Addressing the Drivers of Maternal Mortality

Shanna Cox, MSPH, is the associate director of science in the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this role, Cox is responsible for the management, monitoring, and evaluation of the Division of Reproductive Health’s scientific portfolio. She has published extensively on a wide range of topics, including health care services during pregnancy, adolescent health, preconception care, and health disparities. She is passionate about equity issues and bringing public health data to action to improve lives. Cox earned dual Master of Science in Public Health degrees in epidemiology and environmental health from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. She is an alumni of Clark Atlanta University.


Eugene Declercq, Ph.D., is professor of community health sciences and assistant dean for DrPH education at the Boston University School of Public Health and professor on the faculty of obstetrics and gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine. He has been part of the team that produced 6 reports since 2002 on women’s experiences in childbirth entitled “Listening to Mothers” and is the founder of the website He is a current member of the Massachusetts Maternal Mortality Review Committee.


Elizabeth A. Howell, M.D., MPP, is a professor in the Departments of Population Health Science & Policy, Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science, and Psychiatry, system vice chair for research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science, and director of the Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institutes at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is a NIH-funded ob/gyn health services researcher and her research addresses quality of care and racial/ethnic disparities in maternal and child health. Her major research foci are the intersection between quality of care and disparities in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and postpartum depression and its impact on underserved communities. She has served on several expert committees, including for the Institute of Medicine, NIH, the Joint Commission, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, international external scientific advisory boards, and editorial boards. She co-chaired the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health Working Group on Reduction of Peripartum Racial Disparities. This national partnership included leading experts in maternal health and disparities and produced a consensus statement aimed at reducing disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality in the United States. Howell served on the Governor’s Taskforce on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes for New York State and currently serves on the New York City Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Steering Committee for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Howell received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and received her medical and public policy degrees at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She received her residency training at Cornell /New York Hospital and is a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist. Howell received her post doctoral training in clinical epidemiology as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Yale Medical School.

Jennie Joseph, L.M., CPM, is the executive director of her own non-profit corporation, Commonsense Childbirth Inc., which operates a midwifery school & training institute, health clinics, and a birthing center in Orlando, Florida where she has lived since 1989. She is a British-trained midwife who fights to ensure every woman has their healthiest possible pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience with dignity and support. Joseph created The JJ Way® which is an evidence-based maternity medical home model delivering readily-accessible, patient-centered, culturally-congruent care to women in areas that she terms ‘materno-toxic zones’. Joseph is also the founder of the National Perinatal Task Force, a grassroots organization whose mission is the elimination of racial disparities in maternal child health in the USA.



Laurie Zephyrin, M.D., MPH, MBA, joined The Commonwealth Fund in 2019 as vice president of health care delivery system reform where she leads the vulnerable populations portfolio. Zephyrin has extensive experience leading the vision, design, and delivery of innovative health care models across national health systems. From 2009-2018, she was the first national director of the reproductive health program at the Department of Veterans Affairs, spearheading the strategic vision and leading systems change through the implementation of evidence-based policies and programs to improve the health of women veterans nationwide. In 2016-2017, she served as acting assistant deputy under secretary for health for community care, and later in 2017, as acting deputy under secretary for health for community care. While directing the VA’s community care program, a key component of VA’s high-performance network with an operating budget of over $13 billion, Zephyrin spearheaded efforts to implement legislation, develop internal governance structures, and address patient outcomes through system-wide optimization of care delivery. As part of the leadership team, she also represented VA before Congress and other internal and external stakeholders. She is considered a leading expert and strategist in health system transformation and women’s health. She has led global initiatives addressing health systems access to care for women in East Africa and South Africa. Zephyrin was honored as a White House Fellow, an American Medical Association Foundation Leadership Awardee, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. She earned her M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine, MBA and MPH from Johns Hopkins University, and B.S. in biomedical sciences from the City College of New York. She completed her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard’s Integrated Residency Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.