Meet Nurturely: Marissa

As part of our relaunch we are highlighting our staff, volunteers and board members. Next up: Marissa!

Describe your background and what led you to Nurturely’s work. What motivated you to work with Nurturely?

I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to Milwaukee, WI when I was a teenager. I did my undergraduate degree in social welfare and Spanish with minors in psychology and health studies at Marquette University. As a student and youth mentor, I witnessed the impact of structural and institutional racism and oppression on the communities I lived and worked in. After graduating, I was employed as a social work case manager in community violence prevention and child welfare in Milwaukee. 

I felt completely helpless to change the conditions faced by my clients, so I wanted to shift my career trajectory and work more on the prevention side of health and human services. I decided to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree so that I could help develop sustainable, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive solutions to dismantle systems harming children and families. My internship search at the start of my second year in my MPH program led me to Nurturely in December 2020, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue working with the team this winter and spring. 

What motivated you to work with Nurturely?

I was looking for an internship experience with an organization that addresses the social determinants of health and works to reduce preventable health disparities. I also wanted to be able to work in a community-driven setting directly with families, as that is one of the components of my previous jobs in social work that I loved. I was especially drawn to Nurturely’s focus on racial equity within perinatal health, as well as its commitment to antiracist practices internally with its team and externally in the community. I also really appreciate Nurturely’s emphasis on understanding and valuing lived experience and traditional practices that support health, which are often neglected by public health agencies and research. Another aspect of Nurturely that I love is the wide range of expertise and perspectives that the team offers!

What is your role within Nurturely? 

I am Nurturely’s MPH intern, and I am involved in program planning and evaluation! My main projects focus on designing evaluations for Nurturely’s programs to demonstrate their benefits and impact. Over the past month and a half, I have created surveys to evaluate Nurturely’s Racism in Perinatal and Pediatric Health workshop series for Oregon-based healthcare professionals. Over the next few months, I will be doing similar work for the Positively Pregnancy cohorts. I have also spent time designing visually appealing, simple-to-understand resource guides for a variety of health equity topics to share with Nurturely’s partners and program participants. 

What do you hope to do with Nurturely? What are your goals in working with Nurturely?

At Nurturely, I hope to gain more experience in designing and evaluating programs focused on health equity. I am also excited to learn from the amazing people who are involved in Nurturely’s efforts. I am new to Oregon, so I am looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare professionals across a variety of sectors working to address perinatal disparities. I have really enjoyed working on the Racism in Perinatal and Pediatric Health series so far, and I can’t wait to become more involved in Nurturely’s other program offerings. I hope to be able to provide strong data from the program evaluations to highlight how important and impactful Nurturely’s work is so that the organization can continue to grow and reach more people!

What do you do outside of Nurturely (hobbies, work, school, passions, etc.)?

Outside of Nurturely, I am a full-time graduate student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University focusing on Health Promotion and Health Behavior. At OSU, I also work as a research assistant on a project aimed at increasing access to HIV self-testing for LGBTQIA communities in Portland.

As a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor, I am passionate about advocating for survivors and preventing violence in all of its forms. I have also remained close with former coworkers and community members in Milwaukee, so I am currently involved in writing program evaluations for a youth suicide prevention program and a trauma prevention coalition there. 

When I’m not in class or working, I love to be active and spend time outdoors. Running, cycling, swimming, and hiking are some of my favorite activities! I also am a dog mama to a 4-year-old rescue dog named Peanut (who thinks he is a lap dog even though he is 60 pounds).