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18th Annual Spring Conference
April 1-5 2017

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Conference Speakers

Yvonne Lattice Beasley   

Yvonne Beasley had the opportunity to serve in several nurse management positions with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado and Kansas. At the time of retirement she was Associate Chief Nurse for Extended Care Programs. After retirement she served as Adjunct Clinical Instructor in the Health Care Professionals Department at Wichita State University and briefly as Project Director of Wichita Kansas Healthy Start. She has been Maternal and Child Health Director and Project Director, Indianapolis Healthy Start, at Marion County Public Health Department for fourteen years. Yvonne has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Berea College, Berea, Kentucky and Master of Science Degree in Nursing Administration and Community Health from Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas.

Yvonne served on the National Healthy Start Association Board of Directors for seven years. Currently, she is Marion County Public Health Department’s liaison for CityMatCH. Additionally, she is a mentor for CityMatCH’s City Leaders Mentor and Mentee Program. Yvonne is a member of the Indiana Home Visiting Advisory Board, March of Dimes Maternal and Child Health Committee, Sigma Theta Tau International  Honor Society of Nursing, Chi Eta Phi Sorority Incorporated and American Public Health Association (APHA). She is serving as a 2017 Abstract Reviewer for APHA.            

Estrellita "Lo" Berry, MA  

Estrellita “Lo” Berry, M.A, serves as President and CEO of REACHUP, Inc., a community non-profit whose mission is to advocate for and mobilize resources to help communities achieve equality in healthcare and positive health for families. Additionally, Lo is Affiliate Faculty, University of South Florida, College of Public Health, Department of Community and Family Health. She is Project Director and Principal Investigator for Central Hillsborough (Federal) Healthy Start. Lo serves on the Boards of Hillsborough County Healthy Start Coalition, March of Dimes, Florida Bay Division and FL Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review (PAMR). Lo has co-authored numerous publications including Healthy Start Program and feto-infant morbidity outcomes: Evaluation of program effectiveness (Maternal and Child Health Journal) and Community-Academic partnerships to reduce black-white disparities in infant mortality in Florida (Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, And Action). With a commitment to increasing health equity as well as reducing infant mortality and eliminating disparities, Lo and a second member of her team have been invited to become members of the National Health Equity Institute sponsored jointly by PolicyLink and the University of South Florida, College of Public Health. Lo is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Gamma Theta Omega Chapter.Lo received her undergraduate degree in Clinical Psychology and Masters in Education and Community Counseling at the University of Evansville, Evansville Indiana. She is a wife and mother to a son    

Linda Blount, MPH

Joia Crear-Perry, MD

Dr. Crear-Perry is the Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Birthing Project, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and as the Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department where she was responsible for four facilities that provided healthcare for the homeless, pediatric, WIC, and gynecologic services within the New Orleans clinical service area. Dr. Crear-Perry continues to work to improve access and availability of affordable health care to New Orleans’ citizens post the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

After receiving her bachelor’s trainings at Princeton University and Xavier University, Dr. Crear-Perry completed her medical degree at Louisiana State University and her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine. She was also recognized as a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

A proud recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Healthcare Hero’s award, Dr. Crear-Perry currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Community Catalyst, National Medical Association, and the New Orleans African American Museum. She is married to Dr. Andre Perry and has three children: Jade 24, Carlos 21, and Robeson 6. Her love is her family; health equity is her passion; maternal and child health are her callings.       

David S. de la Cruz, PhD, MPH

Dr. David de la Cruz is the Acting Director in the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Services. Dr. de la Cruz also serves as Principal Staff and Designated Federal Official to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality.

In his role as Acting Director, Dr. de la Cruz leads in the development of policies, procedures, and guidelines affecting the Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Services, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and the Health Resources and Services Administration. He manages a system for the process of solicitation, review, and award of grants to demonstrate a program of health, psychosocial, education, and related services to reduce infant mortality and disparities in perinatal health.

Dr. de la Cruz provides management and supervision of technical assistance and consultation to grantees, contractors, and other Federal agencies and organizations. Dr. de la Cruz oversees an annual budget of approximately $120 million and has supervisory responsibilities of carrying out the goals and objectives of the Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Services.

David de la Cruz is a CAPTAIN in the United States Public Health Service. As a Commissioned Officer, he has participated in numerous domestic and international deployments, earning numerous awards including:  the Outstanding Service Medal, the Public Health Service Commendation Medal, the Crisis Response Award, the Hazardous Duty Award, the Field Medical Readiness Badge, The Ebola Campaign Medal with Expeditionary Attachment, and the Presidential Unit Citation. CAPTAIN de la Cruz currently serves as the Team Commander of the US Public Health Service’s Rapid Deployment Force – Team 2.

