July 2023 Power Player
At Power to Decide, we’re committed to uplifting the many individuals on the ground doing the work that matters most. Each month we highlight an individual who is championing the effort to support people’s reproductive well-being. Check out this month's Power Player profile.
Nakeitra L. Burse, DrPH, CHES (she/her)
CEO, Six Dimensions
What work have you done to ensure that all people have the information and access they need to make decisions that align with their intentions and improve their reproductive well-being?
Most of my career has in some way focused on sexual and reproductive health. That is over 15 years of work! Over the course of these 15 years, I have had the opportunity to see the landscape change for the good…and for the bad (i.e., the overturning of Roe v. Wade). My work has included a range of reproductive well-being work including health education and outreach; HIV prevention, testing, and treatment; supporting improving clinical processes for improving access to contraception in rural communities; and maternal morbidity and mortality. This work has allowed me to see the barriers that people face when trying to access services for their reproductive well-being. It is all unfair and unjust. So, as my career evolves and grows, my commitment remains the same, supporting people in finding the resources needed to make the best possible health decisions for themselves.
How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
I have always had a love for public health. As a young girl, then a college student, I thought my pathway was health care, either pediatrician or OB/GYN. Coming from a small town, I did not know that public health was an option. Going to college allowed me the opportunity to see a different view of the world and the impact that I can potentially have. After leaving undergrad and deciding against medical school, I (literally) began a google search on how to be in health and health care without being a physician. That is how I stumbled upon public health, I never looked back. I pursued advanced degrees (master’s and doctorate), developed my skills in the field, and simply made this field my home.
My driving force is the future. I want Black women specifically to live free and liberated. I want Black women to live in their (our) magic without having to always save the world. I want Black women to be able to choose the work that they want to do, and not have to do work that requires physical and emotional labor. I want Black women to have the freedom to choose how they live. Some women that are near and dear to my heart never had the opportunity to live their full lives, make decisions for themselves, and even see their children grow up. That is my driving force.
What advice would you give to someone looking to effect change in the field that you currently work in?
Maternal mortality is in the spotlight right now, but as with every disparity and inequity, the spotlight will eventually move to something else. When the world, funding, and the spotlight move to something else, inequities in maternal morbidity and mortality will continue to exist. This means that there will always be a need for maternal health advocates as long as women and birthing people are giving birth. So, my advice to someone looking to effect change in the field of Black maternal health is:
- Examine your commitment. Are you here because it’s a hot topic or are you here because you have a heart and a passion for the work?
- Figure out where you fit. There is always room for more advocates, but we need people with specific skills. Determine what you can lend to the fight and be great at it. Your skills and service will be invaluable.
- Find a soft place to land. The work is heavy and hard. Find your identity outside of the work, find what you love, and take care of yourself outside of the work.
Why should someone care about ensuring that all people—regardless of who they are or where they live—have the information and access they need to live their best life?
Our rights are being attacked on every front. I believe that people should have the access to resources and abilities to live their lives as they choose, in a way that makes them happy and whole. It is not fair nor just for some people to live freely while others live in the margins. The beauty of life is that we are all different and have different desires and needs. I do not believe that there is any reason or logical explanation for the policing of bodies in this country, and when we are policed, it creates serious inequities. No one deserves that.