Community Engagement, Advocacy, & Policy Committee

Mission

The Community Engagement, Advocacy, and Policy Committee is dedicated to outreach and education surrounding maternal health. We aim to create and strengthen relationships with community partners through collaborative efforts to support the physical and emotional well-being of Black women where existing societal structures fail to do so. Our hope is that we can support Black mothers who are disproportionately affected by reproductive health disparities in the US and worldwide. We strive to stay informed on current state and national legislation regarding Black maternal health and to educate the general public, with an end goal in improving relevant legislative policy. We are committed to building a supportive and informed community with the objective to reduce severe maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women.  

Chairs

Eimaan Anwar

Eimaan is a junior at Tufts University majoring in Community Health and Biology. For most of her life she was raised in Bahrain, a small island in the Middle East. Eimaan is passionate about helping underserved communities and addressing racial and ethnic disparities, particularly in maternal health. Her research interests include disparities in pre- and postnatal care, barriers to maternal healthcare services, and the impacts of doula care on birth outcomes.  After graduation, she hopes to go to medical school and use her skills and knowledge in the public health field to help improve access to health care and quality of health education, especially for minority groups. At Tufts, Eimaan is part of Project SHARE, Birthing Project USA, the Shultz Lab and is also currently fighting to target COVID-19 misinformation in rural India. She also volunteers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and enjoys interacting and engaging with patients.  In the past she has also travelled to South East Asia and performed fieldwork to investigate maternal health standards by conducting verbal and social autopsies, assisting in focus group discussions and analyzing qualitative data. Eimaan has also worked at local health centers and interned at governmental hospitals in Karachi, specifically in the OB-GYN department, to provide the utmost help she could.

In her free time Eimaan enjoys baking, reading and hanging out with friends. Eimaan also loves ice cream and tries to go somewhere new every week! Her favorite place so far is Honeycomb Creamery in Porter Square.

Leah Franklin

My name is Leah Franklin! I am a first year Health Sciences Master’s student at Towson University. I graduated with a degree in Psychology, a minor in Africana Studies, with an emphasis in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2019. 

I worked in two psychology labs up until my graduation. I first worked in an Applied Behavioral Analysis lab where we focused on the connection of self- control, monetary payoff, and religion. I later worked in the Global Community Health Promotion Network under Dr. Jasmine Abrams. At this lab, we examined health disparities primarily as it pertains to Black women with HIV. At this second lab, I enjoyed unpacking safer sex barriers and motivations for our particular population. It gave me a sense of understanding that I will always value. I currently work at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, for my post-bac fellowship.

I gravitate towards research that centers Black women and Black LGBTQIA+ populations, as well as women, gender minorities, and sexual minorities in general. Health disparities have always been a sensitive topic for me, and I am honored to help in the process to eradicate these existing disparities for these marginalized populations. It is my life purpose to help others, and I find great joy in doing so. 

In my free time I love to read critical race theory books, write, watch The Office, crochet, drink La Croix, and jog. 

Members

Lauren Cohen

I am a junior at Tufts University studying Biology and Child Study and Human Development with a concentration in Child and Family Health. My interests include reproductive health, pediatric and maternal health, and genetic disorders in children and adolescents. In the future, I hope to combine these passions and work as a genetic counselor, identifying potential genetic conditions and providing clear communication and emotional support to patients. I am excited to join the MOTHER lab to learn more about and help address the problems of reproductive health disparities and maternal mortality and morbidity. In addition to working in the MOTHER lab, I am also conducting biological research in the Freudenreich Lab at Tufts, which investigates genome instability. I hope that these experiences will enhance my skills in quantitative and qualitative research, data collection and analysis, and academic writing as well as set me up for a career in healthcare.

Iman Ali

Iman Ali is a junior at Tufts University majoring in Community Health. At her core she believes that equity and social justice are foundations for building an overall healthy world and that a public health approach is necessary for achieving these goals. Grounded in a passion for community building and social impact work she has worked with local nonprofits, most recently as a Tisch Scholar Organizing Intern at MIRA. On campus, Iman has also been able to cultivate her passions through involvement in cultural student groups like Tufts Black Student Union and Muslim Students’ Association.  