Mary-Ann Etiebet, MD

Dr. Etiebet is a physician, researcher and strong advocate for women's health, with extensive experience working with international development partners to design, manage and evaluate programs that address the needs of vulnerable and at risk populations. As the Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, Dr. Etiebet is responsible for successfully implementing a robust set of innovative programs across the globe, designing new high-impact partnerships and managing relationships with important external stakeholders to improve the health of women during pregnancy and childbirth.

Denise Evans, MM, MA

Project Coordinator for Strong Beginnings (a federally Healthy Start Program).  She is a trained facilitator in Cultural Intelligence, Implicit Bias, health equity & social justice.  In conjunction with the Kent County Health Department, Denise has facilitated 2-day Health Equity Social Justice Dialogue Sessions serving over 700 people working in the social service sector in the last 5 years.  Ms. Evans works extensively in partnership with state and local health departments, is a member of the National Association of City and County Health Officials Health Equity Social Justice Advisory Committee, Spectrum Health System, Mercy Health and is a reoccurring guest lecturer at Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, and Calvin College on issues of health inequities, health disparities, social justice and cultural humility.  Denise is a trained community organizer and uses her experience to help provide leadership at the state and local level of the Michigan Power to Thrive movement – joining community organizers and public health professionals to improve the lives of community residents by addressing the Social Determinants of Health.  She serves on the Board of Safe Haven Ministries, is the past chair of Spectrum Health’s System Inclusion Council and serves on the leadership teams of the Greater Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network (GGRREN), and Healthy Heartlands Building Bridges to Health Equity - a seven-state collaborative of community organizers and public health professionals in the Midwest creating permanent alliances to confront and alleviate health disparities and inequities.

Rosemary Fournier

Rosemary Fournier is the Director of Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) with the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention, the HRSA funded resource and data center that supports child death review (CDR) and fetal and infant mortality review (FIMR) programs around the country.

As the FIMR Coordinator for the State of Michigan, Rosemary provided technical assistance, training, and consultation to local FIMR programs for over 13 years.  In her role of Project Director for the Saginaw MI, Healthy Start, she also managed the local FIMR in Saginaw, one of the longest, continually operating FIMR programs in the US.   Before coming to the Center, Rosemary was the Midwest Nurse Consultant for the Nurse-Family Partnership® National Service Office, an evidence-based home visiting program for first time low income mothers.        

Brittney Francis, MPH

Ms. Francis is a social epidemiologist with a research interest that focuses on understanding the extent to which racial discrimination and other psychosocial stressors impact chronic disease development for mother and child in the perinatal time period. Ms. Francis is currently a first year Epidemiology PhD student at The Ohio State University and works both at the Kirwan Institute for Study of Race and Ethnicity in the infant mortality research group and at Nationwide Childrens Hospital’s Center for Perinatal Research as a Research Associate. In both of these roles, Ms. Francis leads data analysis, manuscript development, and dissemination efforts surrounding the exposure of racial discrimination. Prior to beginning her time at The Ohio State University, Ms. Francis worked at Westat, a large public health research firm in the DC metro area, in the Public Health Research and Evaluation group working on numerous contracts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for various centers ranging from chronic disease to birth defects. Ms. Francis obtained her masters of public health from Washington University in St. Louis. 

Carol Gagliano

Carol Gagliano is the Director of Operations and Evaluation at the Center for Health Equity, Inc (CHE) where she oversees the evaluation of the Gadsden Federal Healthy Start Program and other programs under CHE. She has over 25 years of experience in program administration, implementation, evaluation and data system development in the areas of education and social service. Formally, she was the Director of the Florida Migrant Education Program (FMEP) at the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), the Instructional Designer for Safe and Drug-Free Schools (including Conference Coordinator for the three FDOE statewide Bullying Prevention Conferences), Director of Research and Systems at the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida where she oversaw all evaluation projects and development of the Healthy Families Florida Management Information System, and Adjunct Professor for Evaluation of Social Work Practice and Research Methods for Social Work graduate-level courses at Florida State University. In addition, in Chicago, Illinois, she was the StarGate Project Director, where she had oversight over the program evaluation and development of the statewide data system components of the Parents Too Soon Program at the Ounce of Prevention Fund. She was also the Project Evaluator for the Creating a New Approach to Learning (CANAL) Project with Chicago Public Schools. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology from Boston College and a Masters in Art in Sociology with an emphasis on Family and Education Research from Loyola University of Chicago.       

