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Saraswathi Vedam, RM, PhD, FACNM, Sci D (hc)

Principal Investigator

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.

Operations and Administration

Ali Tatum

Equity and Operations Manager

Ali Tatum provides strategic direction and expertise on justice in community-centered, health services research and knowledge translation.  She designs and leads implementation of best practices for inclusive excellence in BPL activities, including community engagement, participatory action research, and knowledge translation.  She advises on implementation of best practices to facilitate equity, inclusion, and respectful community partnerships across the program of research. Ali has provided her expertise on anti-racist action to the University community through various roles, including serving on the inaugural Black Caucus Executive team, serving on the Academic Advisory Council of the Peter Wall Institute, and in designing and delivering the first Black Mental Wellness program at UBC, where culture matched counselling services were provided for Black UBC students, faculty and staff.

Tia Frazer, BA

Research Communications Assistant

Tia Frazer (she/her) received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in English Literature from the University of British Columbia. During this time, she collaborated with non-profits and local organizations to create outreach events and to implement community engagement opportunities for students. Additionally, she has worked with vulnerable populations through harm reduction education and outreach and has experience in cognitive psychology research working with young children and families.

Tia is passionate about equitable care and systemic healthcare reform. Her research interests include examining race and gender-based discrimination, intersectional approaches to healthcare, and reproductive justice. Through her work at the Birth Place Lab, she hopes to continue to promote respect and inclusion in all that she does.

Susannah Hermaszewska, MSc

Research Projects Coordinator

Susannah Hermaszewska (she/her) has expertise in participatory health research with underserved communities and systematic review methodology. After completing her MSc in Psychology, Susannah was awarded an NIHR Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in qualitative methodology and global mental health, and a Higher Education Innovation Fund grant for knowledge translation. Her research has focused on improving our understanding of the intergenerational mental health impacts of migration, discrimination and gender-based violence. Susannah prioritizes the involvement of service users and people with lived experience in her work, which includes a national project to improve access to mental healthcare for forced migrants in the UK and a WHO report on migration and mental health. She has clinical experience working with families, including those with migration backgrounds and those under state child protection. Susannah’s current interests are decolonizing research methods and parent-child relationships in the context of structural oppression and stigma, and how this impacts on child and adolescent mental health.

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Jeanette McCulloch

Communications Consultant

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.

Researchers

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Nisha Malhotra, PhD

Senior Research Associate

Dr. Nisha Malhotra heads the data analysis team at the Birthplace Lab. She is an interdisciplinary researcher with a focus on global health, gender, and development. Her research explores the role of socio-economic factors, individual identities, and policies on decisions and behaviour from maternal dietary habits, infant feeding practices in India to smoking behaviors among Canadian youth. You can find more on her research here.

Dr. Malhotra earned her master's degree at the Delhi School of Economics and doctorate in Economics at the University of Maryland, college park. Her background includes a tenured faculty position at Vancouver school of economics, teaching experience at Delhi University, consulting experiences at the World Bank, DC, and the Indian council-ICRIER.

https://www.nishamalhotra.com/

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Kathrin Stoll, PhD

Senior Research Associate

Kathrin has a background in psychology (BA), family studies (MA) & reproductive health (PhD), and fifteen years of experience collaborating with clinicians on perinatal research, education and policy projects. She finished her PhD in 2012, then completed a five-year postdoctoral fellowship in Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and a one-year CIHR fellowship in primary health care research.

Her area of expertise is midwifery and reproductive health research, specifically midwifery outcomes, midwifery workforce issues, respectful perinatal care, gender based violence, reproductive justice, and evaluation of perinatal services. Kathrin has also published extensively on fear of childbirth, perinatal mental health, rural perinatal services, and home birth. She has worked with interdisciplinary research teams and emerging scholars in Canada, the US, Australia, South America and Europe.

Kathrin has been the lead researcher on several research, policy & education projects locally and globally, including an international study of attitudes of young adults towards birth, an evaluation of collaborative models of maternity care in British Columbia (Canada) and an assessment of the quality of midwifery education in Somalia and Somaliland.

She led the Sustainable Midwifery Practice Taskforce which used an appreciative inquiry framework to identify solutions to occupational stress and burnout among BC midwives. See midwifery workforce section of BPL website for details: https://www.birthplacelab.org/projects/

With a strong publication record (75+ peer reviewed publications), 5 years of experience as a midwifery journal editor; and 15 years as a reviewer she is well positioned to support BPL team members and trainees with dissemination of research findings. Kathrin is committed to centering the voices of racialized scholars and students and enjoys mentoring trainees and early career scholars.

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Kaveri Mayra, PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow

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.

Graduate Students

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Bhavya Reddy

Graduate Research Assistant

Bhavya Reddy is a public health researcher with expertise in global maternal health. She is a doctoral student at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and holds an MPH from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Bhavya has over a decade of experience with implementation research and multiple-method research projects on gender and health. She has served as an external reviewer for WHO guidelines on antenatal care and a WHO working group to synthesize evidence on strategies to reduce mistreatment in childbirth. She has been a faculty member for a course on gender and intersectionality in health policy and systems developed for the WHO Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, where she built a case-based module on Respectful Maternity Care. Using a social inequities lens, her research engagements have included risk assessment in pregnancy, health system determinants of maternal mortality and morbidity, and capacity-building of community health workers in low-resource settings. Since 2015, her work has focused largely on drivers of mistreatment in childbirth and barriers to evidence-based intrapartum care.

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Tamar Austin

Graduate Research Assistant

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. Tamar is currently a doctoral student in interdisciplinary studies at UBC. 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.

Honorary Research Associates

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Keisha Goode, Ph.D.

Keisha Goode, Ph.D. (she, her) is an 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. 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.

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Mimi Niles, PhD, CNM, MPH

Clinician Scholar

Dr. Paulomi Niles (she, her) is Assistant Professor of Midwifery at New York University, 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.  Following a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Birth Place Lab (2019-2021), she remains an active collaborator, leading qualitative analysis and providing mentorship to trainees and community researchers as they engage with the BPL datasets.

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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 and counts herself blessed as the mother of three beautiful girls who were all born at home into the hands of midwives. She comes from a family tradition of midwifery stretching back at least two generations, 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. She serves as co-lead of Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks) a unique collaboration of leading scientists, health professionals and children’s and environmental advocates. She currently works in a Federally Qualified Health Center, caring for low-income families in a multi-disciplinary setting, where reproductive health care is enhanced with health education, nutrition and social services.

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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 research stay at the UBC’s Birth Place Lab was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Scientific Exchange funding scheme. His main research interests include autonomy in intrapartum decision-making, moral distress among midwives, 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 birth through examining both health professionals’ and women’s attitudes towards key elements of ethically sound decision-making, in particular towards 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, accessibility of care, and decision-making in birth. He has disseminated the results of his research at international and national conferences in the area of both medicine and bioethics. Dr. Rost has been awarded funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Cancer League, the Cancer League Basel, the Käthe Zingg-Schwichtenberg Fund, and University of Basel’s Research Fund Junior Researchers. He gave lectures on various ethical subjects, such as behavioral ethics, coercion in medicine, research ethics, autonomy in birth, 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.

Collaborators

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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).

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Melissa Cheyney

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Affiliated Scholars