UB maternal health forum celebrates the life of Pearl Young

Published September 26, 2023

Improving maternal health outcomes is the focus of “A Mother Pearl Young Legacy Forum on Hope and Healing: Advancing Key Maternal Health Policies” being held Sept. 29 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

The event is sponsored by the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute and Acuity Productions.

The forum, which is free and open to the public, will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the M&T Auditorium in the Jacobs School, 955 Main St., Buffalo. Interested individuals should register online.

Speakers include:

  • Keynote speaker Barbara Ross-Lee, founding president of the Maryland Osteopathic College of Medicine at Morgan State University. The first African American woman to lead a U.S. medical school, Ross-Lee has been a relentless advocate for addressing health inequities; the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently established the Barbara Ross-Lee, DO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award in her honor.
  • UB faculty including Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the Jacobs School; Tim Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor and director of the Community Health Equity Research Institute; and Thaddeus Waters, Amol S. Lele, MD, clinical professor and chief, maternal-fetal medicine in the Jacobs School.
  • Community leaders including Danise Wilson, executive director, Reproductive Health Access Project, and Antoine Johnson of the Buffalo Fatherhood Initiative in the Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network.

The forum was planned by relatives of Young’s in conjunction with UB faculty and staff as a way to remember Young and her impact on the community.

Allen Dewane, a relative of Young’s, a 1993 UB alumnus and CEO of Acuity Productions, explains how the forum’s themes of social determinants of health and health equity are directly related to concerns close to Young’s heart.

Young had studied health and nutrition and earned her degree at UB in gerontology studies. She was a longtime volunteer with the Central Park food pantry.

And as the mother of three, the grandmother of 10 and great grandmother of seven, the focus on maternal health was a natural.

It also couldn’t be more urgent, says Rita Hubbard Robinson, chief executive officer of NeuWater & Associates LLC; treasurer of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity; and associate director of the Community Health Equity Research Institute. 

“In May, the CDC reported that Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, with most of the maternal deaths being preventable,” she explains. “This heightened risk spans all income and education levels.”

That problem is a key concern and focus of the forum keynote speaker Ross-Lee.

“Dr. Ross-Lee’s background in women’s health and policy puts her in a unique position to share and teach us about the impact of policy and how maternal health systems change must include advocacy and legislation if we are to achieve better health outcomes for Black mothers,” says Hubbard Robinson.

As chief of maternal-fetal medicine and a physician with UBMD Obstetrics & Gynecology, Waters knows this firsthand.

“Maternal morbidity and mortality have increased steadily in the United States,” he says. “Remarkably, we are the only country in the developed world with rising rates. Maternal mental health is a significant, and underappreciated, contributor to maternal mortality. Our seminar will provide perspective on causes and propose solutions.”