Fall 2021 Forum

Michigan Health Policy Forum
A Non-Partisan Venue to Discuss Health Policy
Hosted by Michigan State University


The Michigan Health Policy Forum announces its Fall 2021 Forum:

Justice from the Start: Improving Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes through Birth Equity

Monday, November 15, 2021
1:00-3:30 PM via Zoom




Randy Rasch Headshot

Dr. Randolph Rasch, PhD, RN, FAANP, FAAN

Dean, Michigan State University College of Nursing

Dr. Randolph Rasch is Dean and Professor of the Michigan State University College of Nursing.  He has been the Director/Coordinator of two well-known family nurse practitioner (FNP) programs. Dr. Rasch has over twenty-five years of experience teaching in BSN, MSN, DNP and PhD programs in nursing. He has published and presented in the areas of primary care, HIV risk reduction, and diversity in health care education and clinical practice. Prior to his appointment as Dean, Dr. Rasch served as Chair of the Department of Community Practice Nursing in the School of Nursing at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and as the Director of two well-known family nurse practitioner programs in the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Dr. Rasch was the first State-wide Director of Nursing Services/Programs Director in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), where he provided leadership and direction for nursing services, and assisted the Director of Health Services with the overall development, management, and operation of Health Services in the TDOC. As part of a three-member management team, Dr. Rasch was responsible for designing and implementing a system of health care for the TDOC, and as Programs Director, leading the development and facilitating the implementation of the Quality Assurance Program for Health Services in the TDOC.

Dr. Rasch has consulted on a multitude of projects including analysis of nursing productivity and workload, and process improvement. Notably, his expertise is in the area of primary care and community health, particularly the roles, functions and appropriate skill mix for all levels of nursing; licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, advanced practice nurses/nurse practitioners, and cultural diversity in healthcare services.

Dr. Rasch’s clinical experiences as a registered nurse include charge nurse on a surgical unit in a community hospital and public health nurse (PHN) and PHN Team Leader and home health nurse in a county health department. As a FNP, he has provided care in a prison system; a corporate health care center; and a nurse managed clinic recognized as a clinical agency by the NC Board of Nursing.

A Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN), a Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) and a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow in the National Academies of Practice (DS&FNAP), Dr. Rasch holds the distinction of being the first African American male graduate of the nursing program at Andrews University, and the first African American male Masters-prepared FNP (a graduate of the FNP program at Vanderbilt School of Nursing). He is the first African American male to hold a PhD in nursing, and was the first African American male public health nurse in the State of Michigan.

Natalie Hernandez Headshot

Dr. Natalie D. Hernandez, PhD, MPH

Interim Director of the Maternal Health Equity, Assistant Professor Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine

Dr. Hernandez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine and the Interim Director of the Center for Maternal Health Equity at Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Hernandez received her Master of Public Health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Stony Brook University in New York. She earned her PhD in public health as well as a graduate certificate in interdisciplinary women’s health from the University of South Florida.

Dr. Hernandez’s previous research experiences and contributions to science have been dedicated to rigorous methodology using community engagement approaches to advance health equity through research and practice. Dr. Hernandez has a broad background in community-based participatory research (CBPR), women’s health inequities, health policy, and social determinants of health. She has more than 15 years of experience in developing community partnerships and implementing CBPR that engages diverse stakeholder groups including health care providers, patient populations, organizational leaders, and policymakers. She also has expertise in conducting robust qualitative research using a broad array of research methods. Dr. Hernandez was a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) maternal and child health leadership trainee and epidemiology trainee.

To advance science toward the elimination of women’s health inequities, Dr. Hernandez has obtained extramural funding to develop multiple lines of research in the context of maternal and women’s health, specifically with Black and Latina populations. The research approach in these local and nationally funded initiatives encompassed utilization of CBPR approaches, multilevel models and theories, and takes a  multi-sectoral and multi-level translational, health disparities research approach to understanding the myriad causes of  women’s health inequities. Additionally, her research explores the integration of technology to advance women’s health and provides easy access to maternal and women’s through patient navigation, mobile health interventions, telehealth approaches, and remote monitoring. Dr. Hernandez has laid the groundwork for research in maternal health by establishing partnerships with local and national organizations dedicated to maternal morbidity and mortality disparities, evaluating maternal health interventions and programs, and validating effective measures of maternal mental health, medical mistrust, as well as psychosocial factors relevant to maternal health inequities.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Dr. Hernandez worked as a Program Manager for UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza) leading all their national maternal health projects. With these projects she has established strong ties with diverse stakeholders and as a result of her work, she has received a number of awards including the MundoHispanico Latinas Poderosas (Powerful Latinas in Atlanta) Award, American Association for Cancer Research-Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council, Minority & Minority Serving Institution Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Award, Rising Scholar in the field of sexuality by The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Rolling Out Sista with Superpowers, Health Disparities Scholar of the NIH National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities Loan Repayment Program and the Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance Team Science Award of Distinction for Early Stage Research Teams.

Dr. Hernandez currently sits on Georgia’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, Georgia PRAMS Steering Committee, Georgia Improving Postpartum Care Affinity Group, and on various maternal and child health organizations including Postpartum Support International-Georgia Chapter Advocacy Group and Georgia Maternal Health Stakeholder Group. She also sits on national organizations including the American Public Health Association Committee on Health Equity, Health Disparities Taskforce of the National Preeclampsia Foundation, and many others. Dr. Hernandez has presented her work at various international, national, state, and local conferences.


Dawn Shanafelt Headshot

Dawn M. Shanafelt, MPA, BSN, RN

Director, Division of Maternal & Infant Health, and Michigan Title V Maternal Child Health Director, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS)

Dawn is the Director of the Division of Maternal & Infant Health and the Title V Maternal Child Health Director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  She has close to thirty years’ experience in maternal and child health in the non-profit sector and local and state government. Dawn possesses undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Nursing from Saginaw Valley State University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Michigan.  She is commitment to assuring that the voices of families are heard and has spent her entire professional career fighting for social justice and health equity.

Pete Haak Headshot

Pete Haak

Project Coordinator, Michigan Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), MDHHS

Pete Haak has worked since 2015 as the coordinator and primary analyst for the Michigan Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (MI PRAMS) project. Since that time MI PRAMS staff have sent over 100,000 letters and made over 125,000 phone calls in their effort secure enough completed surveys to accurately describe the lives of Michigan mothers around the time of pregnancy. Pete helps to analyze this data about both social and medical factors and get it into the hands of those who are working to improve health equity and ensure a bright future for all Michigan families.



Amy Zaagman Headshot

Amy Zaagman

Executive Director, Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health

Amy Zaagman is the Executive Director of the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health, an organization of diverse partners comprised of hospital systems, statewide organizations, local public health advocates and individuals with an interest in shaping and influencing state policy that promotes the health and well-being of women, children and families in Michigan since 1983.

Amy has been with MCMCH since 2009 and is a passionate advocate for improving health outcomes and ensuring equitable access to care and prevention services across the life course. Previously, Amy was the associate director of the state’s community mental health association and served for over 13 years in various roles in the state Legislature.  She holds a BBA and MPA from Western Michigan University.