Saraswathi Vedam, RM, PhD, FACNM, Sci D (hc)
Saraswathi Vedam is Lead Investigator of the Birth Place Lab and Professor of Midwifery, at University of British Columbia. She has been a clinician and a health professional educator for 35 years. Professor Vedam has successfully coordinated multi-stakeholder and community-led research projects in provincial, national, and international settings. Professor Vedam is currently PI of a CIHR-funded national research project to evaluate respectful maternity care, Research Examining the Stories of Pregnancy and Childbearing Today (RESPCCT). In 2017, she was selected as one of the inaugural Michael Smith Health Research Institute Health Professional Investigators.
Dr. Vedam has applied her expertise with instrument development and psychometric evaluation to the development of clinical screening tools, MAPi, the Movement and Pulse index to assess fetal well-being, and scales to measure provider attitudes to home birth (PAPHB, PAPHI-i), and autonomy (MADM) and respect (MORi) during pregnancy and childbirth. She led the multidisciplinary development of the MISS index, an evidence-based composite measure of the integration of midwives into health systems. She also led a Delphi team of multi-disciplinary experts to develop and validate the Birthplace ResQu Index, the first critical appraisal tool for research on safety of birth place; and a global Delphi process to develop the first international Registry of validated measures of respectful maternity care. The application of these measures, also led to the development of an interprofessional online course, Dialogue and Decisions, to teach health professional trainees the process of person-centred decision making, transdisciplinary collaboration, and conflict transformation.
Professor Vedam has been active in setting national and international policy on place of birth, and midwifery education and regulation. She has provided expert consultations to policy makers in Mexico, Hungary, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Canada, the US, and India. She was Convener and Chair of 4 national Home Birth Consensus Summits. At these historic national Summits a multi-stakeholder group of leaders (clinicians, consumers, policymakers, legislators, researchers, ethicists, and administrators) crafted a common agenda to address equitable access to high quality care across birth settings in the United States. She is convener and chair of the Global Perinatal Task Force on Quality of Maternal Newborn Care during COVID-19.
Tamar Austin (she/her) holds a BSc from the University of Toronto and a MPH, with a focus in social inequities in health, from Simon Fraser University. During her masters, Tamar focused on exploring community-based participatory research methods and the utilization of intersectionality to address race and gender-based health inequities within Canada. Her academic background led to diverse research opportunities that focused on the experiences of historically marginalized communities navigating healthcare systems and services, especially that of women and African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) communities. As a research coordinator with the Birth Place Lab, Tamar coordinates multiple maternity research and implementation projects while supporting students and trainees. As a researcher, Tamar is interested in the ways racism, gender-based discrimination, and other axis of oppression impact birthing experiences of ACB people in Canada, as well as the implementation of strategies and tools to improve the quality of maternity care.
Kate Benner, BSc, MPH
Kate Benner (she/her) received a Master of Public Health degree at Simon Fraser University. During her graduate studies, she had the opportunity to work on research and evaluation projects in a range of health-related settings. She recently supported a community-based story writing project on health equity and climate change. She completed mixed-methods data analysis and a report of findings from large-scale survey data analysis for the evaluation of the Provincial Overdose Emergency Response Strategy. Kate has strong interests in equity-driven public health practice, maternal health, weight stigma, and reproductive justice. As part of the MPH program, she also studied birth evacuations in Indigenous communities and the revitalization of Indigenous midwifery. At the end of her degree, she completed an immersive, team-based Capstone project that focused on awareness-building and prevention of weight stigma in Health Sciences education. Her project used an intersectional lens and applied the Equity Centered Design framework to the development of a Curriculum Enhancement Guide for faculty members.
Kate completed a Bachelor of Arts & Sciences at Quest University with concentrations in Health Sciences, Feminist theory and Sociology. Kate was drawn to the work being done at the Birth Place Lab because of their emphasis on participatory research and attention to equity-deserving communities that have been historically marginalized in healthcare settings. As a Research Assistant, she applies a critical feminist and intersectional lens in her work and supports the research teams with data management and data sharing agreements, quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques, and communications with community and research partners in alignment with the broad translational research goals of the BPL. She is very excited to support this work and learn from her colleagues.
Kaveri Mayra PhD
Dr. Kaveri Mayra is a midwifery, nursing and global health researcher from India with a PhD in Global Health from the University of Southampton, UK, where she explored the experiences and determinants of obstetric violence in India through an arts-based method called ‘birth mapping’. She won the Research Trainee funding from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) to work as a postdoctoral fellowship at the Birth Place Lab, University of British Columbia, where she is leading the Continuum for Respectful Care (CORE) initiative alongside supporting the team at lab on other respectful care related initiatives. She has extensive research experience on nursing and midwifery workforce policies, regulation and practice; sexual, reproductive and maternal health care and the underlying gender-based challenges. Dr. Mayra is a global speaker and has delivered guest lectures in universities and at conferences around the world on obstetric violence; orgasm equality, nursing and midwifery governance, the inequities, sexism and discriminations in health policy-making. Dr. Mayra was recently recognized as one of the 100 outstanding global midwife and nurse leaders by Women in Global Health, WHO, ICN, ICM, Nursing Now and UNFPA to mark the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020.
