Michelle Drew, DNP, MPH, APRN, CNM, FNP-C, CEFM, is a Delaware native and extraordinary advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Michelle is dually certified and licensed in Delaware as a certified nurse midwife (CNM) and family nurse practitioner (FNP).
Michelle is deeply rooted in her community and heritage. She was born 18 months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. during a time when African American men and women did not have the same access to education, services and health care. Michelle is the first generation in her family to graduate college. Michelle didn’t just graduate with one degree, she seized the opportunity to attend college and currently has six degrees, including a doctorate, in honor of her family members that didn’t have the choice to attend college.
Michelle’s initial calling in life was related to her love of history. She graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American history from the University of California at Los Angeles. Michelle taught history for many years but still felt a deeper calling to serve in a different way.
“In my family we were taught that whatever you are going to do with your life, you must serve others and give back to the community,” she said. Michelle’s great-grandmother served as a community midwife in the 1940s to 1960s when African American women were not granted the ability to deliver their babies in a hospital. Michelle spent much time around her great-grandmother growing up and had the epiphany that nursing and midwifery was her calling.
Michelle enrolled at Delaware Technical and Community College and graduated with her associate’s degree in Nursing in 1999. In her mission to serve, Michelle began working in critical-access hospitals as a critical-care, emergency and step-down nurse. She worked in critical-access hospitals for many years and then made the leap to obtain her advanced practice nursing degree. Michelle graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University as a dually trained and certified nurse midwife and family nurse practitioner in 2006.
Caring for Women Who Are My Neighbors
Michelle feels honored to be able to work in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Michelle said, “I get to collaborate with OB/GYN physician residents as a faculty member and teach them about this normal, natural process of pregnancy and birth. We shouldn’t view it as an illness to cure or a disease to prevent.” Michelle is with mothers and families during some of the happiest times of their lives but also some of the toughest.
“I get to walk with women and families through the normal process of pregnancy to birth and helping them to realize these life experiences to their fullest. I also walk with mothers and families when the thing they have dreamed of and prayed for most doesn’t come true; these are some of the toughest days, but I get to be there and support the mom and family. I love caring for women in my community because I get to see their babies and their families grow up. I am the health care provider they can trust.”
Local Community Advocacy, Leadership and Support
Living in Northeast Wilmington, an under-resourced neighborhood with a $20,000 average annual income per person, Michelle is all too familiar with the struggles of her community. She is an active church member and knows that her neighbors are struggling with basic access to food, income, and supplies for newborn babies. In her neighborhood, there are very limited options for grocery stores and pharmacies. Michelle recognized the need for more access, support and resources.
In January 2019, with the help of friends and family, Michelle founded the non-profit organization: Ubuntu: The Black Family Wellness Collective. The mission of the organization is to address the health care inequities to support overall health and wellbeing of the people and the community. Michelle’s organization provides health education in group sessions related to pregnancy and parenting. Topics include safety and nutrition during pregnancy, signs of postpartum depression, and what to expect during the first year of your child’s life. The non-profit also has an emergency food and diaper bank and access to feminine hygiene products.
“As nurses, we are always doing good deeds, forming a non-profit was an extension of my role in the community,” Michelle said. “I believe that as nurses we are often overlooked for the work we do but we are changing the world and empowering our neighbors. We just do it more quietly than others. As a black woman and mother, and knowing my own lived experiences, I want to make sure every woman and every mother has the right to live and survive. So, I make the time to do it and support our non-profit.”
National Advocacy, Leadership and Support
Michelle’s service, advocacy, leadership and support for minorities and health inequities goes far beyond her community. She is a voting member of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Committee on Global Health. She is a student mentor in the Midwives of Color mentoring program, organized by the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM). Michelle is also a proud community partner for the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
In the last 18 months, Michelle’s advocacy has expanded. In 2019, Michelle was appointed as a consultant to the Joint Commission’s Technical Advisory Panel on Perinatal Safety. She also serves as a member of the ACNM’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Michelle is the Founding Chair of the ACNM’s Black Midwives Caucus for Reproductive Justice and Birth Equity.
“Nationally, we are looking at issues facing black women and their babies. In the United States our maternal mortality and cesarean section rates are much higher than other countries, yet we spend much more money. This is unfathomable given pregnancy and birth are a natural process. We need to start closing this gap,” said Michelle.
The Year of the Nurse and Midwife
“It’s part of the recognition that as nurses, we are and have been throughout history, the lynchpin of health care. Nurses are the largest sector of the health care workforce and provide care in all settings. I hope that this year, even in the face of the pandemic, we see nurses rise and serve in so many ways to patients and communities.”
“This year, especially in the U.S., I hope this becomes an opportunity to look at and learn more about the work of midwives. I hope we start to think differently about how we can better use midwives. We are excellent partners next to the OB/GYN physician. A nurse midwife is the standard of care for healthy moms in other countries – they may never even see a physician unless there are complications. Even though nurse midwives work in all 50 states, it’s not always an option for mothers to receive care from a midwife. This is true for all APRNs in the U.S. Access to care is such an issue that APRNs and all nurses can fill with our knowledge and compassion.”
The Most Important Role of Nurses and APRNs
“There is one thing that people and even nurses often forget. Our most important job is to be an advocate for our patients — and if we aren’t willing to do that then what else matters? This was something a nurse and nun told me early on: ‘I can birth your baby and save your life but if I am not willing to advocate for you when it matters most then I haven’t fulfilled my responsibility to you and your family.’”
Michelle has made significant contributions and achieved extraordinary advocacy in her lifetime and profession. She made it clear that these accomplishments and contributions are also owed to the people in her life who have supported her. Michelle made sure to express her gratitude to these people while sharing her story in honor of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
- Dr. Estelle Whitney, an OB/GYN physician as ChristianaCare known as the founding mother of neonatology. “She was my friend for over 20 years. I would not be where I am today without her mentoring, encouragement and friendship. Estelle brought me to ChristianaCare because she knew it was a safe place for African-American women leaders to advocate and use their voices for positive change.”
- Dr. Matthew Hoffman, Marie E. Pinizzotto, M.D., Endowed Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at ChristianaCare. “He demonstrates the shared respect between physicians and APRNs. He advocates for midwives because of the value we create.” Dr. Hoffman was recognized with the 2019 Louis M Hellman MD Midwifery Partnership Awardfrom the ACNM. This award “recognizes an obstetrician-gynecologist who has demonstrated excellence in clinical practice, education, or research, leadership through the collaboration of physicians and midwives, and advocacy for vulnerable or underserved women.”
- The Delaware Nurses Association, Delaware Association for Nurse Practitioners and other local nursing organizations for their advocacy for APRN autonomy in Delaware.
- All her colleagues in Women and Children’s services at ChristianaCare.
- Drs. Arlene Smalls and Lisa Phillips for their friendship and support.