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Committed to the Cause of Complex Family Planning

Photo of Dr. Michael Belmonte smiling into the camera. He is wearing a gray blazer, white shirt, and multicolored tie.

We see patients in life-threatening situations who’ve been given no other choice.”

Dr. Michael Belmonte advocates for the health of those in multiple adverse communities, including minority populations, those impacted by domestic violence, LGBQTIA+ patients, and most recently, patients seeking complex family planning services such as contraceptive and abortion care –

And he credits his longstanding relationship with National Medical Fellowships for providing him the structures and supports to do so.

“The scholarships and programs I’ve been a part of through NMF have been pivotal in my being able to make the changes I want to see in our world. My mission now is to give back to the communities I’ve grown up with and those in which I identify.”

Belmonte suffered from unmanaged asthma while growing up in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. After spending so much time with medical professionals due to his condition, he felt confident in his ability to help family members navigate the health care system by translating Spanish to English.

This led him to study at Northwestern University, where he was told by a pre-medical advisor that his academic performance would forever keep him from becoming a doctor.

His friends at the university’s multicultural center, however, encouraged him to keep going.

“I was surrounded by peers who’d been brought up in similar backgrounds, who understood the nuances of needing to work to put myself through school and managing family expectations,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte joined the Medicina Scholars program within the Hispanic Center of Excellence at the University of Illinois to learn and shadow as much as possible within the medical profession before graduating from Northwestern with a Bachelor of Science in Human Communication Sciences and Disorders.

He then enlisted in an AmeriCorps program at the Misericordia Home in Rogers Park, where he lived with and assisted those with developmental disabilities.

“It was a great way for me to use what I’d learned during undergrad to give back,” Belmonte said.

It also helped him get admitted to medical school at the University of Illinois, where he gravitated toward the Urban Medicine program to focus on domestic violence and minority pipeline programs.

“I’d intended to study general surgery, but didn’t feel as though I could develop long-term relationships or make lasting changes within communities in that field.”

Belmonte also applied and was admitted to National Medical Fellowships’ David Monash/John Caldwell Scoot Medical Student Scholarship program to focus on converting Latino pipeline programs into online spaces to reach more participants outside of the Chicagoland area.

But it wasn’t until Belmonte shadowed a fellow student studying obstetrics and gynecology – and joined her at a Medical Students for Choice conference – that he realized he could have the largest impact in complex family planning by focusing on contraceptive and abortion care.

“I’d be helping patients during extremely vulnerable times in their lives,” he said.

Belmonte’s residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Indiana University not only allowed him to continue training as a Clinician Educator, but also exposed him to those advocating for institutional, local, state, and national health laws that most benefitted patients.

“By providing testimony and participating in media interviews, I could share not only facts and research but also patient stories to help people gain a broader understanding of the importance of family planning care, and the severe repercussions that often occur without it.”

He did so despite the evident danger.

“I discussed continuing this work with my husband because I once was followed home and received hate mail at our private residence,” Belmonte said. “But he’s very supportive, and I’ve only grown more emboldened.”

Belmonte is currently completing his fellowship in complex family planning at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine.

“Post-Dobbs, we’re seeing patients from Texas, Utah, Florida, from all over the country who now need to travel to receive care,” he said. “There’s even a wait list, which further complicates matters because the longer the wait, the more invasive and expensive procedures become.”

“There are significant physical, logistical, and financial risks these patients face before arriving at our doors. I’ve seen patients whose waters have broken too early for pregnancies to remain viable, but doctors could not provide necessary care due to lingering cardiac activity. I’ve even had patients drive or fly on planes while hemorrhaging because their doctors back home couldn’t help.”

That’s why Belmonte has accepted and will be starting a new position as the Darney-Landy fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington D.C. this summer.

“I’ll continue educating and advocating for complex family planning services and other intersectional issues nationwide, while also helping to update guidelines in these spaces so that every obstetrician and gynecologist is best informed,” he said.

Belmonte also hopes to use what he learned during NMF’s Diversity in Clinical Trials Research program to increase the diversity of participants in contraceptive trials to more effectively reduce side effects and incorporate cultural nuances.

“I am truly grateful to NMF and look forward to working together with them long into the future.”