I recently attended the fifth annual (and first virtual) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) MMRIA User Meeting, which brought together individuals from each state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC). The meeting provides a space for individuals serving MMRCs to connect with one another, celebrate successes, and build knowledge of best practices around abstraction, analysis, and committee leadership.
One of the questions asked of us at the start of the meeting was, “What brought you to this work?” As I reflected on my involvement in New Mexico’s MMRC over the past four years, I thought back to what drew me to it. Having been previously involved in international work, several years ago, I pursued a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) to better develop my ability to manage and evaluate projects. My learning experience brought me to realize the abundance of problems in my state and country. I also took a course during my studies, Community Based Participatory Research, which introduced me for the first time to the concept of white privilege. I started my journey to examine my own racism and discriminatory behavior, and my contribution by remaining silent to systemic racism.
At the time, I was already working for the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) regarding midwifery licensing and regulations. There were conversations about re-starting the state’s MMRC, and I knew I wanted to jump on board this effort to make a difference in my state. I care deeply about the community I work in, as I assume most midwives reading this do. I wanted to know what part I could play to help decrease maternal mortality, which I knew would have a cascading effect on maternal morbidity, as well as improve the overall population health of woman in New Mexico.
I have served as New Mexico’s Lead Abstractor since the re-launch of our MMRC in 2018. I presented on several different topics around MMRCs over the last few years at the ACNM Annual Meetings. This year, I wanted to focus on one topic I feel needs to be addressed before we will start to see any improvements in our healthcare systems and communities, which in turn will hopefully decrease maternal mortality in our country. That one topic is the racism and discrimination that are embedded into our systems and our lives. In my presentation, I will examine the racial disparities that currently exist and discuss the strategies being employed at national and state levels to better identify racism and discrimination during the MMRC review process. This work aims to develop recommendations and actions to improve ourselves and the systems and communities we work in.
It is extremely hard to review maternal mortality cases and know that people are dying in our communities. Yet, we must hold hope that we can make changes to improve outcomes and save lives going forward. We can no longer remain silent regarding the systemic racism that affects maternal mortality rates. Join me at the ACNM 66th Annual Meeting to hear my presentation “Maternal Mortality Update: A Closer Examination of Racial Disparities and Possible Solutions”.
Katrina Nardini is the Associate Chief of the Midwifery Division at the University of New Mexico. She is contracted by the New Mexico Department of Health and serves as the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) Lead Abstractor and is on the Core Planning Leadership Group of the New Mexico MMRC.