Dr. Mayra serves on the board on Human Rights in Childbirth (HRIC), White Ribbon Alliance UK and Academy for Nursing Studies and Women's Empowerment Research Studies. She also runs the Obstetric Violence Journal Club and the Birth and Body Book Club. Dr. Mayra also consults as a Subject Matter Expert with the WHO HQ to create a toolkit for WHO Academy on Essential Respectful Care Course (ERCC). When she is not doing any of the above, she is dancing.
Jeanette McCulloch provides communications support and knowledge translation for the Birth Place Lab. She is the co-founder of BirthSwell, which is improving infant and maternal health - and the way we talk about birth and breastfeeding - through strategic digital communications. With more than 20 years experience in communications and women’s health advocacy, she provides consultation to local, statewide, national, and international birth and breastfeeding organizations and small businesses. She has published research and spoken at national conferences on reaching millennial parents online. She is passionate about health equity and ensuring that all families have access to high-quality, culturally sensitive birth and lactation care. Jeanette has two children, both born with the support of a midwife.
Mimi Niles, PhD, CNM, MPH
Dr. Paulomi Niles (she, her) is Research Scientist at New York University, Clinician Scholar at the Birth Place Lab, and Certified-Nurse-Midwife in a large urban public health care network in New York City that primarily serves BIPOC and immigrant communities. Her work explores the potential of integrated models of midwifery care in creating health equity. Her dissertation titled ‘Kairos care in a Chronos world: An analysis of midwifery care in urban public hospitals’ examined both the potential and challenges of practising midwifery in historically disenfranchised communities. This research was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Dr. Niles has extensive expertise in utilizing critical feminist theory and qualitative research methods to generate policy and programming that is rooted in intersectional and anti-racist frameworks. Dr. Niles serves on the NYC Department of Health Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee and has received various awards including the Johnson & Johnson Minority Faculty Award, Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Award, Macy Foundation’s Biggs Health Policy Scholar, and ACNM’s 2018 Carrington-Nieves-Hsia Doctoral Student of Color award. Dr. Niles serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives.
Lauren Redman RM, BA, BMW
Research Fellow, Indigenous Health
Lauren Redman RM, BA, BMW is a mother of two and a Registered Midwife of Métis and mixed European ancestry. Lauren is working as the Research Fellow for Indigenous Health on the Decolonizing Birth Research Project in collaboration with the Firelight Group.
Prior to entering UBC’s midwifery program she completed a BA at UBC in Women’s and Gender Studies. She worked at UBC, both at the Institute for Aboriginal Health and at Aboriginal Student Affairs. In midwifery practice she worked with marginalized communities out of Pomegranate and Strathcona Midwifery and the Urban Native Youth Association's clinic. She is passionate about improving maternity care for Indigenous peoples and pregnancy and birth as ceremony. She is a member of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives and the Midwives Association Aboriginal Committee.
Dana L. Solomon, PhD
KT Specialist and Researcher
Dana Solomon has both an MA and PhD in interdisciplinary studies. Her research focuses on the relationship between entertainment and ideology and the ways in which entertainment can be used to facilitate communication about complex problems. Her research interests include ideologies of genocide and international conflict, knowledge translation, and the impact of bias within the medical profession on women with obesity.
Dana’s publications include several journal articles, book chapters, and a book published by Lexington Books, titled Ideological Battlegrounds: Entertainment to Disarm Divisive Propaganda. She has also conducted, published, and presented conference papers on the influence of theatre and paratheatre on the Holocaust and the potential application of Harry Potter to genocide education and conflict resolution.
Dana has experience in both integrative mixed-methods and qualitative research practices. In addition, she has decades of experience as a theatre artist, having worked as a director, actor, voice over artist, stage manager, and designer (lighting, sound, costume, props, and set). She also has experience in theatre administration and management. The combination of her academic and artistic experience places her at the intersection between those fields of practice.
When Dana is not working at the Birth Place Lab, she owns and operates her own business, D-Editions.
