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Guest resigns as president of Planned Parenthood of Md.

The high-profile, outspoken president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland announced his resignation yesterday, in response to the organization's move to cope with increasingly complex health care challenges.

James Guest, who has been president for 5 1/2 years, said he will step down Jan. 6. The decision came Tuesday at a meeting with Planned Parenthood's executive and finance committees.

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Ann Gallant, Planned Parenthood's board chair, said a change in leadership will be part of a restructuring by the organization.

While praising Mr. Guest's skills as a public policy advocate, she said the group would look for a new president with expertise "in the delivery of health care services." The nonprofit organization, which operates seven clinics from Frederick to Salisbury, also will consider moving from its longtime headquarters on Howard Street as it emphasizes decentralized "neighborhood-based health care centers."

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Although Mr. Guest's resignation "looks sudden," it was the natural result of discussions that began nearly a year ago, she added.

Mr. Guest, 53, a former elected secretary of state in Vermont, said, "Basically, we've come to the end of an era at Planned Parenthood. The health care world is changing dramatically. We're looking at such things as competition with HMOs that didn't exist in the past."

He agreed with members of the executive committee that his skills and interest lie more in public-policy advocacy than health care administration. A high point of his tenure, he added, was chairing Maryland for Choice, which led the fight to keep abortions legal in 1992.

Of his presidency of Planned Parenthood, he said, "I brought us to this point, and now I want to move on. Frankly, I need a rest."

He will probably do some consulting for the national Planned Parenthood organization, he said.

Planned Parenthood of Maryland has an annual budget of about $4 million, and gets about a fifth of its revenues from government grants. Fund raising, including United Way, provides 22 percent of revenues. About 55 percent comes from patient fees and the sale of contraceptives.

Mary O'Byrne, vice chair of Planned Parenthood, will be interim president until a successor to Mr. Guest is hired.


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