Who we are

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Melissa Cheyney

Uplift Co-Director, Associate Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology

Melissa Cheyney PhD, LDM is Associate Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology at Oregon State University (OSU) and a community midwife. 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.

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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.

Collaborators

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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.

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Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown received her BS in Global Disease Biology from the University of California at Davis. She practiced as a homebirth midwife in northern California and was the Project Manager of the MANA Stats Project for many years. Jennifer worked with state midwifery organizations in California and Washington to include community midwives in statewide quality improvement initiatives. As part of 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. She is currently finishing her MPH in Epidemiology at the University of Washington. Her research interests  include social determinants of health, structural racism, disparities in maternal outcomes, and the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy.

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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.

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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 is a doctoral student in applied medical and neuro-anthropology at Oregon State University (OSU). His research is situated at the liminal spaces that mark the beginnings and ends of life. He is a birth doula with the Community Doula Program with additional specializations in hospice and end of life care. In addition, he has worked extensively with children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Overall, his 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 his work focuses on equitable subject selection and research justice for often-excluded populations.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Sabrina Pillai

Sabrina Pillai is a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. 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.

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Jennifer Tehani Sarreal

Jennifer Tehani Sarreal is a multidisciplinary performance artist, professional fire dancer, author, world performance arts educator, sacred dance practitioner, dance ritualist, and social emotional arts facilitator specializing in trauma-informed care. She is the creator of The Spirit Dance Method (TM) – an evidence-based somatic social emotional arts and wellness program inspired by research in over a dozen countries. This method is rooted in world and sacred dance practice and emphasizes the physical body as a vehicle to balanced embodied wholeness. Her method is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of culturally-specific traditions around the world by honoring their sources of origin and providing derivative practices with permission and guidance from elders, guides and teachers. Tehani is currently a Master's student in the Applied Anthropology program at Oregon State University where her research examines trance states, altered forms of consciousness and the wellness benefits of ecstatic dance. She employs decolonizing methodologies, including ethnographic fiction, art-voice, and free-form dance notation to challenge the ways medical and reproductive anthropologists study and represent the body.

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Jonathan M. Snowden

Jonathan M. Snowden, PhD, is Assistant 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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