Carolyn Wetzel Continuum Award

Dr. Natalie Hernandez Named 2021 Carolyn Wetzel Continuum Award Recipient

On October 18, 2021, Natalie D. Hernandez, Ph.D., M.P.H. will be honored with the Carolyn Wetzel Continuum Award at the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (HMHBGA) 47th Annual Meeting and Conference.   

Each year, HMHBGA, recognizes a volunteer or health professional for their contributions in advocacy and policy in support of the health and well-being of Georgia’s families with the Carolyn Wetzel Continuum Award. The award was created to honor the memory of Carolyn Wetzel, a long-time HMHBGA member, friend, and dedicated public health advocate for mothers, birth givers, and babies, and is presented to the recipient at HMHBGA’s annual conference on maternal and child health. In the last year,  the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on many of the health inequities facing Georgia families, with significant impact on mothers and caregivers.

“The last few years have been exceptionally taxing for many families across Georgia.  COVID-19 has exacerbated health inequities in insurmountable ways which have long term impacts for those beautiful individuals who bring forth life and their sweet babies,” says Ky Lindberg, Executive Director of HMHBGA. “That’s why we need change agents who are advocating for culturally relevant, responsive, and equitable solutions aimed at improving maternal and infant health in our state. This is a truth that’s steeped in our Coalition’s founding and exhibited by each of our partners, one such partner being Dr. Natalie Hernandez.”

Dr. Hernandez advocates for women and birth givers through her research in maternal health. Her work is dedicated to advancing science towards the elimination of women’s health inequities by evaluating health policy and social determinants of health, specifically within Black and Latina populations. Additionally, her research explores the integration of technology to advance women’s health. Hernandez has laid the groundwork for research in maternal health by establishing partnerships with local and national organizations dedicated to maternal morbidity and mortality disparities, evaluating maternal health interventions and programs, and validating effective measures of maternal mental health, medical mistrust, as well as psychosocial factors relevant to maternal health inequities. She has more than 17 years of experience in developing community partnerships and implementing community-based participatory research that engages diverse stakeholder groups including health care providers, patient populations, organizational leaders, and policymakers.  

“Dr. Hernandez’s work lifting up the urgency to find policy, research and community solutions to increase health equity and improve maternal health for black women coupled with her fierce commitment to expand access to services for rural birth givers has sparked collective action from all sectors of the community. She leads with grace and empathy, amplifying the stories of hundreds of women who have brushed death whilst giving birth and giving them a platform to share their experiences navigating our healthcare systems. It is because of this and her just being an all-around beautiful human being that I am pleased to name Dr. Natalie Hernandez as the recipient of the 2021 Carolyn Wetzel Continuum Award.

-Ky Lindeberg, Executive Director at HMHBGA

Hernandez is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine and the Interim Director of the Center for Maternal Health Equity at Morehouse School of Medicine. She currently sits on Georgia’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, Georgia PRAMS Steering Committee, Georgia Improving Postpartum Care Affinity Group, and on various maternal and child health organizations including Postpartum Support International-Georgia Chapter Advocacy Group and Georgia Maternal Health Stakeholder Group. She also sits on national organizations including the American Public Health Association Committee on Health Equity, Health Disparities Taskforce of the National Preeclampsia Foundation, and many others.