David Goodman   

For a decade, Dr. David Goodman has been engaged in building state, local, and tribal capacity for developing information systems to improve infant and maternal health.  Dr. Goodman is currently the Team Lead (Acting), for the Maternal Health Team at the CDC, Division of Reproductive Health.  His work at CDC has included the State Infant Mortality Toolkit, the Maternal Mortality Review Data System/Maternal Mortality Review Information Application, and the CDC Neonatal and Maternal Levels of Care Assessment Tool.  Prior to joining CDC headquarters, he was the CDC MCH Epidemiology Assignee to the state of Georgia and Senior MCH Epidemiologist at the Florida Department of Health. Dr. Goodman received his PhD in International Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is a former Procter and Gamble MCH Fellow and CSTE Applied MCH Epidemiology Fellow.

Carmen Green, MPH

Dr. Crear-Perry is the Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Birthing Project, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and as the Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department where she was responsible for four facilities that provided healthcare for the homeless, pediatric, WIC, and gynecologic services within the New Orleans clinical service area. Dr. Crear-Perry continues to work to improve access and availability of affordable health care to New Orleans’ citizens post the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

After receiving her bachelor’s trainings at Princeton University and Xavier University, Dr. Crear-Perry completed her medical degree at Louisiana State University and her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine. She was also recognized as a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

A proud recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Healthcare Hero’s award, Dr. Crear-Perry currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Community Catalyst, National Medical Association, and the New Orleans African American Museum. She is married to Dr. Andre Perry and has three children: Jade 24, Carlos 21, and Robeson 6.Her love is her family; health equity is her passion; maternal and child health are her callings.

Kenn Harris                              

Arletha Howard

Arletha Howard serves as the Project Director, for Tougaloo College/Delta HealthPartners Healthy Start Initiative, for the past 5 years and previously served as a nurse case manager for 12 years with Tougaloo College/Delta HealthPartners Healthy Start.  Ms. Howard is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas in 1987 with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).  She received a master of science in nursing (MSN) from Capella University and currently pursuing a doctorate in public health.   With over 28 years of nursing experience, areas of practice include: oncology, burn trauma, pediatric intensive care unit, cardiovascular intensive care unit, post anesthesia care unit, intensive care unit, home health, utilization case review, and maternal child health. She holds active memberships in the Mississippi Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and the Mississippi Public Health Association. Ms. Howard has presented at the American Public Health Association (APHA), Association Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP), and Mississippi Public Health Association. Arletha is married to her high school sweetheart and the mother of two adult sons.  In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, gardening, spending quality time with family, and reading.

Elizabeth Howell, MD, MPP

Elizabeth A. Howell, M.D., M.P.P. is a Professor in the Departments of Population Health Science & Policy, Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science, and Psychiatry, System Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science, and Associate Dean for Academic Development. 

She is a NIH-funded ob/gyn health services researcher and her research addresses quality of care and racial/ethnic disparities in maternal and child health. Her major research foci are postpartum depression and its impact on underserved communities and the intersection between quality of care and disparities in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. She has served on several expert committees including for the Institute of Medicine, NIH, the Joint Commission, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, international external scientific advisory boards, and editorial boards. Dr. Howell received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and received her medical and public policy degrees at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She received her residency training at Cornell /New York Hospital and is a board certified obstetrician gynecologist. Dr. Howell received her training in clinical epidemiology as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Yale Medical School.

Fleda Jackson, PhD

Dr. Fleda Mask Jackson is a scholar, resercher, and activist whose work is intended to advance health equity through the study, measurement, and translation/application of research findings on the racial and gendered stress experiences of African American women. A widely published authors and presenter, Dr. Jacksons's work was featured in "When the Bough Breaks" an episode from the award winning series, "Unnatural Causes: is Inequality Making Us Sick?" and the HHS file, "Crisis in the Crib". Fleda Mask Jackson is the recipient of Spelman College Alumni Achievement Award for Science and Health and in 2014 she received the Maternal and Child Health Award from the Georgia Public Health Association. 

