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Meet the Team

Sharla SmithSharla Smith, Ph.D., MPH
Principal Investigator & Director

About Dr. Smith
Dr. Smith loves spending time with her son and family. It is very important that spending time with her family is fun, meaningful and a part of her daily life. Dr. Smith also enjoys watching movies and eating popcorn (which is her favorite food).

What do the KBEN mission and vision mean to you?
To Dr. Smith, the KBEN mission means intentionality and humanity. As a Black woman, mother, daughter and community member, it is important that she has a positive impact on the lives of Black women and their families. It is also important that her work highlights the strengths in the Black community and includes fathers in the maternal and child health conversation. She believes every mom, dad and baby deserves to celebrate the babies' first birthday.

Contact Dr. Smith

Oluoma ObiOluoma Obi
Research Associate

About Oluoma
Oluoma loves indoor plants! In the spring and summer months, you can always find her at a local plant shop looking for an addition to her plant collection.

What do the KBEN mission and vision mean to you?
The Kansas Birth Equity Network mission and vision are important to Oluoma because it means prioritizing and centering the lived experiences of Black birthing people and Black families in order to create birth equity. By engaging with various stakeholders, they can work collaboratively to create birth equity in Kansas.

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portrait placeholderErin Attebery
Graduate Research Assistant

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Bernard SchusterBernard Schuster
Research Associate

About Bernard
Bernard once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane...while it was still flying! Bernard has taught psychology at a community college for three years.

What do the KBEN mission and vision mean to you?
To Bernard, the KBEN mission and vision means that the birth inequalities for African American mothers and infants in Kansas will be taken more seriously and addressed in a more comprehensive way than ever before. Efforts to improve birth outcomes will have more unity, coordination and organization. It means that KU's brainpower can focus insight and action to make improvements for Black babies and moms. However, involvement alone is not enough. It will take the efforts of many stakeholders and movers combined under the auspices of the KBEN and the Sisters and Brothers for Healthy Infants to get there.

Sharon FitzgeraldSharon Fitzgerald, Ph.D., MPH
Data Manager

About Sharon
Sharon loves to craft in her free time, and she also runs a little shop on Etsy. She has traveled to eight countries, and she can’t wait for the pandemic to slow down so she can start traveling abroad again.

What do the KBEN mission and vision mean to you?
To Sharon, KBEN is an important program that has the capacity to impact individual lives and families in incredibly meaningful ways and has the potential to improve the health of the population. It represents a vital step in the journey toward reducing health disparities in the state of Kansas.

Shea RoyShea J. Roy, MPH
Graduate Research Assistant

About Shea
Shea loves to spend time with her partner and watch all the reality tv! She is passionate about creating intentional friendships and laughing too loud and too often.

What do the KBEN mission and vision mean to you?
To Shea, KBEN’s mission and vision means rejecting the status quo of suboptimal health and fighting for the health of all mothers and babies. Bolstering community efforts and interdisciplinary work leads to real change, where KBEN is at the forefront. 

Kansas Birth Equity Network

Sharla Smith, Ph.D., MPH