Equity and Community Strategist
Honorary Research Associates
Kathrin Stoll, PhD
Senior Investigator, Research Associate
Dr. Kathrin Stoll (she, her) is a social scientist with degrees in psychology, family studies and interdisciplinary studies related to public health, nursing and midwifery. Following a five-year postdoctoral fellowship in Population and Public Health at UBC and a CIHR fellowship in primary health care research, she joined the Birth Place Lab as Senior Research Associate. She has worked with transdisciplinary teams to develop several innovative, patient-centred instruments. She led the psychometric testing of a scale that assesses stress associated with remittances obligations of Sudanese refugees; a measure of childbirth fear that has been used in 10+ countries; and 3 scales to measure autonomy, respect, and mistreatment in perinatal care. These patient-oriented instruments measure quality of pregnancy and birth care are being implemented in research and quality improvement programs in over 18 countries. Dr. Stoll is co-Investigator on several community participatory action research studies including Changing Childbirth in BC, Birth Includes Us, and the current national CIHR funded RESPCCT study. Dr Stoll was lead evaluator for the College of Midwives of three collaborative maternity care programs that serve priority populations, and she led the Sustainable Midwifery Practice Taskforce (SMPT) to identify solutions to occupational stress and burnout among BC Midwives.Dr. Stoll has served as co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Midwifery Research and Practice, lecturer at Hannover Medical School in Germany, and is a Fellow at the Centre for Rural Health Research.
Tanya Khemet Taiwo, CPM, MPH
Tanya Khemet Taiwo, CPM, MPH, PhD lives in Sacramento, CA where she has practiced in community clinic settings for over 20 years. She currently works in a Federally Qualified Health Center, caring for low-income families in a multi-disciplinary setting, where women’s health services are enhanced with health education, nutrition and social services. She comes from a family tradition of midwives, was trained at Seattle Midwifery School, and apprenticed with midwives in Seattle, Senegal and Jamaica. An Associate Professor in the Department of Midwifery at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, Dr. Taiwo is an epidemiologist whose dissertation research examined the role of maternal prenatal stress on child neurodevelopment, and how these stressors interact with environmental exposures. Her concern for environmental exposures affecting pregnant women drives her as co-director of the Community Engagement Core at the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center. She also serves as President of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, and counts herself blessed as the mother of three beautiful girls who were all born at home into the hands of midwives.
Keisha Goode, Ph.D.
Keisha Goode, Ph.D. is the first Public Member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, and is currently serving as the Board Vice President. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York-College at Old Westbury and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York--Lehman College. Her work is centered on issues related to pregnancy and childbirth in the United States with specific attention to black midwives.
Her dissertation, Birthing, Blackness and the Body: Black Midwives and Experiential Continuities of Institutional Racism, has been widely disseminated and discussed within the birth community; she is currently working on its publication into a book. She, along with Barbara Katz Rothman, are the co-authors of Pregnancy and Childbirth in the United States: A Reference Handbook to be published by ABC-CLIO press in Spring 2021.
Michael Rost, PhD, MSc, MA
Dr. Rost is a bioethicist with degrees in Psychology (MSc), Applied Ethics (MA) and Biomedical Ethics (PhD), affiliated with the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel, Switzerland. His current research stay at the UBC’s Birth Place Lab was funded by the by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Scientific Exchange funding scheme. His main research interests include maternal autonomy in intrapartum decision-making, decision-making in pediatric oncology, and the concept of normality in medicine. As an empirical bioethicist who integrates ethical and empirical analyses, he is very passionate about improving person-centered decision-making in childbirth through examining both health professionals’ and women’s attitudes towards key elements of ethically sound decision-making, in particular towards maternal autonomy.
Dr. Rost’s publications in several peer-reviewed journals include quantitative, qualitative and theoretical work on decision-making in pediatric oncology, pediatric palliative care, decision-making capacity, autonomy in children, informed consent, medical uncertainty, and mistreatment in childbirth. He has disseminated the results of his research at international and national conferences in the area of both clinical medicine and medical ethics. Dr. Rost has been awarded funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Cancer League and the University of Basel’s Research Fund Junior Researchers. He also gave lectures on various ethical subjects, such as behavioral ethics, coercion in medicine, research ethics, or non-beneficial research with children.
Besides his academic work, Dr. Rost has served as a family psychology expert witness for family courts in Germany. He also was appointed member of the ethics council of the Systemic Society Germany where he advices the executive board in cases of complaints against members of the Systemic Society.
Elizabeth Nethery, MSc, MSM
Elizabeth is a direct-entry midwife and a health researcher skilled in quantitative analysis, GIS, data visualization and has experience in research methods and has published over 10 papers. Her recent research used US data (MANA Stats) to explore rural birth outcomes for women who planned community births. She is interested in research on place of birth, access to care and perinatal outcomes and is a current PhD student in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. She recently graduated from the Masters of Science in Midwifery at Bastyr University (Seattle, WA) and has started the process to become certified as a Registered Midwife (RM) in British Columbia.
