Emily Vaughn

An estimated 1.4 million adolescent girls and young women in the U.S. might have received an unnecessary pelvic exam between 2011 and 2017, according to a new study. And an estimated 1.6 million might have received an unnecessary Pap test.

As the decade changes and we consider the state of women's health in America, who better to turn to than the authors of five taboo-busting books from 2019 that took on issues that generations of women haven't been talking about, but need to. We asked these outspoken doctors and health advocates to give us their Top 7 messages to women for 2020. Here's what they said.

1. Better birth control is possible — and necessary

As a college student, Katy Milkman played tennis and loved going to the gym. But when she started graduate school, her exercise routine started to flunk.

"At the end of a long day of classes, I was exhausted," Milkman says. "Frankly, the last thing I wanted to do was drag myself to the gym. What I really wanted to do was watch TV or read Harry Potter."

On Jan. 1, 2019, more than 3 million women in India joined hands to form a 385-mile-long human wall of protest calling for equal rights for women.

They are among the many extraordinary women we have written about in Goats and Soda this year — women on the front lines of political and social change, women who sometimes quite literally put their life on the line to take a stand and to do their job.

Here are some of the women we've interviewed and written about in 2019.

"I don't think as a kid I ever saw a minority physician," says Russell J. Ledet.

Ledet is a second-year medical student in the M.D./MBA program at the Tulane University School of Medicine, and he's African American. Last weekend he organized a trip to Whitney Plantation, now a museum in Edgard, La., for fellow members of the Tulane chapter of the Student National Medical Association, a student-run organization that supports black medical students.

This month saw the first arrest in Nepal connected to the practice of exiling women to sleep in a hut behind their home during menstruation.

Out of all the Thanksgiving dishes Kim Yates has helped prepare for her large family over the years, one batch of mashed potatoes stands out clearly in her memory.

About 30 guests were gathered that year, at her sister's home in Palo Alto, Calif., and Yates had made a point of taking on responsibility for the mashed potatoes so that her young daughter Tessa (who was dealing with extreme food allergies to eggs, dairy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish) would have at least one safe side dish to eat.

Dr. Kimberly Sue is the medical director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national advocacy group that works to change U.S. policies and attitudes about the treatment of drug users. She's also a Harvard-trained anthropologist and a physician at the Rikers Island jail system in New York.

Sue thinks it's a huge mistake to put people with drug use disorder behind bars.