Arthur James, MD

Dr. Arthur R. James was born and raised in Watts, California.  He was educated at Stanford University (BA 1974) and Washington University in St. Louis (MD 1979).  He completed residency training in Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of Texas-Houston, and in Obstetrics and Gynecology, also at UT-Houston. He moved from Houston to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1988 to join a practice in Obstetrics & Gynecology at Bronson Methodist Hospital.  While at Bronson, Dr. James expanded prenatal services for underserved women, teens.  He later moved to Borgess Medical Center where he established and led Borgess Women’s Health Center, again expanding services.  Between 1992 and 1999, he led a community-wide effort in Kalamazoo County that reduced Black infant mortality from 29.7 to 10.2 deaths per 1000 Black births, thereby helping Kalamazoo, Michigan become only one of a few counties in the United States to accomplish the Healthy-People 2000 goal of 11 deaths per 1000 live black births. While in Kalamazoo he also worked part-time at an FQHC site from 1990-2011 where he was Director of the Ob/GYN Division.

Throughout his career, Dr. Arthur James has built healing partnerships, not only with women and families, but with whole communities, in the belief that the sources of poor pregnancy outcome arise in the community, and thus require community-based interventions.  He calls this “Community Oriented Obstetrical Care”, based on Dr. H. Jack Geiger’s model of “Community Oriented Primary Care”.  This approach begins by engaging the community to identify problems and resources, and then collaborating with multiple organizations to address the root causes of poor pregnancy outcome.  In July of 2011, Dr. James moved to Ohio and is now an Associate Clinical Professor at The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Co-Director of the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes, Co-Chair of the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality, and Senior Policy Advisor in the Bureau of Child and Family Services of the Ohio Department of Health.  His primary responsibility is to assist Ohio leadership in their efforts to improve infant mortality and decrease the racial disparity in birth outcomes.

Aranthan (AJ) Jones II         

Aranthan “AJ” Jones II is Chief of Staff at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, AJ works with the president and CEO to ensure alignment and advancement of grantmaking investments across the organization. He is also responsible for the execution of the foundation’s policy, communications, knowledge management and analytic strategies. As an officer of the foundation, Jones serves as a key spokesperson on behalf of the organization and works in coordination with the president and CEO and the executive leadership team on the foundation’s portfolio/grantee investments and operations. Additionally, he is responsible for establishing and managing public-private partnerships and serves as the primary interface with multilateral institutions, global and domestic investment agencies, corporations, public/private philanthropies and governments.

Prior to joining the foundation, Jones served as the head of worldwide government affairs for Gilead Sciences, a leading biotech company. At Gilead, he led a global team to develop, advance and engage public policy and regulatory systems to expand access and pharmaceutical innovation. He was also responsible for aligning strategic communications and public policy engagements for governmental and nongovernmental audiences.

A guest lecturer for the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, Harvard University’s School of Public Health and Harvard University’s School of Medicine, Jones lectures widely on economic/finance policy, healthcare quality, philanthropy, disaster preparedness policy, international relations, advocacy, executive leadership and diversity/inclusion.

Barbara Lacina  

Barbara Lacina has served the public as a child support professional since 1992.  As a frontline caseworker in a state program, directly serving parents and partnering with program stakeholders to implement fatherhood education and supportive services.  Then in various management and administration roles, always with a focus on improving outcomes for children, and providing service to both parents.  Barbara has been with the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement for five years, and is currently the Acting Director for the Division of Program Innovation.  She was previously the Regional Program Manager for OCSE Region VII in Kansas City where she worked closely with State and Tribal child support programs on performance improvement and family-centered services.

Laura Line    

Director of Strategic Partnerships at Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia. Laura Line is a health care advocate who works to improve patient quality of care and experience. She enjoys collaborating with different stakeholders, growing organizations and developing programs that address challenging problems.  Laura is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at MCC, where she oversees the MOMobile Safe Start program and works with its partners – the payers, providers and social service agencies - to impact system changes for pregnant and postpartum women in health care. At MCC, Laura develops partnerships with insurers, health care providers and community-based organizations. In the past Laura has worked on Affordable Care Act implementation and implementing public health programs in primary care settings.  Laura has a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of North Carolina and a Master’s degree from the New School             

Michael Lu, MD, MPH

Michael C. Lu, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., was named associate administrator of maternal and child health of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on November 3, 2011. HRSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Lu joined HRSA from the University of California, Los Angeles Schools of Medicine and Public Health, where he was associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and public health.

Dr. Lu brings years of experience in MCH research, practice, and policy to his post at HRSA. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Lu chaired the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality. He has served on two Institute of Medicine (IOM) committees (Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes, and Committee to Reexamine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Select Panel on Preconception Care.

