Who we are


Melissa Cheyney

Uplift Co-Director, Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology

Melissa Cheyney PhD, LDM is a Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology at Oregon State University (OSU) and a community midwife (on sabbatical). She co-directs Uplift—a research and reproductive equity laboratory at OSU, where she serves as the Primary Investigator on more than 20 maternal and infant health-related research projects, including the Community Doula Project. She is the author of an ethnography entitled Born at Home (2010, Wadsworth Press), co-editor with Robbie Davis-Floyd of Birth in Eight Cultures (2019, Waveland Press), and author or co-author of more than 60 peer-reviewed articles that examine the cultural beliefs and clinical outcomes associated with midwife-attended birth at home and in birth centers in the United States. In 2019, Dr. Cheyney served on the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Birth Settings in America Study and in 2020 was named Eminent Professor by OSUs Honors College. She also received Oregon State University’s prestigious Scholarship Impact Award for her work in the International Reproductive Health Laboratory and with the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) Statistics Project. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care and the mother of a daughter born at home.


Marit Bovbjerg (Kington)

Uplift Co-Director, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology

Marit Bovbjerg, PhD, MS, is an assistant professor of epidemiology at OSU. Her main research interest is maternity care in the US, with a focus on midwifery care and planned community birth. Dr. Bovbjerg was the lead author on recent papers that have led to changes in national health policy and changes in reproductive epidemiology standard research methods. She is a quantitative methods expert for the Uplift Lab research group, and works extensively with Dr. Cheyney, Uplift collaborators, and colleagues around the world on projects related to maternity care. During the 2019-2020 academic year, she was a Fulbright Scholar, appointed at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, University College Cork, Ireland.



Silke Akerson

Silke Akerson, MPH, CPM, LDM is a home birth midwife and the executive director of the Oregon Midwifery Council. Her work is focused on quality improvement in maternal and infant health, advocacy for increased access to midwifery care, and professional development for community birth midwives. She is a leader in quality improvement in community birth and consults with state and national organizations working in this area. She leads the Community Birth Transfer Partnership, a statewide transfer improvement initiative of the Oregon Perinatal Collaborative. She has been in home birth practice for 23 years.


Micknai Arefaine

Micknai Arefaine is a cultural organizer, consultant, and facilitator.

She is a founding member of the Radical Imagination Collective and lead organizer of its annual gathering Opening Space for the Radical Imagination. She has received several awards for her culturally aware and equity-focused leadership. Micknai is a doula with the Community Doula Program (CDP) and a curriculum developer with the CDP-Community College Democratizing Doula Training Project.

She holds a master's degree in applied anthropology from Oregon State University where she was instrumental in launching AYA-Womxn of Color Initiative, served as Vice President of the Black Graduate Student Association, and Vice President of Social Justice for the Coalition of Graduate Employees (Local 6069).  Her graduate research was conducted with her community of women in Northern Ethiopia where she learned how they model, express, and reflect the values of community, trust, care, stability, and futurity through their perceptions and sentiments regarding social and political change.

She enjoys her trips to Ethiopia, reading comic books and speculative fiction, long phone calls with friends and family, and spending time in the forest, river, and ocean.

Fiker Berhe

Fiker Berhe

Fiker (she/her) is an undergraduate student studying Human Development and Family Sciences with a double major in Women's gender, and sexuality studies and a minor in psychology who is on the path to becoming a physician's assistant. She is currently working with Dr. Bovbjerg to find more information regarding physician activity and Cesarean section.

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Arika M. Bridgeman-Bunyoli

Arika M. Bridgeman-Bunyoli (she/her) holds a Masters in Public Health from Oregon State University where she focused on the development, implementation and evaluation of culturally just maternal and child health programs. Her research focuses on centering Black voices and the voices of other marginalized groups and elevating the community-driven solutions they devise to support thriving children, youth, and families.

She was the lead researcher on a qualitative study examining the root causes and solutions to the high preterm and low birth weight rates in Black communities where she interviewed Black midwives from throughout the US.

Arika has worked as Community Health Worker (CHW), CHW supervisor and program director, and community organizer. She is the Grants Manager at the Portland Children’s Levy. Arika is a Black, biracial mother of two. She grows her own medicine in her garden and enjoys the company of her faithful companion, Rain Cloud, a gray tabby.

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Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown holds an MPH in Epidemiology - Maternal and Child Health from the University of Washington and a BS in Global Disease Biology from the University of California. She practiced as a homebirth midwife in northern California and was the project manager for the Midwives Alliance Statistics Project for many years. Jennifer worked with state midwifery organizations in California and Washington to include community midwives in statewide quality improvement initiatives. During her MPH program at the University of Washington, she interned with the Alaska Division of Public Health and worked to integrate Alaska's community midwives into the state's new Perinatal Quality Collaborative. Her graduate research focused on the impact of structural racism on maternal health outcomes.  She is currently the research coordinator for a study of UW Student Experiences (UWEXP). Her research interests include social determinants of health, structural racism, disparities in maternal outcomes, and the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy.


