Lastascia Coleman, ARNP, CNM, gives the same advice to women hoping to pursue a career in medicine as she gives her 7- and- 13-year-old daughters: Be yourself, be kind, and be brave.
Editor’s note: September is Women in Medicine Month. This is the second in a series of articles showcasing how women in UI Health Care are changing medicine, changing lives.
Coleman has wanted to work in women’s health for as long as she can remember. In her role as a certified nurse-midwife, she’s able to take pregnant women and birthing people through the full spectrum of care, from puberty to menopause, including prenatal care and birth. And through her advocacy work, she’s passionate about giving power and agency back to women.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is helping mothers through vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC),” says Coleman. “I’ve found that this is such a huge opportunity to give some power and choice back to women who may have felt they’ve lost it if they didn’t plan on having a c-section with a prior delivery.”
Growth and learning across UI Health Care
Originally from Waterloo, Iowa, Coleman attended the University of Iowa, receiving an undergraduate degree in psychology before going on to receive her nursing degree at the UI College of Nursing. She became a certified nurse-midwife, and has worked at UI Hospitals & Clinics ever since, transitioning through several roles, including staff nurse, inpatient hospitalist, and clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
“I’ve stayed at UI Hospitals & Clinics because there’s so much happening here,” explains Coleman. “I enjoy bringing midwife care to our patients. When you deliver babies, you’re there for such an important moment in life; that’s really special.”
A champion for women’s health
Coleman’s also working to extend the care she provides outside of hospital walls. She’s participated in “Doc Day on the Hill” where she’s advocated for midwifery care alongside physicians, she’s on the board of the American College of Nurse Midwives, and on the board of the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City.
“To me, advocacy for patients and my profession are as important as the individual clinical care I provide,” she says.
And Iowa needs advocacy for women’s health care. Maternal mortality is on the rise in the state and is linked to the lack of access to highly qualified obstetrical providers and compounded by the rising co-morbidity of the obstetrical patient population.
Coleman is leading the charge to research not only why this crisis of women’s health care is taking place across the state, but how we can help fix it. In particular, her research focuses on racial disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality, and she’s pursuing a grant that would allow her to dig deeper into these issues.
“It’s so important to understand why these disparities exist and what we can do to help,” she says. “We owe it to the women of our state.”
Education alongside empowerment
In her role as an assistant clinical professor, Coleman focuses on exposing medical students and residents to midwifery, and delivering didactic lectures on topics such as breastfeeding, quality, and safety.
“I love the teaching element of my job,” she says. “There’s still some mystery around midwifery, but it’s important to share with our colleagues that we’re here, we’re able to see a wide variety of patients, and we’re valuable partners in care.”
Coleman is also in the early stages of developing a nurse midwife training program here as part of UI Health Care.
“We’re looking at optimizing our resources and working alongside our administrators to provide the best services possible for the state,” she says.
Passion shines through
When asked about her favorite part of her job, Coleman’s eyes light up.
“Of course it’s always special to be part of happy moments like the birth of a baby. It’s hard not to love that,” Coleman says.
But, with any job, there are hard days as well.
“The work is so challenging, but it’s worth it. You’re going to have hard days, but passion gets you through it,” she says.