Molly Altman, PhD, CNM, MPH
Molly Altman (she/her) is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Washington (US). Her work has focused on respectful care during pregnancy and childbirth for marginalized communities, with a focus on the interaction between individuals and their health care providers. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship with the Preterm Birth Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco exploring how low income women of color experience interacting with health care providers in the Bay Area, leading to important work describing how providers use information and knowledge sharing to influence how patients make decisions and experience their care. She is currently leading the Giving Voice to LGBTQ+ Families study, which is using participatory methods to adapt the RESPCCT study specifically to capture the experiences of pregnant people and their families during the perinatal period (preconception to postpartum).
Courtney Broten, RM, McAC, MHPE
Courtney Broten completed a degree in Midwifery and has since cared for diverse groups of people throughout pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn periods in both rural and urban settings in British Columbia. She has served as faculty with the Division of Midwifery at UBC since 2010. Her professional responsibilities have included working for the Midwives Association of BC on provincial access issues for midwives. She is particularly interested in health professional education research and design. Courtney has completed a Master’s in Health Professional Education through Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and she is a member of UBC’s Centre for Health Education Scholarship.
Uplift Co-Director, Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology
Melissa Cheyney PhD, LDM is a Professor of Clinical Medical Anthropology at Oregon State University (OSU) and a community midwife (on sabbatical). She co-directs Uplift—a research and reproductive equity laboratory at OSU, where she serves as the Primary Investigator on more than 20 maternal and infant health-related research projects, including the Community Doula Project. She is the author of an ethnography entitled Born at Home (2010, Wadsworth Press), co-editor with Robbie Davis-Floyd of Birth in Eight Cultures (2019, Waveland Press), and author or co-author of more than 60 peer-reviewed articles that examine the cultural beliefs and clinical outcomes associated with midwife-attended birth at home and in birth centers in the United States. In 2019, Dr. Cheyney served on the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Birth Settings in America Study and in 2020 was named Eminent Professor by OSUs Honors College. She also received Oregon State University’s prestigious Scholarship Impact Award for her work in the International Reproductive Health Laboratory and with the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) Statistics Project. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care and the mother of a daughter born at home.
Indra Lusero, JD, MA
Indra Lusero is founder of Elephant Circle and the Birth Rights Bar Association. As a Queer, Genderqueer, Latinx parent rooted in the Rocky Mountain West, Indra is attuned to the importance of people on the margins and our role in leading the dismantling of oppressive systems to build a more equitable world. Indra helped pass legislation in Colorado to eliminate the shackling of incarcerated women during pregnancy and birth, to improve midwifery and birth center regulations, and to create more humane policies for families impacted by substance use. Indra also spearheaded the creation of "Birth Rights: A resource for everyday people to defend human rights during labor and birth," and is interested in developing accountability mechanisms for disrespect and mistreatment during birth.
Rachel Olson, PhD
The Firelight Group
Rachel is a citizen of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation from the Yukon territory. She has been a researcher in First Nation communities since 1998, working on various projects, from oral history, traditional land use and natural resource management to First Nations health issues. She has a Master of Research in Social Anthropology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. In May 2013, Rachel completed a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Sussex, looking at the politics of midwifery care and childbirth in Manitoba First Nations communities.
Rachel has worked as a consultant for the LINKS (Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems) program at UNESCO in Paris, France and at the First Nations Centre at the National Aboriginal Health Organization on their maternal care file. She works closely with the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM) as a researcher and writer for their Aboriginal Health and Human Resource Initiative projects.
At Firelight, Rachel is a technical lead of the Traditional Knowledge and Use Study team, and the lead on Health-related projects. She has authored numerous Traditional Knowledge (TK) / Traditional Land Use (TLU) reports for First Nation communities in BC, Alberta, and the NWT. Her work has focused on knowledge and use in relation to a number of different industries including: pipelines, wind farms, and mining. She has also testified at environmental review board hearings on Firelight TUS methods, analysis, and assessment.
Lesley A. Tarasoff, PhD
Lesley A. Tarasoff is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Health and Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She leads the qualitative component of a NIH-funded project on the perinatal health of women with disabilities in Ontario and her own CIHR-funded research on the preconception health of women with disabilities.
In 2018, she completed her PhD in Public Health Sciences from the Dalla Lana School of Public
Health at the University of Toronto, as well as a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the
Department of Psychology at Ryerson University.
Primarily drawing on qualitative methodologies, her program of research aims to understand and address disparities and inequities in reproductive and perinatal health and health care experiences among often-pathologized and stigmatized populations, chiefly women with disabilities and sexual minority women.
She is a Co-Investigator on the RESPCCT study.
Community Engagement Coordinator
Alison has extensive experience working with vulnerable patient populations and diverse groups of people. Her fluency and working knowledge in French, Ndebele, Zulu, Spanish and Portuguese have enabled her to connect with varying communities. Alison has co-authored four published manuscripts and contributed to several posters, abstracts and conference presentations. She is very passionate about being a part of the solution to reducing the burden of preventable maternal and newborn death and increasing access to reproductive healthcare.