    Through her public health coursework that has spanned Community Health Research Methods and Politics and Health in the US, she has been able to learn and write about the disparate outcomes of maternal mortality and infant morbidity in Black communities across the US. This summer, Iman has been able to work as part of a team of Research Assistants with Dr. Fernando Ona to explore intersectional experiences among college students with spiritual and mental health care during COVID-19. She has relished gaining some real-world research experience and is excited to join the MOTHER Lab and be part of a team diving deeper into maternal health topics. 

    Born and raised in Malden, Iman is a proud Mass resident. In her free time she enjoys exploring coffee shops with friends.

Rachel Jackson

Rachel Jackson, BA, MPH (candidate) holds a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in Community health and is a candidate for a masters’ degree in public health from Tufts University School of Medicine’s Public Health Programs. She demonstrates strong skills in stakeholder engagement, communication, policy analysis, survey development, and leadership skills. Recently, she worked at the New York Academy of Medicine and helped with a project called “The East Harlem Action Collaborative,” (EHAC). The purpose of the project is to allow residents to identify solutions to seemingly entrenched problems in East Harlem to achieve optimal child health and well-being in their community. Ms. Jackson’s responsibilities included grant writing, compiling a database of formal community assets, and conducting community presentations and discussions to advance policy recommendations to elected officials and community board officials. She also developed surveys to ask families about their experiences with lead poisoning and housing discrimination conflicts as part of a research project at Boston Medical Center. In addition, Ms. Jackson worked at Sydenham Health Center to promote the “Health at Home” program: a program that provides free care management and coordination services to high needs patients with chronic diseases, regardless of their insurance status. She worked with outreach specialists and care coordinators and organized weekly meetings to develop ways to improve the program. Ms. Jackson is actively involved in her local community and volunteers for Brigham and Women’s Hospital by assisting nurses, greeting patients and transporting patients, specimens, equipment, and packages to all ambulatory, lab, and inpatient units. Outside of her work and studies, she enjoys cooking and trying new recipes. She also loves to swim and often practices her strokes during the summer.

Smita Nayak 

Smita is a sophomore at Tufts University studying Community Health and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies on the pre-med track. She is interested in the intersections between public health and medicine & finding interdisciplinary ways to address public health disparities, namely environmental health issues related to water sanitation & women’s health issues. In the past, Smita has conducted public health related independent research on variance in clinical antibiotic rates in Milwaukee River Sediment Bacteria exposed to Triclosan (TCS) and Triclocarban (TCC), under the guidance of Dr. Todd Miller at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Public Health. This research’s public health implications involve the health of living organisms in the Milwaukee River, exposure to TCS and TCC through farms, and human resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics due to cross-resistance to TCS and TCC. At Tufts, Smita is mainly involved with Tufts GlobeMed and the Tufts Association of South Asians. Outside of the classroom, Smita is an avid runner, loves to cook and enjoys spending time in nature. This summer, Smita interned with Birthing Project USA (BPUSA), the only global African-American maternal health organization & fundraised for BPUSA’s efforts to deliver Safe Birth Kits and PPE to its Malawi Clinic amidst COVID-19. Currently, she is a program lead for the College Ambassadorship Program, a free, peer-to-peer mentoring program pairing high school students interested in pre-health with college student mentors.   

Smita is passionate about intersectional feminism & global advocacy for health issues affecting BIPOC, LGBTQ+ identifying & other marginalized women; she looks forward to working with Dr. AO’s lab and loves that it meshes her interests in Community Health & Women’s Studies. Smita is grateful for the opportunity to work in a research team dedicated to advocacy, education and research about maternal health disparities faced by marginalized communities of women.  

Michaela Harris

Michaela L. Harris is a Graduate Student at Boston University School of Public Health studying Global Health Program Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation, with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. Although Michaela has an interest in pursuing a medical career, she felt she was missing the interdisciplinary knowledge that many health professionals are lacking today, which is taking into account how factors such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status generate differential health outcomes in patients.

While obtaining her Bachelors of Science degree in Biology, she has gained experience working as a Health and Wellness Specialist for young adults, serving as a Peer Mentor offering encouragement to young women facing unplanned pregnancies, and working in a Medicinal Chemistry lab specializing in Natural Products Research. Through these experiences, Michaela has developed and utilized skills such as Program Facilitation, Crisis Management, and Laboratory Safety with certifications in Basic Life Support and Mental Health First Aid. Michaela utilizes her expertise in hopes of spearheading initiatives that not only improve the conditions of minority women and children, but restructure the same systems that have disenfranchised vulnerable populations for generations.

