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Shinel and Renee are Making Change Happen in Durham

Renee Parks-Bryant, Health Education Specialist, Durham County Dept of Public Health
Shinel M. Stephens, MSN/FNP-C, Student Health & Counseling Services, North Carolina Central University
Tell us about your current work role.
Renee: I have been working for 19 years in the area of maternal/child health at the Durham County Health Department.  I was originally hired to start a Lamaze childbirth program for minority women.  Since then, hundreds of minority women have benefited from that program.  Over the years, many of my job duties have centered on improving birth outcomes.  In the past, I coordinated the now defunct infant mortality reduction committee.  That project was funded by Centers of Disease Control under the Perinatal Periods of Health program.  During that period, Durham County had unacceptable infant mortality rates but over the years the rates have reduced and have aligned with North Carolina’s rate. I’ve instructed parenting classes for expectant mothers in partnership Federal Correction Prison as part of its pre-release program.  In addition, I coordinated an infant car-seat program for the Health Department in my early years of employment.  I have served as a grant writer and on many different committees. My job is varied and I like it. 
Shinel:  I have been in my current position as a family nurse practitioner at North Carolina Central University for 10 years and adjunct faculty in the Department of Nursing, in the area of maternity, for 11 years.  I previously worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery, as well as at Saint Augustine’s College Student Health.  My love for students and women’s health brought me to North Carolina Central University.  I wanted the opportunity to engage young minority adults in making healthy lifestyle choices and to become role models in their families of healthy living.
In my current role as a nurse practitioner, I provide primary health care to our students; which includes a large percentage of gynecological concerns.  I wanted to expand my work beyond the examination room and look at ways that we could support our pregnant students in making healthy lifestyle choices.  One of the goals of this initiative was to retain students who may become pregnant while enrolled at the University.  In pursuit of this effort, I met with Renee, to see how we could collaborate to provide beneficial resources for our students.  We then realized that equally important are the needs of our women during the preconception period and following delivery as parents; consequently the Cradle Me 3 Project was birthed.
What are you most excited about or what is your favorite aspect of the Cradle Me 3 project?
Renee:  The most exciting part of the project has been working with students and increasing their knowledge of the life-course model and preconception health concept.  I greatly enjoy observing students accept preconception health educational tasks, then demonstrate their knowledge of the concepts and share their knowledge with fellow students thru on campus activities and efforts.
Shinel:  The Cradle Me 3 Project will afford so many opportunities for our students.  I am most excited about how it will increase our student’s awareness of the importance of reproductive life planning using a peer education model and curriculum infusion in the personal health course, a required course for all students at the University that is most often taken during the freshmen year.  In addition I look forward to the impact that the inclusion of the life course model will have in our nursing and public health education curriculums. At North Carolina Central University we continue to soar and we look forward to taking the lead in sharing best practices in a college/university setting that will have an impact in decreasing infant mortality rates.
What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge with this project?
Renee & Shinel:  The project’s biggest challenge has been administrative demands and procedures!
Can you share any books, articles, websites (or any great resources you’ve found) that help with your work?
Renee:  I just recently read an article by Judith Lothian called Do Not Disturb: The Importance of Privacy in Labor ( It reminded me about how important it is to protect mothers at this special time. My other go to book is The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta.
Shinel:  I really like as a reference on preconception health and resources here in North Carolina. I also really like learning about the epidemiology of preconception health and recommend this article: Xaverius, Pamela & Salas, Joanne, Surveillance of Preconception Health Indicators in Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System:  Emerging Trends in the 21st Century Journal of Women’s Health (2013) 22: 203-209.

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