Region VII Update (Jul-Dec 2020)

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I am pleased to share a little about the amazing work of the Oregon Affiliate. Their vision is, “Oregon as a leader in anti-racism work in the reproductive health field.” I sat down with the Affiliate President, Jessica Newgard, CNM, MN, and student nurse-midwife Demi Asvestas to learn more about the operationalizing of their ambitious vision.

Oregon is harnessing the energy of its students and has bypassed the prohibition of students as committee chairs by naming student nurse-midwives Hayley Hirt and Demi Asvestas as the co-coordinators of the Anti-Racism and Equity Committee. Oregon’s work did not start with these tenacious students, but they are happy to continue the work. The Affiliate midwives are fully aware of Oregon’s fraught history and they are committed, in the words of the old hymn, “to brighten the corner where they are!” While working within the constraints of their current demographics, the Affiliate is committed to partnering with more diverse organizations, such as the Alliance of Black Nurses, who may choose to enter midwifery while also encouraging future midwives by building a pipeline of middle and high school students.

The Affiliate has obtained a needs assessment of its membership. They have hosted two “Me and white supremacy” workshops, striving to be both a more knowledgeable provider for BIPOC clients and a more welcoming colleague to any BIPOC midwife looking to relocate.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Occasionally, great work is not received well by everyone. In November, Saraswathi Vedam, PhD, RM, FACNM, Sci D (hc), Lead Investigator of the Birth Place Lab and Professor of Midwifery at University of British Columbia, was the invited speaker at the Zoom Affiliate meeting. Unfortunately, she became the victim of a racist attack. The Affiliate responded quickly and comprehensively.

Student loan debt is an American reality and inequalities of generational wealth can make graduate education a financial struggle. Oregon, having the foresight to have their own foundation, has declared that five dollars is nothing – but perhaps everything. I can spend it unthinkingly to satisfy my daily coffee needs. The Oregon Foundation knows that with the ease of recurring debit, five dollars a month pledged by five hundred folk equals thirty thousand dollars. Health care workers and their friends and family can easily donate, providing a years’ tuition for a BIPOC student midwife. When our Oregonian colleagues ask about five dollars, be prepared to be participate in an ambitious scholarship initiative!

I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from my amazing colleagues in Oregon and can’t wait to see them at the 2021 Annual Meeting.