Perinatal Equity Committee

Nominations requested for Perinatal Equity Committee Chair & Vice Chair

Arielle Skalisky, DNP, APRN, CNM, PHN

MN Affiliate ACNM, MNPQC Perinatal Equity Co-Chair

Arielle Skalisky, DNP, APRN, CNM, PHN is a Certified Nurse-Midwife and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who identifies as a Black Midwife. She graduated from the University of Minnesota’s DNP program in May 2020 and she recently accepted a joint position with MHealth Fairview/University of Minnesota Physicians and University of Minnesota as a CNM and Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing. Dr. Skalisky has worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery for nearly 5 years. She was a McNair Scholar at The College of St. Scholastica and is co-founder of the Indigenous and Midwives of Color Committee of the Minnesota Affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.  Her clinical and research interests include: perinatal mood disorders, substance use disorders in pregnancy, reproductive justice, and birth equity in minority and underserved communities.

Ann Downey, MD, MS

Children’s Hospital, MNPQC Perinatal Equity Co-Chair

Dr. Downey is an attending neonatologist. She relocated to the Twin Cities in 2019 from Chicago, IL where she was in practice for over 5 years. She did her pediatrics residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and her neonatal-perinatal fellowship at the University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital of Colorado. Outside of patient care, her main interest is the intersection of clinical excellence with quality outcomes. She has a master’s degree in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety from Northwestern University. She is married and has 3 children.

Anne Walaszek, MPH

MDH, Maternal & Child Health Section, MNPQC Co-Director

Anne Walaszek, MPH (Anishinaabe) is the Maternal and Child Health Quality Improvement Specialist in the Women and Infant Health Unit at the Minnesota Department of Health. In her role, she leads two quality improvement grants, the Perinatal Quality Collaborative and the Communities Collaborating to Prevent Girls Opioid Abuse. Ms. Walaszek has experience working at a national non-profit addressing cancer inequities within American Indian and Alaska Native communities. In this role, she provided leadership for a clinic and community health approach to develop and implement culturally tailored evidence-based interventions to effectively build capacity in health systems across Indian Country. Her public health experience reflects grant writing, program development, research and data management throughout her experiences at the Minnesota Department of Health Diabetes Program, Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, and SAMHSA for their Child, Adolescent and Family Branch. She is a 2017 recipient of the Lou Fuller Award for Distinguished Service in Eliminating Health Disparities.

Angel Davis, RN, BSN, IBCLC

HCMC

Angel Davis has been a NICU nurse for 16 years at Hennepin Healthcare. She is also a birth doula and lactation consultant. 

Cassie Bigelow, MD

Allina Health

Cassie is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist with Minnesota Perinatal Physicians, part of Allina Health. she has research experience in preterm birth prevention, preeclampsia, and labor management, with multiple publications. Cassie has a longstanding interest in teaching, global health, and access to care for underserved communities. She has experience creating a clinic for uninsured women in NYC and multiple medical/surgical trips to Central America to provide care in conjunction with local physicians.

Ciana Cullens

Open Cities Health Center

Cinthia Fondrk

BECC Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health

Cinthia Fondrk is a Public Health Nurse for Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health. She is a home visiting nurse and a co-lead for the Birth Equity Community Council (BECC). BECC is committed to a collaborative process, engaging individual, community, and system-level initiatives to reduce birth inequities. Her life work is around challenging and dismantling inequitable paradigms. She is a staunch supporter of radical inclusivity and working from the margins through the “muddled middle”, as methods of moving racial equity and health equity work forward. She has experience as a floor nurse in large urban hospitals, a nursing instructor at a local community college, a public health professor at a local university, and now a public health nurse in a local public health department. She holds a B.A. from Macalester College and her Master of Nursing.

Ellen Jirik

March of Dimes

Ellen is the Manager of Maternal & Infant Health Initiatives in Minnesota for March of Dimes. She attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in History and Latin American Studies. Subsequently, she spent time working in International Development in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Brazil. While in Latin America, Ellen was able to focus on community engagement and public health, executing many communities and volunteer-led projects. She now lives in St Paul with her husband Diego, daughter Minori and 3 fur babies.

Erica Gathje

North Memorial

Erica is a family medicine physician who practices prenatal care and performs in-hospital vaginal deliveries at North Memorial hospital.  she has a diverse patient population and is excited to work on creating equity among perinatal outcomes for all patients.

Fatima SharifMohamed

CentraCare

Jennifer Almanza, DNP, APRN, CNM

HealthPartners

(she/her/hers)

Jennifer has partnered with individuals and families to enhance their sexual and reproductive health for over 25 years. A midwife by trade, Jennifer centers her work on the principles of Reproductive Justice, and values diversity in thought, gender, race, and lived experience. She believes that everyone ultimately wants to be seen, heard, respected, and to be their best, healthiest self.

Jessica Nyholm

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health
Dr. Jessica L. Nyholm is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Minneapolis and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including M Health Fairview, University of Minnesota Medical Center, and Maple Grove Hospital. She began as a specialist in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Jessica is passionate about Quality Improvement in Obstetrics, with involvement in both the OB Clinical Practice Council through North Memorial Health and Zero Birth Injury (ZBI) through M Health. Additionally, she has an interest in perinatal infections, with a focus on cytomegalovirus infection in pregnancy.

Karin Knutson

Essentia

Lisa Skjefte

Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC)

Megan Cahill

Open Cities Health Center

My passion for maternal and child health began several years ago when working on a research project about the role of doulas in pregnancy care and birth outcomes. I caught on to the emerging news of the crisis in the Black community surrounding maternal and infant mortality and couldn’t stop at the end of that project. I applied and was accepted into the MPH program at St. Catherine University with the intention of finding out more about the crisis and how I can affect change to help turn the tide of these unnecessary deaths. I’ve contributed to research at the U of MN on smoking cessation in pregnant populations, worked for a local non-profit organization in the Somali community, and am currently working with Nubian Moms as a program coordinator.
I am activated by the inequity and injustice of our medical systems and plan on continuing to support
Black led efforts on the front lines of addressing the inherent racism and misogyny that keeps pregnant
people of color from experiencing the optimal health due to us all.

