Dr. Laurie Schwab Zabin was born in 1926 and raised in New York City. After attending a Planned Parenthood meeting in 1951 she volunteered for a local branch. Over the next twenty years, Zabin served the Maryland office, most notably as public relations coordinator for a campaign to make Baltimore the first city that allowed social workers to refer clients for family planning. The success of the program garnered much interest and earned Zabin a number of positions on the national board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America including the first Information and Education Committee, the first Public Affairs Committee, and the first International Committee.
In 1966, Zabin was hired to establish and direct a Community Action Agency Neighborhood Family Planning Center in Baltimore; the first community run organization of its kind. In 1974, she joined the Board of Directors of the newly formed Alan Guttmacher Institute, an independent research, education and policy-making body in reproductive rights and health. That same year she became the Acting Director of Planned Parenthood Association of Maryland. For her many years of varied service in Maryland, she was awarded the Margaret Sanger Award in 1977.
After more than a decade of successful work as an administrator, Zabin enrolled in Johns Hopkins University (JHU) for a Ph.D. in Population Dynamics in the School of Public Health. Her research thesis focused on adolescents, highlighting that young women were most at-risk for an unwanted pregnancy in their first month of sexual activity. She was awarded her PhD in 1979 and gained a position in the JHU School of Medicine in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. She accepted a primary appointment in the Department of Population Dynamics while retaining this position at the School of Medicine.
In 1999, Zabin accepted the position of the Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. This position, with a total of $22,000,000 in grants, has taken Zabin all over the world, working in conjunction with Ministries of Health, family planning professionals and academics to create successful policies in family planning and health systems.
Throughout her work of over fifty years, Zabin has used her expertise as a community activist and organizer, an educator and researcher, as well as her understanding of the national and international scene for the benefit of community policy-making in the field of reproductive health and population dynamics.