Jess Brown-Hamlett

Jess (they/she) is passionate about studying families through critical epistemologies, especially intersectional frameworks. Their research focuses on family theorizing, the work-family interface and the experiences of student-parents, particularly those with young children. She is also interested in family/academic policy, birth and reproductive justice, emerging adulthood, and the application of feminist methodologies.

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Paul Corcoran, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at UCC
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Paul Corcoran

Paul Corcoran PhD is a Senior Lecturer in University College Cork (UCC) Ireland and Senior Epidemiologist at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, which comprises an interdisciplinary team within UCC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology with researchers from obstetrics, midwifery, nursing, epidemiology, public health and social science. The Centre collaborates with the Irish maternity services to translate clinical audit data and epidemiological evidence into improved maternity care for families in Ireland. Paul is a statistical epidemiologist with 25 year’s research experience. He has played a lead role in the development of national registry and health information systems in the areas of perinatal health and mental health and in analysing data from such systems. Paul has co-authored approximately 150 journal articles, twenty national reports, several book chapters and numerous oral and poster presentations at scientific conferences and other meetings.


Ana Carolina de Assis Nunes

Ana (She/Her) is a Ph.D. student in applied anthropology at Oregon State University. She has a background in social sciences and is currently researching populism and digital technologies in Brazil, her home country. Her research interests are at the intersection of different algorithms and society, including forms of medical practice and telemedicine. STS-oriented, Ana is interested in algorithms as political devices, in ways that they order and reorder the world.

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Cristòf Del Aquelarre Errante

Cristòf (she/they) is a doctoral student in applied medical and neuro-anthropology at Oregon State University (OSU). Their research is situated at the liminal spaces that mark the beginnings and ends of life. She is a birth doula with the Community Doula Program with additional specializations in hospice and end of life care. In addition, she has worked extensively with children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Overall, their work is motivated by the belief that equitable socio-medical support, informed clinical and ethical practices, and culturally appropriate care both at birth and at the end of life are inherent human rights. Using the lens of intersectionality, Cristòf aims to use ethnography to examine the ritual significance of birth and death as culturally constructed rites of passage, while simultaneously exposing the ways discrimination, implicit bias, and inequality disproportionately contribute to traumatic birth and death experiences for BIPOC communities. Cristòf also serves on the Institutional Review Board at OSU where their work focuses on equitable subject selection and research justice for often-excluded populations.

Alicia aa.eegáakushée Duncan

Alicia aa.eegáakushée Duncan is a Masters student in Applied Medical and Reproductive Anthropology at Oregon State University. Alicia is Tlingit, from the T’aakdeintaan clan from the Snail House. She is a daughter of the Teikweidí clan and a granddaughter of the Kiks.ádi clan. Her family originates from Sitka and Angoon, and she has spent most of her life in Alaska. Her research focuses on Indigenous maternal health and the role that traditional healers and indigenous community health workers can play in improving health outcomes in communities in Oregon and in her home state of Alaska. She is also a doula with the Community Doula Program, specialized in serving Indigenous families. She studies basket weaving in the Raven Tails Northwest Coast tradition.

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Nadia English-Williams

Nadia English-Williams is a Naturopathic physician, midwife, and PhD student in applied medical anthropology at Oregon State University. Her research focus is on infant and maternal morbidity/mortality for Black women. Nadia maintains a full-spectrum primary care practice with a focus on women’s health, natural childbirth, and pediatrics. Her primary career objective is to abolish maternal and neonatal health disparities for women of color through a 3-tiered approach. This includes: 1) eliminating inequities in healthcare access by influencing public policy, 2) promoting seamless integration of midwives, obstetricians and doulas for every birthing person, and 3) aiding in the development of community obstetric standards to better address the covert and overt effects of institutional racism on Black birthing bodies.

Courtney L. Everson

Courtney L. Everson, PhD, is an applied medical anthropologist working at the intersection of public health, prevention sciences, and social work. Dr. Everson applies biosocial health frameworks and community-based approaches to study and uplift maternal-infant health, child well-being, child maltreatment prevention, positive youth development, and family strengthening. Dr. Everson is currently appointed as a Research Associate with the Social Work Research Center (SWRC), School of Social Work, College of Health and Human Sciences, at Colorado State University (CSU). At CSU SWRC, she engages in team-based science and research-practice partnerships to advance equity-centered transformations in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and health/behavioral health landscapes.