Michelle Chiezah, M.P.H, M.A.

Minnesota Department of Health

Michelle Chiezah is the State’s Infant Health and Mortality Reduction Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).  At MDH, Michelle provides statewide leadership around infant mortality reduction and manages the state’s Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative. The Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative provides resources, education, information, and technical assistance to local public health agencies, Tribal governments, and community-based organizations to improve birth outcomes.  A major focus of Michelle’s work is to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality by planning, coordinating, implementing, and evaluating interventions and activities using the most current data, best practices, and promising strategies. Michelle currently serves on several committees that aim to improve maternal and/or infant health outcomes, including the Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths Case Review Committee, the Minnesota Perinatal Quality Collaborative Health Equity Group, the St. Paul-Ramsey County Birth Equity Community Council, Minnesota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) Advisory Committee, and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs Healthy Beginnings Cohort, to name a few.

Natalie Jacobson-Dunlop

Natalie Jacobson-Dunlop, APRN, CNM, MS is a Certified Nurse Midwife who currently practices at MHealth Fairview/University of Minnesota Physicians and University of Minnesota and as adjunct assistant professor with the School of Nursing. Natalie earned her Bachelor of Arts from Beloit College in 2000 and Masters of Science in
Nurse Midwifery from Oregon Health & Science University in 2008. She has experience working in multiple practice locations including hospital, birth center, and home birth. Natalie is passionate about providing sensitive, quality, individualized care with an emphasis on shared decision making and honoring each persons choice in their healthcare. Natalie serves on the Committee for Equity and Justice with the Minnesota Affiliate of the American College of Nurse Midwives and the Diversity, Equity and Justice Committee with the University of MN OBGYN Department. She advocates for reproductive justice and seeks to address healthcare inequalities in midwifery and women’s health using anti-racist strategies.

Rachel Cooper, MD

Sanford Health

Rachel is a Minneapolis native who went to South High School. Completed her undergrad at New York University, and a Master’s in Bioethics at Columbia University, Medical School at the U of MN, Pediatrics Residency at the University of WI in Madison. She is currently working as a Peds Hospitalist, covering Newborn Nursery, Special Care Nursery, Peds Floors and Peds Consults in Bemidji, MN at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. Special interests include health equity, pediatric and adult bioethics/conflict resolution/decisionmaking, pediatric hospice, and palliative care. Previous work as an EMT, Spanish, and French medical interpreter.

Rochelle Johnson

HealthPartners, Regions Hospital

Rochelle Johnson is the Director of Nursing for the Regions Hospital Birth Center in St. Paul, Minn. 

As director of Nursing for this large inner-city Birth Center, Rochelle has worked to create an open line of communication with community partners in order to impact maternal and infant health. More than 60 percent of women served in this Birth Center come from African American, Latin America, and Asian American backgrounds with 25 percent of patients requiring interpretation support for their care. With a focus on health equity, Rochelle has a passion for addressing the disparities that exist for people of color, especially maternal and fetal health outcomes, so she works to create meaningful community partnerships in order to address social determinants of health, both before and after delivery.

In her role as director of Nursing at Regions Birth Center, Rochelle partners to lead initiatives and projects for the seven hospitals in the HealthPartners system accounting for more than 10,000 deliveries in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Rochelle is a registered nurse with a Master of Science in nursing leadership and a Master of Business Administration. She recently returned to the United States after working in Doha, Qatar, helping to commission a 500-plus bed Women’s and Children’s academic medical center.

Sierra Hill

MPH, CPH

Maternal Care Access Coordinator, MCH Section

Susan Boehm, RN, MS

MPO Executive Director/Treasurer, MNPQC Co-Director

Susan has been a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Women’s Health for over 30 years. She has a long history with MPO as a volunteer, conference presenter, planning committee member, and has served on the Board of Directors. She is currently the MPO Executive Director and Co-Director of the Minnesota Perinatal Quality Collaborative (MNPQC).

Todd Stanhope, MD

North Memorial, MNPQC Executive Branch

Dr. Stanhope is a full-time OB/GYN hospitalist and medical director of Women and Children’s services at North Memorial Health Hospital. His clinical interests include hypertension, complex deliveries, and postoperative opioid prescribing. Prior to his current position, he provided contracted OB coverage at a number of facilities, high and low volume, in several states and completed two missions to South Sudan with Doctors Without Borders from which he gained invaluable experience learning the myriad needs and challenges different facilities and systems face.

Yvy Rivera-Chiauzzi

Mayo Health

Enid Rivera-Chiauzzi MD is an Assistant Professor and Consultant in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mayo Clinic Rochester. She is a full-time Laborist at the Family Birth Center at Methodist Hospital. Her primary areas of research are understanding healthcare worker experiences after adverse stressful events (Second Victim Experience) and understanding their experience after encounters with racism and discrimination at work. She is using this research to help healthcare workers thrive after such events through peer support. Her clinical areas of research include surgical site infections, patient and OBGYN physician experiences during COVID, and improve postpartum care. She is an instructor of the Emergencies in Clinical Obstetrics (ECO) course offered by (ACOG) and instructor of the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO) by AAFP. She is the Co-Director for the Peer Support Program Healing the Emotional Lives of Peers (HELP) at Mayo Clinic. She is the Physician/Scientist Chair for Somos Latinos Mayo Employee Resource Group.

Interested in getting involved? 
Comments or questions?