While at UCLA, Dr. Lu was a lead investigator for the National Children’s Study and led a project to monitor and improve the quality and safety of maternity care in California. He was best known for his research on racial-ethnic disparities in birth outcomes, and his leadership on life course.  Dr. Lu taught obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and maternal and child health at UCLA School of Public Health. He has received numerous awards for his teaching, including Excellence in Teaching Awards from the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics. As an obstetrician, Dr. Lu has attended over a thousand births, and has been voted one of the Best Doctors in America since 2005.

Dr. Lu received his bachelor’s degrees in political science and human biology from Stanford University, master’s degrees in health and medical sciences and public health from UC Berkeley, medical degree from UC San Francisco, and residency training in obstetrics and gynecology from UC Irvine.

Jeanne Mahoney    

Jeanne Mahoney, RN, BSN; Senior Director; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Mahoney is the Senior Director of ACOG's Provider’s Partnership, an initiative to enhance collaboration between women’s health care providers, public health and other national organizations involved with access to care, promotion of guidelines, and psychosocial issues affecting women’s health.  In this capacity,    she directs the Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health and develops initiatives between ACOG members and partners on maternal and women’s health, specifically: tobacco control, alcohol and other substance use, behavioral health, maternal morbidity and mortality, gestational diabetes, and women with disabilities.  She came to ACOG from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health where she was involved in coordinating risk reduction programs for women of reproductive age.

Annette March-Grier, C.F. S. P.

President/Founder, Roberta's House and a native Baltimorean.  She is a registered nurse, a mortician and the visionary of Roberta’s House Inc., a non-profit Family Grief Support Center founded in 2007, by the March Funeral Home family in memory of their matriarch, Julia Roberta March. Annette is the Vice President of her family business; March Funeral Homes located in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia.  However, her time and talent is devoted to bereavement care and has lead the way for grief education and support for grieving children and families in Baltimore for more than 30 years.  A teacher, counselor, trainer and leader, with a compassionate staff, provides a safe place for children and adults to heal and recover from the death of someone close. Roberta’s House carries out over 13 programs year round and serves 3000 children and adults annually by means of their professional staff supported by over 300 trained volunteers.  Annette is a recipient of numerous awards and achievements.  Most recently, she was selected to receive the National Caring Award in October, 2016 which includes her induction into the Caring Hall of Fame located in the Frederick Douglas Museum on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  In addition, she was selected by CNN, the world leader in news, as one of the top ten CNN heroes, 2014 for changing the world.

Marianne McPherson, PhD

Marianne McPherson, PhD, MS, is Director, 100 Million Healthier Lives Implementation at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Her responsibilities include developing and implementing new programs;  building external partnerships; and supporting a culture of unprecedented collaboration, innovative improvement and system transformation to support 100 million people worldwide living healthier lives by 2020. She is passionate about applying diverse methods and frameworks to address complex social problems related to improving population health and promoting equity. Prior to joining IHI, she was Senior Director of Programs, Research and Evaluation at the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, where she led the organization’s new program design, program implementation, and mixed methods evaluation research. Marianne received her MS in Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health, her MA in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University, and her PhD in Social Policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University

Destiny-Simone Ramjohn, PhD

Chin R. Reyes, PdD

Chin R. Reyes, PhD is an Associate Research Scientist at the Yale Child Study Center (Zigler Center in Child Development & Social Policy unit). Dr. Reyes leads numerous projects focusing on improving equitable access to high quality educational experiences for young children both nationally and internationally. Recently, she co-authored a groundbreaking study examining the role of preschool teachers’ implicit biases in appraising challenging behaviors. She is co-developer of the Climate of Healthy Interactions for Learning & Development (CHILD) scale, a classroom observation tool that assesses the social-emotional climate of early care and education settings. 

Jessica M. Roach, LPN, BA, MPH(c)

Jessica Roach, LPN, BA, MPH (c) is currently a Masters of Public Health candidate at the University of Illinois- Chicago in Community Health Sciences with distinction in the Center of Excellence for Maternal Child Health.

Ms. Roach’s focus on inter-generational and historical trauma has forged a uniquely powerful perspective as applied to public health policy and practice. The physiological and cultural impact of trauma, resilience, and restorative justice all serve as models for addressing racial disparities in Public Health. Her advocacy work includes community-based initiatives addressing reproductive justice and infant mortality with a particular focus on African- American and similarly oppressed communities.

Ongoing research frameworks include: the impact of colonial and neo-colonial societies, as well as law enforcement violence on marginalized populations, historical and current trauma, and comparative studies of social systems and their national health outcomes.