Dr. Everson is also the Co-Editor of NEOS, the flagship publication of the American Anthropological Association children and youth interest group; a Research Working Group member of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health; an Editorial Board member for the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine; Co-Chair of the Family Voice & Choice Committee for the Colorado Collaborative Management Program (CMP); and a strategic consultant to higher education entities, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations on issues of equity, complex systems evaluation, and anti-oppressive practices.

Dr. Everson holds a PhD in applied medical anthropology from Oregon State University with doctoral level minors in public health and women, gender, and sexuality studies. She is also a birth doula, postpartum doula, and perinatal health educator as well as a certified barre fitness instructor.


Zulgeil Ruiz Ginés

“Zul'' is a midwife, educator, and an advocate for culturally safe midwifery care. A Licensed Midwife in the states of California and Florida, Zul is currently Adjunct Professor of Midwifery in the Midwifery Department in Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. Zul was born and raised on the magical island of Puerto Rico where she achieved her BA degree in Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico. Her midwifery education journey started in Temixco, Mexico where she spent nine months learning from an Indigenous midwife that opened her vision, spirit and heart to the world of midwifery. She went on to obtain her Direct Entry Midwifery degree at the National College of Midwifery and Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery. Zul is passionate about providing culturally safe midwifery care. Since 2009, she has been serving predominantly low-income families, especially within African American and Spanish speaking communities. Zul practices in St. Petersburg, FL at UMA Midwifery and UMA Easy Access Clinic™ where she provides midwifery care based on the JJ Way®. The goal of The JJ Way® is to eliminate racial and class inequities in perinatal health and to improve birth outcomes for all. In 2023, she founded Kolibrí International Birth Institute (KIBI)—a continuing education platform for a range of professionals. KIBI’s mission is to provide diverse, multicultural, high-quality educational offerings that respond to the needs and interests of today’s professionals serving a range of pregnant families. Zul is the mother of two wonderful daughters.


Bahareh Goodarzi

Bahareh Goodarzi, MSc is a visiting researcher from the Netherlands. She is non-practicing midwife, a lecturer at the Academy for midwifery in Amsterdam/Groningen and a PhD Student at the department of Midwifery Science, Amsterdam Public Health/Amsterdam UMC, VUmc. The focus of her work is reproductive equity. She visits the Uplift Lab with the purpose of learning more about decolonial, critical and intersectional research and establishing international collaborations.

Publications and other work

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Holly Horan

Holly is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama and a birth and postpartum doula. Holly’s research focuses on maternal stress and birth outcomes in Puerto Rico. She is also the primary investigator on two projects in the state of Alabama: a state-wide, community-led MIH research needs assessment and the development of a prospective data collection project for community doulas in central Alabama. Holly recently served as the program coordinator for the Community Doula Program, a Medicaid-funded program providing doula services to priority populations in three counties in Oregon. Now, she leads the program’s research team. Holly believes that through robust, interdisciplinary, community-engaged research that maternal stressors, and the health consequences because of chronic stress, can be mitigated through the scaling-up of appropriate social services and the provision of holistic, integrated perinatal care.

Chris Kargel

Chris Kargel

Chris Kargel (he/him/his) is currently working on his PhD dissertation research on the interactions of Rongoā Māori (traditional Māori medical practices) and contemporary Western (tauiwi / foreigner) biomedicine in Aotearoa New Zealand. While looking into this, he is working at a local Māori health clinic as an osteopathic family medicine physician. In order to assist with this research, he was awarded the Sylff Research Grant for 2023. Additional research areas include pain, and Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). He has previously presented on OMT as augmentation of natural birth at the Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference. When he is not researching, he works as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at OSU where he reconfigured the course on Biocultural Perspectives on Human Reproduction and won Herbert Frolander Award for graduate teaching and an award for E-campus teaching. In the associated picture, Chris is pictured after a waka ama (outrigger canoe) paddle.

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Victoria Keenan

Victoria Keenan (she/her) majored in Biocultural anthropology and minored in Women, gender and sexuality studies at OSU before studying for an MPhil in Health, medicine and society at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Her Master's dissertation explored the experiences and perceptions of clinicians working alongside doulas. Victoria is a prenatal educator with 15 years of experience as a birth worker. She worked as a research assistant for the 2022 edition of Birth as an American Rite of Passage (Social Science Perspectives on Childbirth and Reproduction) by Robbie Davis-Floyd and as a research assistant for the Community Doula Program in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties (OR).

Victoria is a British mother of two hilarious and emotionally intelligent young women. In her spare time, you will either find her reading trashy novels while covered in cats or caked in mud at Blick Mead, an archaeological dig on the Stonehenge UNESCO World Heritage site in Amesbury, Wiltshire.

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Sara Leitao

Sara is a researcher in the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre (NPEC), in Ireland, working on national perinatal clinical audits and related research. She works on the NPEC’s “Severe Maternal Morbidity” annual clinical audit and the “Very Low Birth Weight Infant” audit (carried out in partnership with the Vermont Oxford Network).

