Due to COVID, the AWHONN 2020 Emerging Leaders cohort
has been postponed until 2021.

The AWHONN Emerging Leaders program is a 9 month intensive leadership development opportunity that offers 10 individuals a chance to refine their purpose, learn skills and develop strategies to transform themselves, AWHONN and the field of nursing. This year, the AWHONN Emerging Leaders program is focusing on developing leaders to support our organizational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This program is generously sponsored in part by HeathStreamTM and AWHONN’s Every Woman Every Baby program.

We encouraged applications from under-represented communities – LGBT, people of color; women’s health, NICU nurses, veterans and other under-represented practice areas. The 2020 leaders were chosen for their commitment to the program; openness to leadership development and transformation; desire to build and nourish a community of support; and a hunger to make positive change.

Meet the 2020 AWHONN Emerging Leaders

Asmara Gebre

Asmara Gebre RN, CNM

“As a Black and Latinx certified nurse-midwife I am interested in the AWHONN Emerging Leaders Program because it will empower me to grow in ways that will positively impact my efforts to increase Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC) midwives in this country as a strategy to improve maternal health outcomes.”

Asmara Gebre RN, CNM

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Asmara Gebre is a proud Black & Latinx woman, mother, and midwife. Her personal interests include traveling, riding her bike, and reading. In 2017 Ms. Gebre completed the Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health at UCSF, became a Certified Nurse-Midwife, and joined UCSF UCSF SOM as a Clinical Faculty and the ZSFG Midwifery Service. Additionally Ms. Gebre works for SisterWeb San Francisco Community Doula Network as a mentor to Black & Latinx doulas.

Her clinical interests include racial concordant care, Centering Pregnancy, and providing care to individuals navigating permanent housing, substance use, and adolescence. In 2018 she founded BIPOC Aspiring Midwives Program to create shadowing, mentorship, and community building opportunities for BIPOC aspiring midwives. This year she became a founding member of ZSFG Sankofa Working Group,  the group’s mission to promote efforts to improve services, experiences, & outcomes for Black, African American or African-identifying patients seeking care at ZSFG Obstetrics, Midwifery, and Gynecology Clinic.

Alison Largess

Allison Largess RN, RNC-IP OB

“I applied for the AWHONN Emerging Leaders Program to empower me to effectively advocate and lead change at the hospital, community, and national level. I feel passionate about birth equity and the most pressing challenges that face women who don’t look like me.”

Allison Largess RN, RNC-IP OB

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Allison Largess, BSN, RNC-OB has been a nurse for 13 years in labor, delivery, and mother/baby at Bozeman Health in Bozeman, Montana. She graduated in 2007 from Montana State University with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She fulfills both a team leader and a preceptor role, for nursing students and onboarding obstetric nurses. Additionally, Allison worked closely with the Spiritual Care Department to establish a fetal loss program, which aims to enhance the experience for families as they deal with a devastating loss.  Allison’s passion for maternal-child health led her to joining AWHONN three years ago. Allison’s enthusiasm for Montana’s membership to grow led her to become the first Section Membership Coordinator for AWHONN Montana in 2019. In February 2020, Allison was a key driver behind the successful Section Perinatal Conference, a first for AWHONN Montana.

Kayli Johnston

Kayli Lewis MSN, RNC MNN

“My favorite leadership role is being a team captain for our Unique Families program. This includes our LGBTQ families, surrogates, birth mothers, adoptive families, incarcerated women, and refugee populations. I enjoy finding ways that our teams can be more inclusive and make everyone we serve feel welcome and accommodated.”

Kayli Lewis MSN, RNC MNN

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

I’ve been a Mother Baby/NICU nurse for 8 years at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise, ID. I’m originally from Washington state, and have lived in Boise since finishing my undergraduate degree at Oregon Health & Science University. I completed my master’s degree in nursing leadership and education at Northwest Nazarene University in 2017. My wife and I have 3 incredible children, a 4 year old and 1.5 year old twins. In our spare moments we enjoy being outdoors, biking, and exploring Idaho.

