HSC School of Public Health grad TaKasha Davis Ehiogu is on a mission: keeping black mamas alive

Thursday, May 23, 2024

HSC's TaKasha EhioguTaKasha Davis Ehiogu, a 36-year-old Master in Public Health student, is on a mission to make childbirth safer for Black mothers. Her commitment stems from a deep-seated belief that birth in America should not pose any major risks for women, specifically women within a particular ethnic or socioeconomic group. With a background in labor and delivery and firsthand experience of the shortcomings in the health care system, Davis Ehiogu is determined to enact permanent and transformative change.

After completing her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University and earning her nursing credentials from Texas Christian University, Davis Ehiogu embarked on a remarkable decade-long journey as a labor and delivery nurse, spending five of those years as a travel nurse. However, upon reflection, she realized that the demands of travel nursing might not allow her the flexibility to nurture a family of her own. Describing herself as a “professional student,” Davis Ehiogu made the decision to pursue a master’s degree in public health. With unwavering determination, she applied to The University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health and was promptly accepted. However, fate had more surprises in store for her that same week.

“The week I received my acceptance letter and made the tough decision with my husband to return to school, we found out that we were expecting our first child,” Davis Ehiogu shared between laughs. “The timing wasn’t ideal, but we figured it out as a team.”

As she entered her second trimester, Davis Ehiogu began her initial semester at HSC in the MPH program, intensifying her commitment to her mission: “Keep Black mamas alive.”

“I returned to school because I wanted to explore the other side of the health care system,” she explained. “As a seasoned nurse, I’ve witnessed numerous instances of inequity within hospitals, even in the San Francisco area. Despite previously viewing San Francisco as a pinnacle of equity, my experiences proved otherwise. So, I began to wonder, ‘if this is the reality for people of color here, what public health challenges do women in Texas face?’”

TaKasha Ehiogu with her son KingsleyHaving completed her first semester at HSC and delving into the second, she found herself nearing the end of her third trimester. Just a couple of months into the spring semester, she joyfully welcomed the arrival of her healthy baby boy, Kingsley.

“It’s challenging, raising a baby and maintaining my grades, but it’s worth it,” Davis Ehiogu said.

However, reflecting on her birthing experience proved to be more emotionally taxing than expected. As a firm advocate for patients, she naturally expected to receive the same compassionate care she provides to others. Having walked countless miles in the shoes of health care providers across America, offering mothers nationwide the same level of patience and respect she values, she was disheartened by the discrepancy in her own care.

“What I hadn’t anticipated was how my own birthing experience would solidify my commitment to patient advocacy and the preservation of Black mothers,” she recounted. “Despite my years of experience in labor and delivery, a solid education, private health coverage and access to what’s considered a ‘good’ hospital, my experience was needlessly stressful and upsetting. While I can’t definitively attribute it to my skin tone, certain assumptions were undoubtedly made.”

Despite the suboptimal treatment she received in hospital care, Davis Ehiogu found that it served as a catalyst for reigniting her passion for public health. Supported by her husband and family members who reside with her to assist in raising Kingsley as she pursues her third degree, she has been able to fully immerse herself in her academic pursuits while navigating the journey of motherhood.

“This program has been incredible in educating me on effective communication within health care settings and highlighting the importance of rebuilding trust between patients and health care providers,” she explained. “I am often reminded that scientific knowledge evolves over time, and practices considered standard protocol a decade ago may no longer be as effective. There’s hope in that realization.”

Upon graduating with her MPH degree in just a few days, she intends to embark on a career in the public health sector, driven by the steadfast mission that has consistently drawn her back to academia: To safeguard the lives of Black mothers.

“I want to do my part to move the needle towards equitable birth outcomes,” Davis Ehiogu said. ”Birth in America should be safe for all, without heightened risks for any particular group. My goal is to enhance the birthing experience for Black women. While I may not have all the answers yet, I have time to figure them out.”

At every stage of her journey, Davis Ehiogu has emerged as a guiding light in the field of public health. As she prepares to graduate, she stands as a living testament to the power of perseverance and the profound impact of individual commitment in addressing systemic challenges. Her story transcends mere personal achievement, it serves as a call to collective action to safeguard the health and prosperity of marginalized communities. Stepping into the next phase of her career, Davis Ehiogu embodies the spirit of advocacy and determination, inspiring others to join her in the fight for equitable health care, particularly in her mission to keep Black mamas alive.

From HSC Newsroom - Our People by Kaitlyn Biggar