academic programs in maternal fetal medicine, family planning, reproductive genetics, reproductive immunology, reproductive endocrinology and urogynecology. 

The Department has an extensive history of productive NIH funded research research with several NICHD multicenter trials networks including participation in the Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network. The Department is also home to the ELEVATE Center, a collaborative statewide project addressing reductions in maternal mortality through improvements in obstetric care to native and rural populations and those with substance use disorders.  We are also a Women’s Reproductive Health Research (WRHR), one of 15 academic centers nationally funded by the NIH to support career development of future research leaders.

The clinical work of the Department occurs throughout the University of Utah healthcare system (U Health) which operates 11 community clinics spread across Salt Lake City and the entire State of Utah. In conjunction with the U Health Regional Affiliate Network, U Health provides services to residents throughout the state.

Obstetrics and Gynecology Research Network (OGRN)

Over the preceding two decades, the U of U Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has developed an experienced research infrastructure consisting of:

  1. a central administrative core that provides protocol development as well as IRB, compliance, human resource, and financial oversight for all active research protocols, and, 
  2. clinic research personnel in the five tertiary hospitals (which includes Intermountain Healthcare facilities), as well as the offices of over 120 women’s health care providers, in the northern Utah urban corridor.

Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI)

The U of U Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is directed by Dr. Rachel Hess. Building on this history of early translational research, the CTSI has leveraged its expertise in workforce development, community engagement, clinical trials services, informatics, regulatory knowledge, and research methodology (including population health science) to enhance translational science across the entire spectrum.

The core services offered by the Utah CTSI increase the visibility, volume, and quality of translational research by connecting investigators at the University with other health care institutions, clinical practitioners, public health personnel, patients, and research participants. CTSI formally links research activities across systems that together provide health care coverage to 80% of Utah’s population as well as patients in surrounding states.

To provide superior support for research across the spectrum of science, CTSI has established resources comprised in four Foundations for Discovery:

  1. Clinical Trials Support;
  2. Population Health Research;
  3. Precision Medicine; and
  4. Workforce Development.

In addition, there are centralized, cross cutting-cores available to investigators from all partnering organizations, including:

A) Biomedical Informatics Core (BMIC),

B) Community Collaboration Engagement Team (CCET),

C) Population Health Research;

D) Clinical Trials Services (CTS);

E) Data Science Services (DSS);

F) Cellular Translational Research Core (CTRC); and

G) Precision Medicine. The resources and services provided through the CTSI furthers the success of the clinical and translational research community.

utah population database

The Utah Population Database (UPD) is a statewide resource that contains health outcomes for several generations and detailed content on recent health events of all Utah residents.

The UPD gives Utah researchers a distinctive advantage in conducting epidemiologic research.

Division in Maternal-Fetal Medicine

The Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division in the OB/GYN department has a number of projects looking at pregnancy loss and determinants of future pregnancy success. This formidable resource combined with UPD resources creates outstanding opportunities to study pregnancy spacing and gestational success and failures.

This MFM group offers additional collaborations through its pioneering work in the fields of proteomics and genomics as well as a joint effort with The Division of Family Planning and The ASCENT Center for reproductive health.

Pharmacology Outcomes Research Center

The University’s College of Pharmacy is home to the Pharmacology Outcomes Research Center (PORC). The center is a valuable resource for investigating prescription contraceptive use and clinical endpoints. 

faculty research projects

Faculty research occurs under the umbrella of The ASCENT Center for Reproductive Health. Recent projects include:

Implant EC

This RCT assesses the efficacy of the etonogestrel implant to serve as method of emergency contraception through our productive collaboration with Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and is funded through an NIH R01.

HER Salt Lake City

HER Salt Lake provided free birth control to more than 7,400 people in Salt Lake County; 4,400 of those individuals enrolled in a longitudinal study and are helping us understand the social, health, and economic impacts that free contraception has on their lives.

Family Planning Elevated

Family Planning Elevated expands access to contraceptive education, training, and capacity-building for Utah health care centers and providers in an effort to improve equitable, person-centered, comprehensive contraceptive services across the state of Utah. We're helping uninsured, underinsured, and undocumented Utahns get the methods they want, without cost or distance being a barrier.


The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated in a randomized trial that the  levonorgestrel 52 mg IUD is non-inferior to the copper IUD for emergency contraception. We recruited 638 participants seeking emergency contraception at three Utah family planning clinics, randomly assigning them to one device or the other. These data now support an NIH R01 demonstrating reproducibility of these results at Planned Parenthood locations across the country.

Access Elevated

This statewide project supports access to the full range of reproductive health options throughout Utah supporting a wide range of efforts to broaden availability of medications and services.

Education Time Out

Led by Fellowship faculty member Dr. Jennifer Kaiser, this project creates a new paradigm for surgical education by incorporating a brief intervention to focus surgical learning before, during, and after operative cases.


Fellows will work closely with the fellowship directors, Complex Family Planning clinical faculty, and ASCENT Center research faculty and staff with expertise in sexual and reproductive health research and methodology.

In all cases, fellows will pursue a mentored relationship with another university faculty researcher with experience in their area of focus.

NIH-Sponsored Researchers and Networks

A tremendous array of research resources exist within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the most important of which is a large group of easily accessible NIH-sponsored researchers.] This group of potential mentors can provide advice on study design and execution but also on local and national research resources, funding, and career development.

Contact Us

Phone: 801-581-7647
Fax: 801-585-5146

Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Family Planning Program

Salt Lake City, UT 84132