In her free time Michaela enjoys attending contemporary dance classes, visiting art museums, and watching BA Kitchen videos on YouTube. She has a strong background in the performing arts where she danced competitively for over 12+ years in multiple genres of dance and played piano for 10 years. Michaela also owns a blog titled “LifewithChae” where she documents her experience as a black woman pursuing her MPH in Boston. The platform was created in hopes of encouraging other minority women to step outside of their comfort zones (whether that is moving out of state or pursuing a professional degree) and chase their dreams.

Sereena Jivraj

Sereena Jivraj is a first-year medical student at the TCU & UNTHSC School of Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas. She graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology in 2019. Sereena has had a longstanding interest in Maternal and Child Health as well as surgery and obstetrics. In recent years, from both the media and working alongside an OB/GYN, she’s become frustrated with high U.S. maternal mortality rates, especially given our country’s status as a first-world nation. As such, she hopes to help tackle these disparities as well as general disparities faced by those in lower socioeconomic classes throughout her medical career. Sereena hopes her experiences with the MOTHER Lab will provide her with the knowledge and tools to educate others on implicit biases and the vital topic of maternal health disparities.

Radhika Sharma

Radhika Sharma is a sophomore at Tufts University, pursuing a double major in Biology and Community Health. As a first-generation American from Kentucky, Radhika has felt the urgency to interact with and understand several communities. She began her pursuit of civic engagement through the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, which integrates students as partners to improve Kentucky education. The Student Voice Team led Radhika to her passion to help people regain agency for decision-making and recognize the power of their stories. With an interest in listening to and sharing stories, Radhika learned about the menstrual stigma in India and founded a nonprofit, Project Period. Through Project Period, she strives to combat the menstrual stigma using conversation, education, and sanitation. Radhika has authored a period literacy textbook that helps break barriers of the stigma. She continues to better understand health inequities through her work with Pacify, a telelactation company, on increasing access and enrollment for low-income moms, as well as serving as the Director of Campaigns for Tufts for Health Equity, a club partnered with non-profit PHASE Nepal. Radhika’s unique perspective inspires her to combine her interests in storytelling, advocacy, health inequities by pursuing women’s health in the long-term.

Ebunoluwa Falade

Ebunoluwa Falade is a second-year student in the Masters of Medical Science Program at Boston University School of Medicine. She is currently spending her thesis year working as a graduate research assistant at Beth Israel Israel Deaconess Medical Center with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her research focuses on the impact of doulas on the patient experience and mental health outcomes of birthing people. Through her research, Ebunoluwa hopes to gain insight that will inform future care for mothers, especially black mothers, within our healthcare system. Before studying at Boston University, Ebunoluwa obtained her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology, Health, and Society from the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. As a pre-medical student, she learned about health through an interdisciplinary, biopsychosocial perspective, which not only solidified her passion for treating patients as a future physician but has inspired her to be a physician that advocates for change outside of the walls of the hospital. During her undergraduate career, Ebunoluwa served on-campus organizations committed to mentorship, professional development, and community service tailored to underrepresented communities. She hopes to bring her personal and professional experience to the MOTHER lab community and continue to live out the meaning of her name, which is “gift.” Ebunoluwa resides in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and spends her free time sharing her personal journey as a blogger, embracing her Nigerian culture through dance, and watching doctor themed TV shows & Marvel movies.

Abibatu Giwa-Osagie

My name is Abibatu Giwa-Osagie and I am a sophomore at Tufts University pursuing Community Health on the Pre-Med track. I am originally from Brooklyn, New York but my family is Nigerian. As a doctor, I hope to address and fill in the gaps in health care disparities in minority neighborhoods by starting my own clinic that has only people of color as faculty. I also want to help in treatment for conditions that mostly affect people of color, such as diabetes, hypertension and pregnancy mortality rates. Some of my personal interests include anything with health and beauty as well as cooking and teaching. 
On campus, I am involved in a multitude of extracurriculars and sometimes it could be really overwhelming. I am the Education Chair for The Kidney Disease Awareness and Screening Program, a club on Tufts that conducts screenings for Chronic Kidney Disease at Tufts Medical Center. It is also a club to learn more about Chronic Kidney Disease and other conditions that disproportionately affect people of color. I am also the President for the YouCanToo Branch at Tufts, a mentorship program where college students of color help high school students of color with college admissions, school work and personal issues. 
This is a little bit about me. I am excited to work with all of you this year!

