The Spirit of Care
To midwife safe, quality, loving care through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
We dream of a world where birth is safe, sacred, loving and celebrated for everyone.
Safety, trust, love, and justice are our guiding values.
MEET OUR TEAM
Hope, strength, and vision -- Amidst the undeniable tragedies surrounding maternal and infant death rates in Detroit, another narrative exists. This narrative leans on hope, harnesses community strengths, and imagines a future in which Detroit is a leader in community-based maternal and infant care. Community leaders across Detroit are using this strengths-based lens to find innovative and equitable solutions to these urgent issues. One of the newest community-centered solutions is Birth Detroit. Birth Detroit embraces a community organizing approach to birth center development, rooted in deep equity and meaningful partnerships. Join us in working together to create a model birth center in Detroit, and join us in transforming the spirit of care.
Char'ly Snow, CNM
Char'ly Snow, CNM, is a Detroit native and proud alumna of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. She joined the Henry Ford team in 2006 and has been spreading her wings ever since. In 2012, after having served diligently as a bedside nurse, nurse educator, and assistant nurse manager in the Cardiovascular ICU and Surgical ICU departments, she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). She has been a member of the Henry Ford Midwifery Team since 2015. She is not only a full-time CNM at Henry Ford Health System, but she is also the founder Metro Detroit Midwives of Color (MDMOC). MDMOC is a non-profit professional organization, inclusive of all minority midwives that serve women in the Metro Detroit area. Ultimately all of their efforts will serve to reduce the prevalence of health disparities among ethnic minorities.
Nicole Marie White, CPM
Nicole Marie White is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and activist. Nicole believes that spreading the Midwifery Model of Care is the best way to address the high maternal and infant mortality rates locally and globally. She currently practices midwifery in Michigan and is on the Board of Licensed Midwifery for the State of Michigan. Nicole has been involved in National and State leadership around midwifery policy. Nicole received a fellowship in 2012 in Detroit to work on fighting the maternal mortality crisis in the city. Nicole is currently a BELA leader and participating in Detroit Pop-up Midwifery Clinic which is funded by Health Connect One. She is on the development team of Birth Detroit. Nicole is currently attending Wayne State for a degree in Public Health. She was in an almost all-girl band, The blue Ruby’s for 3 years. Nicole loves to dance and hunt rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan with her dog, Sappho.
Leseliey Welch, MPH, MBA
Leseliey Welch is a public health leader with a business mind and a visionary heart, holding love as a guiding value, a way of being, an action and a politic. She is Co-founder of Birth Detroit and Birth Center Equity, a mom and a tireless advocate for work that makes communities stronger, healthier and more free. Leseliey leads a team of birth workers, birth advocates and community leaders planning Detroit’s first freestanding community birth center Birth Detroit, and is proud of the launch of Birth Center Equity to grow and sustain birth centers led by Black, Indigenous and people of color across the country. She has nearly two decades of leadership experience in city, state and national health organizations. She served as interim executive director of Birthing Project USA, Deputy Director of Public Health for the City of Detroit, and consulted in the development of Michigan’s first comprehensive LGBTQ health center. Leseliey has taught at the university level for over fifteen years, contributing to the development of Wayne State University’s Bachelor’s in Public Health Program and creating courses on numerous health equity topics for undergraduate and master’s level public health students, medical students and medical residents. Leseliey currently lectures in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies, Masters in Public Health with a certificate in Women’s and Reproductive Health, and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan.
BS, ICCE, CLC, CD (DONA)
Elon Geffrard has been a birth doula since 2016, she came to doula work "accidentally" after being a home visitor for a local health department. While maintaining a private and community based doula practice, Elon has served as project coordinator, statewide speaker and consultant with a number of public health projects but finds her greatest joys in serving women as they transition into motherhood and fostering shifts in attitudes, policy, and practice around pregnancy, labor and birth- at the system’s level. She is a certified parent educator (Effective Black Parenting), certified childbirth educator (ICEA), trained in Lamaze childbirth education and is a certified lactation consultant (ALPP). She brings to the Birth Detroit team a passion for nurturing expectant families and enhancing the quality of women health services.
Dashayla Bradford, Perinatal Coordinator
DaShayla Bradford is a Black Queer advocate, scholar, educator and doula. She serves as Birth Detroit’s perinatal coordinator for our Easy Access Clinic. Her passion resides in educating and encouraging wellness within her communities through exploring, learning and raising awareness about Black Queer history, sexual health and reproductive justice.
