WA midwives present award for Maria Cantwell to her aid at her Washington DC office


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Washington Midwives Leading the Way at Historic 2012 CPM Symposium

by Neva Gerke, Bastyr University MAWS Board Representative, Class of 2014

The presence of Washington midwives was an undeniable force at the CPM Symposium, held at the Airlie Center in Warrenton, VA from March 16-20, 2012. Over the course of the trip, which began with a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill and ended with a day of work on the future of midwifery, the significance of the event was spoken but perhaps won’t be completely understood or appreciated for some time. The influence of Washington State was significant for the number of participants, presentations from and about Washington midwifery, as well as the active engagement of Washington midwives during the Symposium in critical discussions about moving our profession forward.

On Capitol Hill Friday, March 16, participants met with staffers from the senate and house to discuss support for HR1054, which moves to add Certified Professional Midwives to the list of providers eligible for Medicaid reimbursement. This important work is led by the MAMA Campaign, which seeks federal recognition of the CPM credential. Fifteen Washingtonians – midwives, students and advocates, represented a powerful one-third of the overall attendance for Lobby Day.

Staffers for Washington’s Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray met the group with a warm reception and open arms although the love and support fell short of sponsorship of the bill for practical reasons. The toxic environment on capitol hill that prevents legislators from focusing on work they consider important was clearly spelled out when one staffer pointed out, “we are working hard every day right now just to keep contraception legal.” With a wide variety of constituencies represented, there were also many meetings with the offices of members of our US House of Representatives including Doc Hastings, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott, and Dave Reichert. Many of us gathered in the office of Senator Cantwell to present her staffer with an award for the Senator’s advocacy for better access to midwifery services for the nation’s families when the Affordable Care Act was drafted (see banner photo above).

As the humid, sunny weekend continued, the group grew to 17 midwives, students, and midwifery educators from Washington. They joined 133 of their peers from all over the US to discuss what was most important to the future of the profession at the first-ever CPM Symposium. The first two days were spent primarily listening and learning from a tremendous line-up of presenters representing every major government health care organization, and a walk from the global view down to a national look at what is happening today for midwives, educators, and the women for whom they care. This speaker line-up included a video interview conducted by our very own Audrey Levine with Jeff Thompson, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer of the state of Washington's Medicaid program showing great support for the role CPMs play in the state.

Washington State was again well represented as many of the participants were also speakers. During a break-out session called “A Glimpse Into the Future: Strategies for Meeting the Need”, among the 6 presenters, 4 were from Washington: Audrey spoke on the role that midwives play at the Washington State Perinatal Advisory Committee as well as the WA State Perinatal Collaborative. She was joined by Valerie Sasson and Liz Chalmers who spoke on the role that birth centers provide in both urban and rural Washington. Senior Bastyr student Yesenia Guzman spoke about her graduate research project in developing strategies for including CPMs in the National Health Service Corps.

Through the long days of speakers and break-out sessions, the topics of health disparities and race continuously bubbled to the surface. It was undeniably a topic that was on everyone’s mind and, without any planning, became the center of an intense talk given on the second evening. Not a single person stirred in the room while full attention was given to an impromptu speech given by a young woman from New Mexico, a midwifery consumer now training to become a midwife, who spoke from her heart about the role that race plays in our lives, not just as people but specifically as midwives.

The intensity never eased as the Symposium was forced to hold the much needed space for the very real problems of racism, health disparities, unity of the profession, the disparities of legalization and licensure among the states, and the need for payment reform, access to education, collaboration with sister organizations, and more powerful public relations.

The final day left participants exhausted and weary of the great work ahead. But with a renewed sense of commitment to the causes we hold dear, the group from Washington returned home to begin looking to the future. The list of goals and focus items will serve as a compass for our work as a state organization that continues to lead the country in innovation and problem solving in the name of serving women.