March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we’ll be profiling D.C. based women you should know. Amy Morse, the founder of Ideas Club, is heading the project. For today’s second profile, she highlights Natasha Bonhomme. -ed.
Keeping moms and kids healthy inspires Natasha to learn, lead and advocate for change. She was hospitalized for a range of ailments as a young child and grew up watching her mother suffer from debilitating migraine headaches, often acting as her only caregiver with limited resources to offer. Her personal experience grew into a strong desire make a difference on reproductive health information and improving infant health. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of infant mortality among developed countries (nearly double for African American babies), and the rate of maternal mortality has actually increased in recent years (African American women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth). Natasha turned her passion for making systems-level change into an important leadership role. As vice president at Genetic Alliance, she launched the nation’s first center on newborn screening education, Baby’s First Test.
When Natasha testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, she had the rare opportunity of speaking to a woman chairperson (9 women headed committees then, which has since dropped to only 2). The traditionally male-led committee makes crucial decisions impacting women and children’s healthcare programs. Senator Kay Hagan’s opening introduction as “Chairmom,” is a telling reminder of the rare perspective of moms in the decision making process. In 2014, men represented 80% of the U.S. Senate and 77% of the expert testimony in the House of Representatives (wtf – you can read more about this issue and “critical mass” of women’s voices in Jay Newton-Small’s new book). Needless to say, Natasha’s presentation was terrific and informed by the viewpoints of thousands of expectant and new mothers. She led and managed one of the largest studies of more than 2,000 expectant and new mothers, to gain an understanding of their attitudes towards newborn screening and their preferences on how and when to be educated.
Natasha serves on a range of committees including: as a Co-Chair of the Genetics and Bioethics Committee, American Public Health Association; the Association of Public Health Laboratories Committee on Newborn Screening and Genetics in Public Health; and the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.
When she isn’t leading an effort to improve infant health, she is working with Planned Parenthood of Metro D.C., and was a founding Co-Chair of PP’s Developing Leaders Program. She currently serves on the Board of Willow Oak Therapy Center, a community based organization that provides affordable and comprehensive mental health services. She also serves on the fundraising Committee of La Clinica del Pueblo, which provides culturally appropriate health services in the D.C. area.
Woman in History:
One of her greatest inspirations is Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madame C.J. Walker. She was an African American entrepreneur from the 19-20th century who was born on a cotton plantation and ended up creating a successful business that provided specialized hair care products for African American women. She became one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Her philanthropy helped support scholarships, homes for the elderly, the National Conference on Lynching, and the Indianapolis YMCA. She is a great example of the power of working hard, building strong relationships, and taking every opportunity you can to better yourself and your community. Her business became a network for women to learn valuable skills and gave them the opportunity to travel across the country. It’s inspiring to think if she could do all of that in the era she was born in, what great things we all can accomplish together now.
Learn More and Get Involved
Girls on the Run – Empowering girls through running.
LearnVest – Learn how to change your relationship with money.
Women’s Media Center – Exposing gender disparities in the news we read and other media we consume.