Mary Demery, BA
Finance & Development Assistant
Mary Demery has over ten years’ experience working with families as a kids yoga instructor, preschool teacher, and nanny. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Michigan and holds certificates in Infant Massage, Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga, Kids Yoga, and Trauma-Informed Care. She is passionate about informed birth, midwifery care, and the postpartum period. She looks forward to supporting Detroit’s birthing parents to ensure they have positive, loving birth experiences. As the Finance & Development Assistant, Mary is an integral part of the Birth Detroit finance and development teams, working to enhance bookkeeping and development efficiencies, strengthen relationships with donors, streamline development processes and promote Birth Detroit's mission and vision to external stakeholders.
Jiah Toms, MPH
Jiah Toms originally wanted to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates with women of color by being a pediatrician. Due to a research experience with the Meharry Medical College (MMC) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Wellness Program, Jiah became highly interested in prevention. This program empowered her to conduct research and preventative interventions to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in North Nashville. Through this program and other opportunities, she has strived to promote safe, quality, and loving care for pregrant women and mothers of all colors. Additionally, she has served a as program evaluator, research assistant, a worksite wellness coordinator, and the founding president of LEAD Academy High School Alumni Association President. Jiah is excited to join our team as Administrative Coordniator to utilize her training and skills to empower mothers and families as well as ensure they have safe, quality, and loving care during pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
Board of Directors
Nia Linder Batts, Secretary
Nia Linder Batts is a Founding Partner at EQUALSIGN — a C-Suite Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultancy — where she leads the firm’s Board Diversity practice, and consults across its consumer, education, and private equity clients. She is also a Principal at Union Heritage Capital, one of the nation’s leading minority-owned, multi-line financial services companies, where she serves on the investment committee and oversees the firm’s social equity strategy. Nia co-founded Detroit Blows, a non-toxic salon and impact-driven retail store, that served as a model of inclusive community redevelopment in Detroit’s downtown core. She continues to Chair its affiliated philanthropic arm, Detroit Grows, which makes micro-grants to Detroit-based women entrepreneurs, and to programs helping women enter or reenter the workforce. Prior to returning to Detroit, Nia was the Head of Strategic Partnerships and Social Innovation at ViacomCBS Inc. Nia earned a B.A. in Film Studies from Columbia University, Executive Education Certificates in Corporate Social Responsibility, and Alternative Investments, from Harvard Business School, and a professional certificate in Film Producing from New York University. Nia resides in Detroit, where she oversees the philanthropic work and art collection of modern artist McArthur Binion, volunteers as a birth doula, and serves on the board of Birth Detroit, Detroit’s first freestanding birth center.
Lisa Kane Low, PhD, Advisory Council Co-Chair
Dr. Kane Low is a midwife with a career spanning thirty five years that has traversed clinical care, advocacy, research, administration and educational roles. Her research focuses on advancing evidence based care practices during pregnancy and childbirth that promote optimal, equitable, respectful outcomes for childbearing families. Currently, Dr. Low is involved in a number of NIH-funded and internally grant supported studies focusing on the process of care during childbirth including: Clinical and Non-Clinical Factors Influencing the use of Electronic Fetal Monitoring, Pelvic Floor Health During Childbirth, Promoting Bladder Health and quality improvement initiatives focused on reducing primary cesarean birth rates within quality collaboratives. She has held state and national leadership roles focused on reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in Michigan and across the United States including an emphasis on addressing health disparities and promoting health equity in maternity care. She also has extensive experience working with multi-stakeholder groups to develop model practices and implementation of national guidelines focused on the provision of maternity care including transitions in care from community to hospitals settings. She is a professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Nursing, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and provides maternity care to families as a midwife at the University of Michigan Health system.
Celeste Davis, MPH, JD, ENGAGE Co-Chair
Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” ― Alice Walker
Celeste earned a Master of Public Health in Health Management and Policy from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University School of Law. However, it was her education at Bennett College where she found public health and herself. Celeste is an educator, activist, and engagement practitioner centering justice in the work of health equity and systems change. Her coalition, Justice is Love, provides public health education, consultation, and professional development in academic and community spaces. Most recently, she has embraced a hyperlocal approach to change through academia as a professorial lecturer at American University. Here, she contributed to her department’s development of a new master’s program, created an organization for faculty and student collaboration, and deepened institutional commitment to supporting BIPOC. Celeste has significant experience educating and advocating with hundreds of brilliant students and brave practitioners across the United States and developed advocacy strategies for to access health care campaigns, convening and innovations that champion health equity. Her advocacy practice is a balance of critical race scholarship, community engagement and organizing, and imagining career pathways.
