“I consider myself a feet-on-the-ground doctor.”
Ellyn Stecker, M.D., applied for medical school in the early 1970s, “when there were still quotas for women” and only a few women were admitted. After three years of persistence and legislation mandating equal opportunity for women, Dr. Ellyn began seven years of training that would underpin her lifetime commitment to both health care and civil rights.
Dr. Ellyn’s career spans 35 years, 20 as a family physician in private practice followed by 15 as a part-time substitute physician and global volunteer. Her work as a medical resident at Planned Parenthood inspired her lifelong commitment in support of women’s reproductive rights. Speaking of the controversy that surrounds women’s reproductive choice, Dr. Ellyn reflects that “fortunately, physicians have some autonomy.”
Dr. Ellyn’s medical and community service has included service with Planned Parenthood at the local and state levels and continues today with Community Action Partners of PPINK. She has served many years on medical committees related to ethics and cancer research, and as a board member and medical provider for Healthy Start, a free pediatric clinic. Dr. Ellyn has been a tireless volunteer at home and abroad, providing quality health care close to home in Houston, Gulfport, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and at independent clinics in Peru and Mexico. For twelve years, she has volunteered three to four weeks a year providing medical services to the underprivileged in Nicaragua with Olive Tree, which she and her husband, retired Saint Mary’s College Professor Peter Smith, helped to found.
After retirement Dr. Ellyn also became more active in the local community. She has been an active local leader in the in the National Organization for Women for 20 years. In collaboration with others, Dr. Ellyn helped compile and distribute “Around the Bend,” a progressive local newsletter. Dr. Ellyn continues to champion women’s rights as an outspoken advocate for reproductive choice.
Dr. Ellyn summarizes her philosophy of community involvement as one in which you “develop a consciousness for certain issues and convey them to others.”
- Family Medicine Physician
- American and Indiana Academy of Family Physicians
- Member, National Organization for Women
- Member, Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition
- Institutional Review Board member, Northern Indiana Cancer Research Consortium
- Past Board Member, Planned Parenthood IN/KY
Information compiled from oral history collected by The Michiana Women Leaders Project
Dr. Ellyn was honored at Celebrating Michiana Women Leaders 2016.