Dr. Gary Gross, Boston champion for reproductive justice, retires as ABCD medical director

Source: ABCD

ABCD will honor Dr. Gross at fall gala


April 7, 2022

Susan Kooperstein                                    

(BOSTON, MA) – John J. Drew, President/CEO, Action for Boston Community Development, today congratulated Boston physician Gary L. Gross, M.D., for his courageous and effective leadership of programs that enable individuals of all economic means to have access to family planning and high-quality health care. Drew said that ABCD will honor Dr. Gross at the organization’s fall Community Heroes Celebration.

Dr. Gross retired on March 31 as medical director of ABCD Family Planning Services after serving in that position since 1981. Those critical ABCD services are funded in large part by the federal Title X Family Planning Program, dedicated to providing comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. State funding also supports the program.

“We can’t thank Dr. Gross enough for his tireless and outstanding work over the past 40 years to ensure that people in need throughout Boston area low-income communities receive access to the highest quality health services available, making a difference in reducing health care disparities in disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said Drew. “He is a fighter for the underserved, a hero for the rights of women and families. He played a significant role in bringing Title X Family Planning services to Massachusetts, he unfailingly advocated for Family Planning at the state level, and he provided consistent and effective leadership to the program.”. .

Joan Whitaker, former Director of ABCD Health Services, who worked with Dr. Gross for many years, applauded his effective efforts to attain and safeguard funding at federal and state levels for ongoing family planning services and his work to ensure high quality care for all. “He made sure that our thousands of clients received optimal care and that our health care professionals received the most up-to-date training available,” she said. “His unflinching support for the program in difficult times, his exceptional expertise and judgment, coupled with his kindness, make him a valued colleague.”

Dr. Gross said he is honored and humbled to be recognized by ABCD. “It was a privilege to work with ABCD’s leadership for so many years – Bob Coard and John Drew – and key members of the health care team – Connie Carey, Mary Russell, Joan Whitaker, Deborah Dill, Christina Lombardo and Jessica Aguilera-Steinert as well as many others. All we accomplished was a true collaborative venture.”

“It was earth-shaking at the time for ABCD to receive the first Title X grant for Family Planning Services in Massachusetts,” Dr.Gross said. “And since then ABCD has continued and expanded those services to meet changing needs. ABCD has become one of the outstanding Title X grantees in the nation.”

Dr. Gross also noted that in developing the initial Boston-area Title X proposal 55 years ago “It was our collective inspiration to embrace ABCD’s role and participation in local communities characterized both by poverty and color and to establish family planning programs within the neighborhood health centers, sites that were staffed and led by people of the community.”

Jessica Aguilera-Steinart, current ABCD Health Services Director, said that she is proud to be leading ABCD’s outstanding Family Planning program and that Dr. Gross’s legacy speaks for itself. “It’s clear that ABCD Family Planning is a leader in providing health services to the individuals that depend upon them and Dr. Gross has made such a significant contribution to our program and to all those in the Boston area and beyond whom his work has touched,” she said.

A history of courageous, collaborative initiatives to bring quality health care to the underserved

Here are just a few of the highlights of Dr. Gross’s work in Boston and the nation during tumultuous years for family planning and women’s rights.

  • Bringing Title X funding to MA: During the winter of 1974-75, Dr. Gross collaborated with key community leaders to form the Massachusetts Family Planning Consortium. The group outlined plans for the initial grant application for Title X funding for Massachusetts with ABCD as the grantee for the Greater Boston area where there was a strong focus.  Dr. Gross served as chair of the consortium and upon receipt of funding, services were provided through Boston’s neighborhood health centers. Under this umbrella, one of the largest, most effective and lowest cost-per-patient programs for delivering reproductive care in the country under Title X was developed.
  • Infertility care: Dr. Gross created a partnership with Barbara Eck Menning, founder of RESOLVE, then a single-chapter organization based in Belmont that provided education and counseling to infertile couples. They established the first-ever Title X funded program for early diagnosis and treatment of infertility within family planning sites, helping to make RESOLVE a nationwide organization and bringing the middle class luxury of infertility care directly to the communities served by ABCD. It was a model for Title X’s current funding of infertility care.
  • Natural Family Planning: Mindful of prevalent issues regarding medical forms of contraception, Dr. Gross ensured affiliation with programs that provided enlightened advice on natural family planning including the Laboure program at St. Margaret’s Hospital and a connection with Georgetown University’s “CycleBeads” to provide guidance in natural family planning.
  • Male involvement: Throughout Family Planning’s existence, Dr. Gross has emphasized the involvement of men as well as women and encouraged the counseling of both adolescent and adult men as an important part of the program.
  • Historical events: Involved in key events marking the evolution of women’s rights, access to contraception and provision of quality health care free from interference, Dr. Gross provided the keynote speech at an ABCD-organized event at the Massachusetts State House in 2005 celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Griswold vs. Connecticut. That decision paved the way to nearly unanimous acceptance of contraception in America. Before that, in Connecticut and several other states, birth control counseling and prescription of contraceptives was illegal. Dr. Gross was also invited to Washington, DC to participate in a national celebration of Griswold vs. Connecticut. In an interview at the time, he said: “This ruling meant that the police had no right to raid your house looking for evidence of contraception.”


Dr. Gross holds a B.S. from Union College, received his M.D. from Yale University, and served as an intern in surgery at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital in 1966 and a resident and then Chief Resident in obstetrics-gynecology at Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1966-1970. He has held numerous academic and clinical appointments and fellowships at Harvard University, Yale University and other universities and medical centers. He served as Medical Director for ABCD Family Planning from 1981 to 2022 and also served for many years on the Board of Directors and as Board President of RESOLVE. He has been a member of numerous professional societies and has received many honors and awards.


About ABCD

A nonprofit human services community action organization, ABCD provides low-income residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, we’ve served more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For more than 50 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in every neighborhood and community served, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.