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Meet our Presenters

Becky is a proven nursing leader with over 30 years of front-line perinatal nursing experience, which includes a 20-year Air Force career. After serving in a variety of nursing and management roles, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to work as a perinatal nurse practitioner in a maternal-fetal medicine division. She focused on high risk obstetrical care and research.  She is presently the owner of Maternal-Fetal Solutions, a consulting and education service. 

Becky has held multiple leadership positions in the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) including two Board of Directors terms.  She is currently the 2021 Immediate Past President.  Being passionate about her profession and education, she lectures on a variety of obstetric topics, is actively involved in conducting clinical research and is published in many peer reviewed journals and textbooks.  She is an editorial board member for the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing and a reviewer for Nursing for Women’ Health. Becky is also co-author of Mosby's Pocket Guide to Fetal Monitoring: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 

Nancy Costanzo (bio coming soon -please check back)

Sarah Rucker-Johanson, MSN, RN is a Clinical Education Specialist at MHealth Fairview.

Lindsey had been a Labor and Delivery RN for 10 years when she herself experienced a rapid onset of a 105 fever at 34 weeks pregnant. After initial assessment and treatment, she had returned home when a few hours later she began shaking, cramping, and bleeding at home alone. She was ambulanced to the nearest hospital where she received a STAT cesarean for fetal heart tones and placenta abruption. After being unstable for multiple hours following surgery, she then was able to be awoken and extubated, and was then transferred to ICU care, later revealing that she was septic from Strep A infection, which triggered the subsequent abruption and preterm cesarean birth. Mom and baby have had a full recovery following a 2-week NICU stay and 4-day ICU stay.

Liz Hochman FACCE, LCCE, CLC, CD(DONA) As the owner and lead teacher of birthED(tm), Liz has been heavily involved in the professional birth community since 2009.  She has served many birthing people and their families as a Lamaze Educator, lactation counselor, and doula. With an intention of lifting birthing people and families up, Liz's focus is always and will always be on creating a healthy and content parentbaby dyad in order to create a thriving culture and society. With her background rooted in research, she imparts evidenced based learning in a fun and integrative learning environment. Liz served several years on the board of The Childbirth Collective and currently serves on the Optimal Outcomes in Reproductive Health Conference board.

Nicole Stecker MN, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, BD Owner of Rock Your Birth(tm), Nicole has been embedded in birth work since 2009. She has attended several hundred births, taught 1,000s of students in Lamaze classes, and supported countless others on their path towards breastfeeding success. With a constant belief in the power of birthing people she brings confidence and empowerment to each and every unique family in all types of birth. She serves on the board of The Childbirth Collective and the Optimal Outcomes in Reproductive Health Conference. Nicole completed her masters degree in Nursing at the University of Minnesota and is currently a labor and delivery nurse and IBCLC. 

Michelle Chiezah, MA, MPH is the State’s Infant Mortality Consultant/Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). At MDH, Michelle provides statewide leadership around infant mortality reduction and manages the state’s Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative. The Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative provides resources, education, information, and technical assistance to local public health agencies, state agencies,Tribal governments, and community-based organizations to improve birth outcomes. A major focus of Michelle’s work is to reduce disparities in infant mortality by researching, planning, coordinating, implementing, and evaluating interventions and activities using the most current data, best practices, and promising strategies. Michelle currently serves on several committees and advisory groups tasked with improving birth outcomes and reducing infant mortality in Minnesota, including Minnesota Department of Health’s Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) Review Committee, Ramsey County Birth Equity Community Council (BECC), and the state’s Child Mortality Review Panel.

Helen Jackson Lockett-El is a Community Engagement Planner in the Center for Health Equity (CHE) at the Minnesota Department of Health. She coordinators a project looking at infant mortality among U.S.-born African Americans in Hennepin County through a health equity lens. She has over 20 years of community engagement experience working to facilitate and promote health and well-being, several years as a chaplain in trauma centers and is actively involved in Grief and Loss facilitation.

