Urmeka Jefferson, PhD, RN, associate professor, has been named as a fellow of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) in recognition of her significant contributions to the health of women and newborn babies.
This marks the first class of fellows from the AWHONN. Dr. Jefferson is one of 33 nurses who were selected to join the inaugural class.
Dr. Jefferson has more than 16 years of clinical experience caring for infants and mothers in the NICU and Well-Baby Nursery. Her research focuses on reducing breastfeeding disparities to advance health and reduce mortality for women and infants. Dr. Jefferson designed the Mother’s Milk Connection app, now named LatchOn, to support breastfeeding women from the prenatal period through birth and after hospital discharge. She is currently focused on research aimed at examining usability and feasibility of the LatchOn app to improve breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity.
“Dr. Jefferson is an outstanding scholar, and becoming one of the inaugural AWHONN Fellows is well-deserved recognition of her work,” says Christine Kennedy, PhD, RN, FAAN, the John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of the College of Nursing and Interim Provost of RUSH University. “Dr. Jefferson’s work embodies RUSH’s commitment to advancing health equity and can make a lasting impact on our community, changing health outcomes for our mothers and babies.”
In 2022, Jefferson received the AWHONN Award for Excellence in Research at the organization’s annual conference. She also received the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship to center the needs of African American mothers and enhance the LatchOn design. Her mHealth intervention provides an inclusive experience tailored for personal support delivered by a breastfeeding peer counselor to streamline access to breastfeeding services for parents in the Chicago area.
“I am deeply grateful to join the inaugural class of AWHONN Fellows,” says Jefferson. “I hope that I can serve as an inspiration to other nurse researchers working to improve health outcomes in communities that are underserved.”
RUSH College of Nursing codified new mission and vision statements in 2022 to focus on the advancement of health equity and call attention to the importance of research and scholarship that specifically addresses equity.
“It’s nurse researchers like Dr. Jefferson who will change the landscape of maternal and neonatal care for historically underserved communities,” says Kennedy.