By Mark Rudi

Giving Birth to Diversity

The reward of helping women deliver babies is one factor that helped Felina Ortiz to realize that becoming a midwife was her calling. 

But since graduating from The University of New Mexico’s midwifery program in the early 2000s, she’s also learned that being a midwife is much more than she originally thought it was. 

Ortiz has a passion for recruiting more midwives of color. According to the American Colleges of Nurse-Midwives, the percentage of midwives of color has not grown in the past 30 years, she saidm and only 5 to 6 percent of midwives nationwide are people of color.

felina-ortiz-2020.jpg“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 the community of the patient population is really important to me. 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 the American College of Nurse-Midwives, was recently appointed chair of its Midwives of Color cmmittee, which recruits and supports the advancement of persons of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds to the profession of midwifery. She will assume the position at the end of October. 

“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 Midwives of Color committee and she has worked locally to develop a mentoring support system for interested nurses and midwives.

About 27 percent 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.” 

There are a significant number of students of color in UNM’s bachelor of science in nursing program, but there are fewer in the master’s and doctoral programs. Ortiz hopes to recruit more students of color to those programs.

Categories: College of Nursing, Education