Sameerah L. Shareef, CNM, MIDWIFE Co-Chair
Sameerah Shareef currently serves the Greater Lansing Community as a Certified Nurse-Midwife with MSU-Sexual Assault Healthcare Program in East Lansing, Michigan and has been a Certified Nurse-Midwife since 1993. She is the Director of this program that is the first of it’s kind in Michigan. She has worked in the discipline of Maternal Child Health since 1985 and has worked with several OB/GYN practices in the area and attended births at both McLaren and Sparrow hospitals in Lansing, Michigan. Sameerah holds an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science-Lansing Community College, a Bachelor’s of Science Degree-Michigan State University, a Diploma in Midwifery-Frontier College of Nursing (formerly Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing), She also holds a Master’s of Science in Nursing-Case Western Reserve University. She has attained a Certificate in Massage Therapy-Lansing Community College and several specialty Licenses and Certifications. She has a Master’s of Divinity-Chicago Theological Seminary and currently serves as Pastor of a Lansing area church and has worked in many areas of ministry. ”Mama” Sameerah is the mother of 3 wonderful adult children; 8 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren with another on the way! She considers being a mother, in all it’s capacities is the greatest calling and gift of her life!
Kimberly Rustem, ADVOCATE, Co-Chair
Kim Rustem is a passionate policy wonk who believes in the power of data, communities and collaboration in working toward just policies. Kim has worked in Washington D.C., Lansing and Detroit on issues of health and environmental policy, since receiving her bachelor’s degree in Comparative Cultures and Politics from James Madison College at Michigan State University in 2011 and her Masters’ degree from University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy in 2015. With a deep belief in the idea that true justice must come from change in policies and systems, and a commitment to fighting the disparities in infant and maternal mortality, Kim joined the Birth Detroit board in 2020. Kim is a co-lead of the ADVOCATE team, which focuses on educating policymakers on the need for licensure and reimbursement for birth centers and birth justice policies in Michigan.
Twanisha R. Glass, MBA,
With her enthusiastic and genuine friendly attitude, Twanisha radiates a sincere passion for delivering value and benefits to all, especially working in her community. Twanisha’s motto is “Do the Right Thing because it’s the right thing to do!” Twanisha is currently employed as an Operations Manager for the Detroit Health Department, where she is responsible for department wide compliance, financial systems and program integrity. Twanisha has facilitated and managed regulatory audits of government programs to ensure compliance with all related policies, procedures, state and federal laws. Twanisha holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Project Management, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management. She is very active with several community service organizations and is excited to be a part of Birth Detroit. With all of her accomplishments, the best job she has is mother to her son Quentin, who she says is her motivation and inspiration.
Sandra Bitonti Stewart, Treasurer
Mothers and babies have been the center of Sandra's work for over 20 years. Empowered by her own birth experiences and by the many families she worked with as a childbirth educator and doula, she co-founded a consumer education and advocacy organization for pregnant families. Modeled after La Leche League, BirthNetwork allowed pregnant families to join a circle of their peers to learn from one another and from community experts. What began as a small gathering in a single community grew into a national 501 (c)(3) organization with chapters all over the country. This local organizing work led her to the national level where she served on the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) Board of Directors and eventually became the Executive Director of the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC). In 2017 BirthNetwork National and the Coalition for Improved Maternity Services merged with Improving Birth. Sandra has broad cross-functional experience in starting, leading and sustaining nonprofit organizations and has had the privilege to serve as Executive Director to the Michigan Women's Foundation, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council. Currently, Sandra is working as a strategic consultant to several organizations.
Chiquita Berg, MD, FACOG, Obstetrics and Gynecology Staff Physician, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
Renée Branch Canady, PhD, MPA, Chief Executive Officer, MPHI (Michigan Public Health Institute)
Diana Derige, DrPH, Director, Health Equity Strategy & Development, American Medical Association
Kanika Harris, PhD, MPH, Lead Research Consultant, Black Women’s Health Imperative, AWOHNN
Lisa Kane Low, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN, Advisory Council Co-Chair, Professor and Associate Dean for Practice and Professional Graduate Studies, School of Nursing, University of Michigan
Vita Malama, MA, Practitioner and Birth Coach, I/O Psychology, The Birth Journey and Member, Elephant Circle
Marinah Valenzuela Farrell, LM, Executive Director, Changing Woman Initiative and Creator, Good Birth for All Podcast