Four Extraordinary Nurses Dedicated to Maternal and Infant Health Recognized in 2015 by March of Dimes

White Plains, New York | Monday, August 3, 2015

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Four exceptional nurses have been awarded nursing scholarships by the March of Dimes for graduate and doctoral studies in the field of maternal-child nursing.

“The work of these four candidates is a testament to their dedication to improving the health of mothers and babies in their communities,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes is proud to help them continue their education at this critical stage of their careers.”

  • Lauren Head, RN, of Decatur, GA, is pursuing a doctorate in nursing at Emory University in Atlanta with the long term goal of reducing educational and health disparities among infants. She is a research assistant with “Talk With Me Baby” a statewide initiative to encourage parents to talk to their newborns with the goal improving their learning ability.
  • Valerie Willis, MSN, RN, PNP-BC, CNS-BC, is a PhD student at the University of San Diego in California. As a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) and parent-child clinical nurse specialist serving high risk infants, she also precepts PNP students and volunteers at local middle schools to promote careers in nursing. She actively engages in child and family health advocacy through two National Associations, Neonatal Nurses and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
  • Ali Sevilla de Cocco, RN, of Nashville, TN, is pursuing a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University. She has volunteered as a doula and as the co-director of Vanderbilt’s Shade Tree Early Pregnancy Program (STEPP) free prenatal clinic, for underinsured or uninsured women. She is also a member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
  • Laura Manns-James, CNM, of Oberlin, OH, is pursuing a doctorate at Kent State University. She is studying how stress from racial discrimination affects the health of young African American women of childbearing age, possibly contributing to poorer perinatal outcomes. Laura teaches at Frontier Nursing University, and also volunteers as a certified nurse midwife and a nurse practitioner at a local health clinic.

Qualified applicants for the March of Dimes graduate nursing scholarships are registered nurses currently enrolled in a graduate program in maternal-child nursing at the master’s or doctoral level. Applicants must be a member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, or the National Association of Neonatal Nurses. Applications for the 2016 scholarships will be available this fall on the March of Dimes website at, or by calling the March of Dimes at (914) 997-4609. Applications are due January 15, 2016.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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