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UNM professor seeks to recruit more midwives of color

The reward of helping a women deliver a baby opened Felina Ortiz’s eyes and made her realize that becoming a midwife was her calling.

Since graduating from The University of New Mexico’s nurse-midwifery program in the early 2000s, she’s learned that being a midwife allows her to connect with her patients and support them in every stage of their life.

Felina Ortiz

While her patients represented a wide and diverse background, there was one problem – midwives across the country didn’t.

According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the percentage of midwives of color has been stagnant over the past 30 years. Ortiz said only 5% to 6% of midwives nationwide are people of color. Ortiz has a passion for recruiting more such midwives.

“That does not reflect our country,” said Ortiz, DNP, CNM, RN and an assistant professor at the UNM College of Nursing. “In general, midwives are serving in communities of color around the country. To have more providers who reflect their … patient population is really important to me. It promotes the opportunity for providers to share the same language, vocabulary, values and sociocultural backgrounds as their patients, which promotes trust in their relationship. But it’s also really important to help students of color be successful within the programs and be successful within the midwifery profession.”

Ortiz, who has long been active in the New Mexico affiliate of ACNM, was recently appointed chair of ACNM’s National Midwives of Color committee, which recruits and supports the advancement of persons of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds to the profession of midwifery on a national stage.

“It means an opportunity to be able to help,” Ortiz said. “Now I have an opportunity to help arrange activities that recruit midwifery students of color, support midwives of color who are practicing and educate about maternal-child mortality issues or infant mortality issues within communities of color.”

Ortiz helped create the New Mexico Midwives of Color committee and has worked nationally to develop a mentoring support system for nurse-midwifery students of color.

About 27% of graduates from UNM’s midwifery program are of color, Ortiz said. She has seen a lot of success in recruiting students of color to UNM’s midwifery program and believes that the state’s communities are reaping the rewards.

“Many of them stay here in New Mexico,” Ortiz said. “Especially those who are from New Mexico. That is really important to me – to go out into the communities and help educate people about the importance of education, just on a foundational level, but also educating communities about the programs that we offer here at UNM.”

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