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About Us

Staff Team

 

Nikia Sankofa

Executive Director

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Amelia Psmythe

Deputy Director

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Cheryl Lebedevitch

Senior Workplace Program Manager & Policy Analyst

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Camille Abbe

Events & Public Relations Manager

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Denae Schmidt

Member Relations & Operations Manager

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Alyssa Speece

Constellation Program Manager

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Sarah Walz

Senior Communications & Program Coordinator

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Miriam Rodriguez

Coalition Relations Coordinator

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Staff Team Member Bios

Nikia Sankofa, Executive Director: Nikia received her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. She later matriculated through the Master of Public Affairs program at Indiana University, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, where she concentrated on Environmental Policy. Nikia also has a Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she concentrated in Women’s Reproductive Health and earned certificates in Health Disparities and Health Communication. Focusing mainly on reducing racial and ethnic health disparities, Nikia’s public health work encompasses a broad range of functions, including, multi-site project management and team leadership; program design, monitoring and evaluation; data management and analysis; advocacy; and delivery of training and technical assistance. Nikia directed a community-based participatory research study that blended social, behavioral, and biomedical approaches to examine how stressors or resiliency factors influence and interact with biological factors to affect maternal and child health. As the director of an infant mortality reduction initiative in Baltimore City, Nikia oversaw the provision of intensive case management services consisting of recruitment, home-visiting, and parenting education to improve the health and wellness of women and families. Most recently, Nikia served as Project Director for breastfeeding at the National Association of County and City Health Officials. This project aims to increase implementation of evidence-based breastfeeding programs, practices, and services at the community level, specifically focusing on peer and professional lactation support to breastfeeding mothers in predominantly African American and/or underserved communities. The project also supports communities in developing public health partnerships critical to building community support for breastfeeding.

Amelia Psmythe, Deputy Director: Amelia began her career in public health first as a breastfeeding peer counselor and then as Executive Director of Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon, where her grassroots organizing efforts grew membership, funding, community visibility and impact. As Executive Director of the Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon, she supported local and state coalition development; implementation of workplace law; statewide hospital practice improvement; collaborative insurance investment; donor milk banking; and work with the Oregon Office of Equity and Inclusion to allow for Medicaid reimbursement of doulas. Amelia joined the USBC staff as Deputy Director in 2012, participating in the USBC leadership during a time of rapid growth in staff, changes in membership, adoption and application of Collective Impact principles, alongside the organization’s racial equity journey. Amelia supports the formation and development of USBC’s action-focused Constellations in various topics, with particular focus since 2014 on the Lactation Support Providers Constellation. Amelia applies servant leadership values to collaborative work, centering equity, growth of trust in relationships, and shared leadership, while building strategic alliances, leveraging resources, and balancing confidentiality with transparency. Amelia is in her second year of training with the Human Systems Institute, working toward certifications in family and organizational facilitation, using an approach that surfaces dynamics in human systems in order to provide new understandings, open possibilities, and increase clarity and peace.

Cheryl Lebedevitch, Senior Workplace Program Manager & Policy Analyst: Cheryl has been working with the United States Breastfeeding Committee since 2009, and has held many titles and responsibilities during her time with the organization. Currently, Cheryl helps lead USBC's advocacy campaigns and communications and assists with legislative strategy. She was lead author of the USBC's Online Guide: What You Need to Know About the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" Law, is Steward of the Workplace Support Constellation, and developed an analysis of the intersection of state and federal workplace breastfeeding legislation. Cheryl is a contributing author to the Healthy People 2020 Law and Health Policy Project and serves as Editor-In-Chief of the USBC's weekly e-Newsletter Staying Abreast: Weekly Wire. She holds a Bachelors Degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and completed an undergraduate fellowship at the Newberry Library.

Camille Abbe, Events & Public Relations Manager: Camille has a background in public relations and event planning, working on award-winning campaigns for nationally-recognized food, beverage, and consumer product brands at Hunter Public Relations, a New York City Public Relations firm. Her heart drew her towards assisting others and she became a birth doula and advocate, coordinating the annual conference for the Midwives Alliance, a professional organization for midwives, for nearly 10 years. Currently, in addition to her work with USBC, Camille is a certified yoga instructor, and is thrilled and humbled to be able to support each person on their journey to develop their flexibility, strength, courage, and compassion from within.

Denae Schmidt, Member Relations & Operations Manager: Denae graduated from the University of South Florida in 2010 with a Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences and minor in Public Health. During her graduate education at Mercer University she found her passion for women’s health while working in an Ob/Gyn clinic. As a community health intern for the Central Georgia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, she became an active advocate of breast cancer prevention in African American women. Her Capstone project assessed the correlation between socioeconomic factors and access to mammography services among African American women in middle Georgia. Denae received her Masters in Public Health in 2012 before relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Alyssa Speece, Constellation Program Manager: Alyssa graduated from Wayne State University in 2010 with a BA in Sociology and Women's Studies. After college she studied direct-entry midwifery for two years before moving to Oregon. She also has experience as a doula, childbirth educator, data reviewer with the Midwives Alliance of North America, and policy intern with Society for Women's Health Research. Alyssa received her Masters in Public Health from Oregon State University in 2017. Her coursework focused on maternal and child health, health equity, and health policy analysis.

Sarah Walz, Senior Communications & Program Coordinator: Sarah works on advocacy campaigns and communications, plans advocacy events, and assists with legislative strategy. She also manages the USBC's website and collaborative platform and builds communication campaigns for the USBC focused on simple messages and story-telling. Sarah grew up outside of Chicago and currently lives on the North Side. Outside of the USBC, she writes for several publications with a focus on women's health, gender identity, and inter-generational storytelling, and she volunteers for Chicago Books for Women in Prison

Miriam Rodriguez, Coalition Relations Coordinator: Miriam graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2015 with a degree in Political Science and two minors in International Studies and Gender and Women Studies. During her time at UIC, she studied in Mexico to further understand gendered issues, public policy, and her own culture, in a different context. She most recently graduated from DePaul University in 2018 with a degree in International Public Service. During her graduate program, Miriam had the opportunity to study in Panama in connection with a policy paper looking at the disparity of resources in the country. She is passionate about advocating for the rights of women all over the world.