LaSherion McDonald, Health Educator, CHW, CPE/Doula has a passion for serving residents of Saint Paul-Ramsey County and more specifically, the African American Community. LaSherion is a Parents as Teachers (c) parent educator currently serving communities who experience higher rates of infant mortality. 

Tamiko Ralston, BSN, LPCC has over twenty years experience in working with families and communities through direct service patient care, home visiting and community-based outreach and engagement. Tamiko has been employed at Saint Paul-Ramsey Public Health for 17 years. In her current role as Public Health Nurse Clinician/Supervisor in the Family Health Division, she supervises a team of Public Health Nurses and Health Educators who provide home visiting services to families with children 0-5 years. Tamiko also co-leads the Birth Equity Community Council (BECC) and has helped to develop the Club Mom, Club Dad, and Doulas for Dads programs in collaboration with community residents and stakeholders in birth equity. She is a member of the African American Advisory Council of ICHRP (Integrated Care for High Risk Pregnancies) and the U of MN Medical School's Programs in Health Disparities Research Advisory Board. 

Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra has been a Childbirth Attendant for over 20 years and is the Director of the Community Care Giving System/Health Systems Navigator with the Cultural Wellness Center where she supports individuals who are interacting with the health care system. In 2013, she received her certification as a Community Outreach Perinatal Educator, and in 2014, received certification to be a Perinatal Education Trainer for the Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery School, in Winter Garden, Florida.

Retu Saxena, MD grew up in Brookings, South Dakota.  She did her undergraduate degree in sociology at the University of Minnesota, as well graduated from medical school from the University of Minnesota.  After medical school she did her internship and residency in internal medicine at OHSU in Portland, Oregon.  She stayed in Portland and completed a critical care fellowship as well.  Her cardiology fellowship was completed at University of New Mexico where she stayed on as faculty.  During her time at University of New Mexico, she was actively involved with managing and practicing at the UNM women’s heart clinic.  She then moved to MN to work with the region’s largest women’s heart clinic at the time.  She eventually directed the echocardiography laboratory at her prior organization.  She now is a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute.  Her interests are women and heart disease, cardio pregnancy, prevention and noninvasive imaging as well as cardiac critical care.  She is also the mother of two active girls, an avid reader, a passionate gardener and potter.

Jayne Conley Braun, LICSW is a licensed independent clinical social worker and currently the Director of Clinical Services at St Joseph’s Hospital. Her position includes supervision of social workers, licensed alcohol and drug counselors including clinical guidance and supervision. Jayne is also responsible for programming on the in-patient mental health and substance use disorder units. Jayne is trained as an EMDR therapist with specialized training in both trauma informed care and person center thinking modalities. Prior to St Joe’s, Jayne has worked in both adult and adolescent programs for over 29 years providing services to people with mental health and substance use disorders in both an administrative and clinical capacity.

Ann Marie Gilligan, RN, SANE-A, LNC, Evidence Based Birth ® Instructor, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, SpBAP is a Registered Nurse with 30 years experience in OB. From providing care in a local birth center to working in high risk hospitals, she has assisted in thousands of births to date. She is also a Legal Nurse Consultant, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, SANE-A, and a SpBAP. The variety of skills obtained from these various vocations have taught her that the most important thing in regards to providing the safest, shortest, simplest birth is to acknowledge and correct the position of the fetus in relation to the maternal spine, prior to and during labor.  Over the last decade, Ann has witnessed, with the rise of the computer and women sitting for longer periods of time, the "optimal fetal position" of left occiput anterior has become rare, especially in the primigravida. Fetal malposition is associated with a high risk of instrumental birth, cesarean section, IV Pitocin, severe perineal lacerations and maternal blood loss of >500cc. Ann has created an algorithm that is being used at United hospital in St. Paul, that has been successful in assisting the infant into the optimal position using maternal mobility and hydrotherapy. She will be talking about historical changes of birth in regards to fetal malposition, anatomy and physiology of the female pelvis and fetal skull, her algorithm and how to use it, and ways in which you can promote the "optimal fetal position" prior to term.

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