Perinatal Equity Committee

Arielle Skalisky, DNP, APRN, CNM, PHN

MN Affiliate ACNM, MNPQC Perinatal Equity Co-Chair

Ari is an experienced labor and delivery nurse and newly Certified Nurse Midwife. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and grew up in Hermantown, Minnesota. She graduated from The College of Saint Scholastica (BSN) in 2016, and most recently, The University of Minnesota (DNP) in 2020. Ari was involved in the Improvement of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Outcomes project and her interests include health disparities among minority women; adolescent health; perinatal mood disorders.

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


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


Jennifer Almanza, DNP, APRN, CNM



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.

Karin Knutson


Lisa Skjefte

Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC)

Megan Cahill

Open Cities Health Center

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.

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.

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

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