Megan Ludena

Megan Ludena, MN, RNC-OB, NPD-BC

“I want to participate in AWHONN’s Emerging Leaders program for the opportunity to learn additional leadership skills, reflect on my purpose as a nursing leader, and to grow with a community of nurse leaders. With the recent discussions about a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in AWHONN I hope to add to the discussion and understanding of what an inclusive environment looks like at the national and local levels.”

Megan Ludena, MN, RNC-OB, NPD-BC

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Megan lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a Nursing Professional Development Consultant for Kaiser Permanente.  She earned a Master of Nursing degree in Advanced Population Health with a certificate in Nursing Education as well as a BSN and Minor in Spanish. She also holds national certifications in both Inpatient Obstetrics and Nursing Professional Development.  Megan has over 15 years’ experience across the perinatal nursing spectrum and has served as a preceptor and mentor to many students and new hires during that time.  Additionally, she taught in a BSN program in both the clinical and classroom settings.

Megan’s professional interests include nursing workforce diversity, preceptor development, and evidence-based practice. Outside of work, Megan likes to spend time with her family and exploring various hobbies; the newest of which is gardening.  She also volunteers as a Girl Scouts troop leader and as the Oregon AWHONN Membership Coordinator.

Catherine McWherter - BSN, RN, LCCE, CLC

Catherine McWherter, BSN, RN, LCCE, CLC

“Because I am aware of my white privilege and have personally witnessed the medical abuse of minority women, I know we must do better to improve outcomes and reduce disparities. I am passionate about casting vision for change bringing equity, and providing hope to all the patients I care for.”

Catherine McWherter, BSN, RN, LCCE, CLC

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Passionate advocate.  Dynamic educator.  Lover of all things mamas and babies.

Catherine is a nurse home visitor for Nurse-Family Partnership at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She has experience in critical care, postpartum, and labor and delivery units. When she saw first-hand the tragedy of racism in healthcare, she vowed to be an agent of change for health equity.

Catherine presented on a maternal morbidity and mortality panel at the Nurse-Family Partnership national symposium in 2019.   She is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate and flourish in the 2020 Emerging Leaders cohort.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, gardening, and Ohio State football. Catherine is married to her high school sweetheart and they have four daughters.

Germielynn (Gigi) Melendez DNP, MSN, RN

Germielynn (Gigi) Melendez, DNP, MSN, RN

“I intend to help AWHONN increase diversity and inclusion of underrepresented populations. As a Filipina nurse, my background, experience, and education will help minority nursing students recognize the value that nurses bring to patients from diverse ethnic, racial, and/or sexual orientation cultures. Also, as a mother of a lesbian daughter, I would like to help AWHONN to better understand the healthcare needs of the LGBTQ+ community as well.”

Germielynn (Gigi) Melendez

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

With 35 years of experience in higher education and healthcare, Dr. Melendez began her career in high-risk postpartum at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She achieved diverse clinical and academic expertise including obstetrical and gynecological health, and global healthcare.   

 

Dr. Melendez earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and a Master of Science degree, focused on women’s health from University of Illinois at Chicago and a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Capella University. 

 

Dr. Melendez traveled to Ecuador, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Brazil, India, and the Philippines to provide humanitarian aid and mentor her students in community health. She has been recognized nationally and internationally in news coverage of her accomplishments in the Philippines and Brazil. 

 

She is a member of Philippine Nurses Association of America, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses.

Crystal Norman BSN, RNC-OB

Crystal Norman BSN, RNC-OB

“Black women are dying at rates of three times that of White women. As a Black female nurse I want to make a difference in the populations I care for…it is important to me that women receive the maternal care that they need and deserve.”