Heather Olden, MPH

Heather A. Olden, originally from Durham, N.C., is a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) student at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She earned a Bachelor of Science with honors in molecular biology from Hampton University, in Hampton, Va., and a Master of Public Health in international health epidemiology (cum laude) from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor. In her former position as an Epidemiologist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Heather specialized in patient and community engagement, strategic planning, program development and management, and qualitative data collection and analysis for both internal and external health system clients. She has presented at multiple national academic and patient advocacy conferences, and consults with health systems across the country on how to effectively entrench patient engagement into complex organizational health systems. Her research interests are centered largely on the impact of social justice on maternal health, as well as on using patient engagement methodology to authentically translate research into clinical practice and policy. Following completion of her doctoral degree, she plans to leverage the diversity of her experiences to bridge the gap between maternal health research and social justice policy. Her vision is to create a pipeline from research to policy development that is grounded in the voices of those with lived experiences.

Outside of her work in her professional community, Heather is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and owns Bella Blossoms, a small business dedicated to creating unique, handmade event and home décor, specializing in paper flowers and other handicrafts. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, dancing, and spoiling her chihuahua, Ziggy. 

Abena Asare

Abena is an MPH Candidate at the University of California, Berkeley in the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Program. She graduated from Wellesley College in 2018 with a major in Psychology and minor in Health & Society. During her time at Wellesley, Abena served as the President for Wellesley’s Public Health student organization and worked as a Senior Assistant in the Office of Admission. Abena currently works as a Program Assistant at Prevention Institute (PI), a national public health non-profit headquartered in Oakland, California. She helps coordinate prevention initiatives focused on collaborative and community-based approaches to addressing intimate partner violence & mental health and wellbeing as part of PI’s Safety & Wellbeing team. She provides support to communities across California through a program called Safety Through Connection, works with cities across the country through the Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys initiative, and helps facilitate PreventConnect web conferences focused on sexual and domestic violence prevention. Abena is currently working on a brief focused on the intersections between health equity and sexual violence prevention. She is passionate about addressing the historical injustices and determinants of health that impact the maternal and child health population, particularly how racism affects Black mothers and babies in the United States. In her spare time Abena enjoys going for walks and runs outdoors, organizing gatherings with friends, and spending time with family.

Elizabeth Bolarinwa

Elizabeth Bolarinwa is a Sophomore, Clinical Laboratory Sciences Major on a Pre-Med Track at Howard University.She hopes to become a physician practicing internal medicine with a specialization in infectious diseases, however, Black Maternal Health has always been of interest and concern to her as a Black Woman. As an African-American woman pursuing healthcare, she understands and has experienced the urgent need for the eradication of medical racism. Her passion is health equity for all and she has started a platform, @projectalafia, on instagram to discuss health equity and encourage learning, advocacy, and conversation around topics like biases, healthcare racism and inequities and more.

Bathsheba Wariso

Bathsheba is a fourth year MD/MPH student completing her medical studies at Meharry Medical College and public health studies at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Born in Nigeria, her interests in women’s health stemmed from her lived experiences in her native country and underserved communities here in the United States.  Witnessing how barriers to access of medical care too often resulted in deleterious impacts to families, she developed a keen interest in health disparities and engaged in supplementary studies as both a National Institutes of Health Academy Scholar and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Scholar.  As a member of MOTHERS Lab, she hopes her work will help to bring equitable care to communities that need it most both domestically and abroad.

Mansi Rana

Mansi is a Graduate Student at Walden University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Montclair State University. Her major was Public Health, concentration in Community Health Education and a minor in Nutrition and Food Science. Mansi’s professional interests include Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Research, Community Health Services, Infectious Disease, Preventative Care, Social Determinants of Health, and Publications.

Mansi was born in India and spent her teenage and adult years in New Jersey. Through her undergraduate studies at Montclair State University, Mansi became interested in Public Health, with a special interest in the field of Epidemiology. Mansi’s interest grew further when she served as a Research Assistant intern at Rutgers University School of Health Professions and Rutgers Brain Health Institute. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health to better understand the social and cultural influences that contribute to an individual’s and community’s health. Mansi hopes to improve her knowledge to solve broader public health issues and serve people from various backgrounds.

Outside of her professional work, Mansi enjoys cooking, cleaning, watching shows, doing henna designs, and visiting new places around!

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