I am a medical anthropologist and certified nurse midwife who engages a reproductive justice framework to contextualize and address the social drivers and repercussions of maternal morbidity and mortality. I use mixed methods to examine causal pathways and unforeseen consequences that link reproduction and health disparities in communities with intersecting identities of oppression. I conceptualize my global and domestic research programs as part of broader efforts to anchor reproductive trends in maternal mortality and morbidity in bio-social and socio-medical realms.
My current research focuses on the health system structures and obstetric racism that drive disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality. Maternal mortality is 6x higher for Black women in Chicago than white women and >50% of these deaths are potentially preventable. With funding from the PCORI foundation and in partnership with the non-profit organization, Melanated Midwives, this project assess the implementation and impact of a culturally-adapted and patient-centered model of maternity care inclusive of broad structural changes to attenuate the impacts of structural racism. Melanated Group Midwifery Care (MGMC) was designed with our community partners to center the voices of Black women and adopt the Illinois Maternal Mortality Review Committee’s(MMRC) recommendations for preventing maternal death. MGMC merges four evidence-based interventions: 1)Racial concordance between patients and providers; 2) Group prenatal care; 3) Maternal care coordination; and 4) In-home, postpartum doula support. The overall goal of this initiative is to increase maternal health equity and attenuate the impacts of structural racism in maternal healthcare.
My global work focuses on how social, political and historical processes shape reproductive health experiences and outcomes across geo-political borders. In Central Asia (Tajikistan/Afghanistan), I am interested in how political instability (e.g., fall of the USSR, decades of civil wars) reverberates to peripheral regions and impacts the everyday lives of families. Between 2005-2008, I conducted surveys of maternal mortality and comparative ethnography to understand women’s experiences in two villages across a narrow geo-political border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the Badakhshan region. I am currently supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation to examine how large-scale male migration to Russia impacts the reproductive experiences of Tajik women who are married at increasingly younger ages to fill labor shortages and ensure the remittances of migrants.
I completed my BA at Emory University and my MA and PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University. My early research in global maternal health drove me to also pursue my MSN at Yale University and become certified as a nurse-midwife. My midwifery practice informs and grounds my academic research. Currently, I attend births in both the hospital and community settings in Chicago