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Germanna Community College Launches Doula Program

May 09, 2024 09:43AM ● By Ann Bower Herren

If you’re a pregnant black woman in the United States, you have a four times greater chance of dying during birth than white women. This drastic increase in mortality is the same for black women across all education and socio-economic levels– it doesn’t matter if you have a PhD or if you’re a world-class athlete.

The good news is that the Fredericksburg area is taking action to change that reality for local mothers through a new doula training program at Germanna Community College. President of Germanna Community College, Dr. Janet Gullickson, says “Protecting families, including pregnant moms and their babies, is aligned with Germanna’s commitment to serving ALL students in our communities. Germanna, along with its partners Rappahannock Area Health District and Mary Washington Healthcare, is stepping up to DO something about health inequities and supporting all moms and babies through childbirth and beyond.”

Why Doulas?

Parents who have access to doulas have dramatically better outcomes for the birth process. We know that doulas improve health outcomes, reduce racial disparities, and even reduce the medical expense of birthing, as birthing women who use a doula are less likely to need a caesarian section.

Johnetta Cook, a local DONA-certified birth doula in Fredericksburg, believes that community-based black doulas provide something unique: an understanding of black culture, the ability to navigate a challenging healthcare system, and the skills to advocate for black mothers. “When a baby is born, a mother is born,” says Johnetta, “Your doula is your biggest advocate.”


The New Germanna Community College Doula Program

Following an intense collaboration with the VA Dept. of Health, local hospitals, and area doulas among others, Germanna Community College will be offering the first Doula Certification Program within the five-county region. This new program will begin this August, with plans to offer the program four times a year.

John Stroffolino, the interim Dean of Health Technologies at Germanna, says “We hope to have around 12 students per class.”  Germanna is guiding the students through the Medicaid certification process, which is an important part of being able to offer doula services to Medicaid recipients.  

Lower Maternal Mortality by 2025

The Virginia Department of Health has been making bold moves to acknowledge and improve the treatment of black women during pregnancy, and in January of 2022, Virginia became just the fourth state in the US to approve Medicaid for doula care. Virginia’s Title V has a goal to eliminate racial disparity in maternal and infant mortality rates by 2025.


Valerie Hopson-bell, Health Equity Specialist at the Virginia Department of Health

and leader on the Black Maternal and Infant Health Steering Committee has led a number of panels and discussions, “Through these conversations and education on the benefits of community-based doulas, the medical community is more open about the team approach and are learning the importance of having doulas in the room. We’ve had a very positive response.”


For more discussion and information on maternal mortality, go to


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