The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM), along with Black Father Family and the United Way of Roanoke Valley, will host an intimate conversation on the Black maternal health crisis and the role fathers play as advocates. The talk, which is titled “Black Mothers, Black Babies, Black Fathers,” will be held Dec. 12 and is free and open to the public.

The moderator of the event is Jonathan Webb, chief executive officer of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). He will lead a discussion with Lewis Townsend, a maternal child health advocate, and Alyssa Watkins, a physician of obstetrics and gynecology at Carilion Clinic and a faculty member at VTCSOM. 

The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in the VTCSOM’s Auditorium M203 at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. Registration is requested.

“The Black Father Family initiative is guided by its mission to find meaningful connections, support and resources to promote health, well-being and success of children, family and communities,” said Ryan Bell, the organization's founder. “This talk will focus on the importance of Black fathers as advocates for the health of mothers and babies in what is often a critical and challenging time.”

Webb’s career has focused on public health and health equity initiatives. His work in this space has focused on the meaningful engagement of stakeholders with an emphasis on prioritizing lived experiences. Prior to joining AWHONN, he served as CEO for the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, and he is also on the steering committee of the Equitable Maternal Health Coalition, co-chair for the March of Dimes’ Mom Baby Action Network racism and unequal treatment work group, and on the steering committee for Pritzker’s Prenatal to Three Initiative (PN3). He lives in Virginia with his wife and two children.

Townsend serves as an assistant vice president with Wells Fargo Bank and resides in Christiansburg with his wife, Crasha Townsend, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion within the Virginia Tech Office for Diversity and Inclusion. Even with all that life has afforded them, the Townsends found themselves struggling with our health system. Townsend joins this conversation to unpack and explore experiences across three major health systems and how their fight continues even after the passing of their 18-month-old daughter.

Watkins is a graduate of the Morehouse School of Medicine. After earning her Bachelor of Science, she spent a year at the National Institutes of Health Research Center in Baltimore. In addition to student medical associations and organizations, Watkins is a member of the American Medical Women’s Association and the National Medical Association.


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