Current position: Doctoral Candidate, Childhood Studies at Rutgers University – Camden
LaTiana Ridgell, BSN, RN, MPH graduated from Dornsife School of Public Health in 2017 with a concentration in Community Health and Prevention (CHP).
During her time at Dornsife, Ridgell was a MCH trainee, served as President of the Peer Health Educators student organization, worked at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children as a research assistant, and completed an internship with Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.
What drew you to MCH?
Ridgell says, “I’ve always had an interest in MCH related work. When I went to nursing school, a lot of the education was around geriatrics, but I wanted to try out MCH and see what it was like to be on the maternal side."
"When I saw a birth for the first time, it was a young mother. She was only 18 years old, and she didn’t know how to push or do anything. Before the doctor came in, my co-nurse and I gave her instructions on Lamaze breathing techniques and taught her techniques to help her focus on pushing. When she was ready to give birth, she implemented the techniques we taught her. The doctors were really impressed and asked where she learned these techniques, and she said we had just taught her. Her fear of giving birth and the fact that she came in not knowing what to do was so interesting to me and I wanted to learn more about MCH. When I started the MPH program and learned more about Dornsife’s MCH program, I was really interested in being involved and attending MCH events.”
How are you using your current MCH training?
Ridgell is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University – Camden. She has had an exciting and varied career path that led her to pursue her PhD in childhood studies.
After graduating from Dornsife, Ridgell worked as a Home Visiting Nurse at Nurse-Family Partnership for four years. As a Home Visiting Nurse, Ridgell worked with first-time mothers and provided them support throughout their pregnancy and during the post-partum period (2 years post-partum).
“We addressed social determinants of health, making sure that the new mothers felt safe in their homes and relationships, supporting them in the job search or going back to school, and helping them think about their life goals and how to best achieve them. We encouraged them to lead their own lives versus telling them what they should be doing. We focused on self-efficacy and helping them become partners in their own lives so that there was no dependency after we left two and a half years later. This work was really fulfilling. Most of the work involved going to the homes of the mothers I was working with or sometimes meeting them in grocery stores, laundromats, or even Ross. We didn’t have a specific center for them to come to. The work should happen where they live, work, and play.”
Ridgell also served on a legal committee with Nurse-Family Partnership, advocating on behalf of the families she worked with. Ridgell testified on behalf of her clients to Philadelphia’s City Council to promote the implementation of lead paint laws and regulations, as many families she worked with had children with lead poisoning.
During this time, Ridgell also designed and taught a college-level course to high school students on child development theories through a social justice lens.
Additionally, Ridgell is an Adjunct Professor at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, where she teaches a course on Vulnerable Populations in the United States. Ridgell says that her work with new moms helped inform both classes. She says, “These teaching experiences pushed me to pursue a PhD in childhood studies. Although my PhD program is a little of a different route than a typical MCH path, I’m looking broadly at childhood as a concept and I’m thinking about the different ways that school, home, and the environment impact childhood.”
How did your time as a MCH trainee at Dornsife influence your career?
Ridgell says, “My time as a MCH trainee at Drexel made me feel more confident going to work as a nurse with first-time moms because I had the training and background to understand MCH from multiple lenses, a public health and a medical lens."
"I felt more prepared and more equipped to deal with different needs that come up when working with new moms. I also felt more prepared to help organizations think critically about a populations’ needs outside the traditional medical model.”
Advice to current and future MCH students?
Ridgell says, “My advice to current and future MCH students is to always follow your passions. Ideas and interests can lead to bigger things, and you never know where following your passions might take you.”