Sara’s portfolio includes both qualitative and quantitative research. She has a PhD in Psychosocial Occupational Health and an MSc. in Occupational Health, both awarded by the School of Public Health in University College Cork. Currently, she is involved in various research projects related to maternal morbidities, patient and maternal well-being, quality improvement of care, maternity safety climate and staff well-being.


RaShaunda Lugrand

RaShaunda is uplifting access to holistic family planning for historically excluded communities in the US and internationally, with a focus on environment, education, employment, economics, and empowerment.

She serves birthing families as a doula, breastfeeding educator, postpartum care provider, comfort measure specialist, and behavioral health wellness coach. She is the founder of The InTune Mother Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a focus on community-based perinatal health care and workforce development through a healing justice framework. She leads a team of local birth workers through Beehive Birth Consulting Agency, her private practice which provides holistic family planning services to priority populations in Oklahoma County and surrounding areas.

RaShaunda currently serves on the board of Birth Future Foundation (BFF), an organization focused on racial justice and equity in midwifery.

A student of Anthropology and BioCultural Human Development, Neurolinguistics (NLP), and Sustainability, RaShaunda also derives her expertise from personal experience, spiritual awareness, and cultural background.

A wife of 14 years and homebirth mother of four boys, RaShaunda is proudly homeschooling her children. She spends her free time writing poetry, music, and short stories about the future of what she calls “Reproductive Consciousness.”

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Andy Radmacher

Andy Radmacher (Mx. she/they) is a long-time reproductive justice advocate, community health worker, and midwife. They became a Certified Professional Midwife in 2013 and have been providing midwifery care in a community-based setting in Louisville, Kentucky until beginning a graduate degree in medical anthropology at Oregon State University in the fall of 2021.

As a founding member of the Kentucky Birth Coalition (KBC), Andy has 10 years of grass-roots legislative and public policy experience. In 2019 KBC celebrated passing SB 84 which created a license for direct-entry midwives and as of 2021, there are currently 27 Licensed Certified Professional Midwives across the state.

Andy’s areas of expertise include public health policy, perinatal-infant health, violence prevention / mental health and trauma-informed models of care, full-spectrum reproductive health care, and community support services.

Through both clinical practice and graduate studies, Andy hopes to further integrate midwifery models of care into Kentucky’s public health policy landscape. She envisions ubiquitous access to midwives rooted in community-originated practices, anti-racism, and bodily autonomy. They believe the midwifery model of care can be an intervention for social change and a tool for healing deep wounds.

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Maura Shire

Maura (she/they) is an undergraduate student at Oregon State majoring in Anthropology with the Biocultural option and minoring in Spanish. She is currently working with Dr. Cheyney to construct a literature review of psychedelic medicine as a form of treatment for postpartum depression. She plans to continue her studies as a Masters student in applied anthropology at Oregon State.


Jonathan M. Snowden

Jonathan M. Snowden, PhD, is Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health. His areas of expertise are causal inference, childbirth, maternal health, racial health inequities, and queer health.

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Ellen Tilden

Ellen Tilden, PhD, CNM, FACNM is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Department of Nurse-Midwifery and School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR. Ellen studies models of prenatal care, latent labor and labor progress, and maternity care systems- including birth setting.



Allina Cannady

Allina Cannady is a master’s student in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology at Oregon State University. She is also a clinical research assistant at the Portland VA Medical Center, where she has been involved in genomic, cardiovascular, and cancer research in veterans. Working alongside Dr. Bovbjerg, she is helping analyze cost and outcome data related to doula services. She has a wide variety of public health interests, but is excited for this new experience working with maternal/reproductive health.


Ashley Francis

Ashley Francis is an undergraduate student at OSU, majoring in BioHealth Sciences with minors in Public Health and Chemistry. She is currently working with Dr. Bovbjerg for her Honors College Thesis, which analyzes the reasons that women who plan a community birth will transfer to a hospital birth. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans to attend medical school and hopes to eventually practice family medicine.

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Emily Garcia

Emily Garcia is a Masters student in Applied Medical Anthropology at Oregon State University, focusing on Maternal and Infant Health. She is also a birth and postpartum doula, and part of the Community Doula Program, a Medicaid-funded program that provides doula services to priority populations in the Willamette Valley. Emily’s research interests focus on supports and barriers to breastfeeding in the early postpartum period, and she is in the process of pursuing an IBCLC certification as a lactation consultant.

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Dr. Sabrina Pillai

Dr. Sabrina Pillai is a biostatistician for the US Army Public Health Center. An epidemiologist adept at advanced biostatistical methods, her research interests include planned birth setting, maternal and neonatal outcomes of birth, perinatal epidemiology, and causal inference. Sabrina earned her BSPH and MPH from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She received her PhD from Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

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