Crystal Norman BSN, RNC-OB

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Crystal Norman, BSN, RNC-OB, has more than 8 years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse at North Shore Medical Center in Miami, FL. She is also employed at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. She has been involved in implementing the PROVIDE Initiative, a quality improvement project of the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative to reduce the primary cesarean section rate. She volunteers with her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. through the Stork’s Nest program, which is a partnership between the sorority and the March of Dimes to provide prenatal education to low-income pregnant women. Ms. Norman teaches prenatal education classes to pregnant teenagers through this program. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in nursing from Frontier Nursing University where she is enrolled in the nurse-midwifery track. She is a past recipient of the Staff Nurse of the Year Award from the National Black Nurses Association.

Jessica Phillips BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, CCE

Jessica Phillips BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, CCE

“It is imperative that nurses continue to expand their influence. Over the past few years, I began to recognize and confront some of my own biases and have committed to be part of the solution to raise awareness and implement solutions for the growing maternal morbidity and mortality crisis in the United States.”

Jessica Phillips BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, CCE, Your Content Goes Here

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Jessica earned a BSN from the University of Kansas in 2005 and is currently pursuing a MAS in Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She began her nursing career in labor and delivery and has also spent time as a childbirth educator and quality improvement coordinator. She holds current certifications in inpatient obstetrics and electronic fetal monitoring. In addition, she is proud to serve as the secretary/treasurer for the North Texas Chapter of AWHONN and represented the state of Texas at the AWHONN on Capitol Hill events in 2019 and 2020. Her passions include reproductive justice and perinatal safety/quality improvement.

Keisha Walker MSN, CNML, NE-BC, RNC-OB

Keisha Walker MSN, CNML, NE-BC, RNC-OB

“I am new at managing mid-level providers. I have few mentors who look like me and can help me navigate through the challenges I face as a minority. My hope is that this program will provide me the tools needed to overcome barriers that hinder me from presenting my best self. It would be awesome to see more people of color within AWHONN.”

Keisha Walker MSN, CNML, NE-BC, RNC-OB

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Keisha Walker is the Director of Women & Infant Services at Adventist Healthcare – White Oak Medical Center. In her current role, she is responsible for operations and processes for Labor & Delivery, Antepartum, Postpartum, and a Level II NICU. Keisha also provides strategic and day to leadership to ensure the highest quality of care for the patients served. She is a Master’s prepared Registered Nurse from the University of Texas-Arlington and has earned certifications in nursing Leadership, inpatient obstetrics, and electronic fetal monitoring. In 2019, Keisha headed the transition of her department to a new medical center. She worked collaboratively with contractors, consultants, and interior designers to ensure that the unique needs for each unit were met. Her nursing career has been dedicated to high quality, reliable systems of care for women and newborns.

Wafa Yousef RN

Wafa Yousef RN

“As an emerging leader I want to improve my leadership skills and be able to create a unified community within my organization, and within AWHONN. I am not afraid to call out the problems in certain situations and offer a beneficial solution. As a Muslim American, I have experienced racism and the inequality it causes in our communities. I believe the way to end racism and this cycle of hate is to increase our awareness of equity, and making sure everyone has the right resources to get where they need to be. Being an emerging leader is a great opportunity to expand and exchange knowledges and experiences, to be an effective change agent.”

Wafa Yousef RN

2020 AWHONN Emerging Leader

Wafa Yousef is the Perinatal, quality, risk, and safety coordinator at NYU Langone Health-Brooklyn. She  holds a Bachelor degree in Nursing from Long Island University, as well as  a degree in Information Technology from Jordan. Wafa is currently finishing her graduate degree in Nursing Leadership. Wafa has been involved in multiple initiatives throughout her career, and one of her biggest achievements was leading her team to obtain the prestigious designation of Perinatal Certification from The Joint Commission in 2019. Moreover, she has been involved in the Journey of Baby Friendly at NYU Langone-Brooklyn since 2017. Her goal is to be one of the leaders to change the culture on breastfeeding and reduce maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States using her expertise and education.