As mother of three young women, full-spectrum doula and midwifery assistant, Jessica has a deeply experiential perspective in her research, having observed the effects of stress related to social and structural determinants and how the narratives that created them can be changed.

Sharon Ross-Donaldson

Sharon Ross-Donaldson, LSCW, CFSW,MBA, is the CEO/President at the Center for Health Equity, Inc. (CHE) where she overseesall operations of the Gadsden Federal Healthy Start Project and other projects under CHE.   She has over 30 years of experience in the field of Health and Human Services in the areas of program administration, training and curriculum development, program planning, development & implementation, research, evaluation & data collection, community organization, understanding of multi-level systems, clinical supervision and mentoring and motivating people.  She is a National Peer Reviewer for the Council on Accreditation, Prevent Child Abuse America/Healthy Families America, A Hague Evaluator and a reviewer for the United States Marine Corp.  She also serves as Associate Teaching Professor at Florida State University FSU College of Social Work (CSW).  She is a private consultant and works on a county, state and national level with various organizations as well as serves as a clinical supervisor for professionals in Social Workers, Mental Health and Marriage and Families seeking licensure.  Sharon also holds various clinical licenses and certificates that include: A License Clinical Social Worker, a Certified Mental Health First Aid National Trainer, an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Specialist (EMDR), an Infant Mental Health Specialist, a Diplomate of American Board of Forensic Social Work and a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family and County Court Mediator.  Sharon firmly believes that people working in human services must demonstrate a level of compassion, commitment, and dedication when working with children, families and communities.

Stacey Stewart

President, March of Dimes Foundation. She joined the March of Dimes Foundation as its fifth President on January 1, 2017.  In this role, Ms. Stewart promotes a global strategy around the organization’s mission to give all babies a healthy start.  She is responsible for leading all aspects of the organization’s strategy, vision and operations.

Stewart comes to March of Dimes from United Way Worldwide, where she held several positions, most recently serving as U.S. President.  At United Way, she provided strategic direction in driving community impact, revenue, and enhancing the organization’s brand.  Prior to becoming U.S. President, Stewart served as Executive Vice President, Community Impact Leadership and Learning at United Way.

A business veteran, Stewart also has held a number of senior roles, including Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President for the Office of Community and Charitable Giving at Fannie Mae, as well as President and Chief Executive Officer for the Fannie Mae Foundation. 

Ms. Stewart has a master's of business administration in finance from the University of Michigan and a bachelor of arts in economics from Georgetown University. She also holds honorary degrees from Trinity University, Morgan State University, Texas Southern University, Lincoln University, and Alabama A&M University. She currently serves on several boards nationally and in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

Ms. Stewart is married to Jarvis C. Stewart, the Chairman and Managing Partner of I + R Media, LLC a strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C. The Stewarts have two children, Madeleine and Savannah.

Ron and Catherine Tijerina

Ron and Catherine Tijerina are the founders and executive directors of The RIDGE Project. Together, they have developed comprehensive programming that teaches the essential skills for improving life and relationships.  The Tijerinas’ award-winning curriculum, TYRO Dads, is evidence-based and attacks the culture of entitlement, incarceration, and poverty.  Ron and Catherine are passionate about restoring families in America.  They believe in the power of Fatherhood. Their work in the Ohio prison system has impacted hundreds of thousands of families and has garnered national attention for their successes and outcomes.

Peggy Vander Meulen

Peggy received her BSN from the University of Michigan graduating Summa Cum Laude and earned her Master's degree from Grand Valley State University.  Before becoming Program Director in 2004 for Strong Beginnings, an inter-disciplinary federal Healthy Start project that works to improve maternal, paternal, and child health among African Americans and Latinas, she worked for eight years as the Maternal Support Services Coordinator for three urban clinics. 

The previous 25 years were spent in disaster relief, as a medical contractor for Peace Corps, and as a health consultant for community-based maternal-child health organizations in Latin America, Bangladesh, and West Africa. Working in impoverished urban and rural areas she developed integrated development projects, designed programs to train Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants, and launched several inter-agency collaborative partnerships. 

She co-chairs an 85-member coalition working to eliminate disparities in birth outcomes with a focus on racial equity and community engagement.  She is a member of several state and national boards working to promote women’s health and has been the recipient of numerous awards.


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Saving Our Nation's Babies: The Impact of the Federal Healthy Start Initiative

Check our our 2nd Edition! It chronicles the birth of Healthy Start and NHSA and includes profiles and photographs from the federally-funded Healthy Start Initiatives.