Organizational History

Organizational History


Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California was founded in 1993 as an educational venture by  a childbirth educator and a Certified Nurse-Midwife and a direct-entry Licensed Midwife. We established the organization the same year Direct-Entry Midwives won a path to licensure  with the enactment of the California Midwifery Licensing Practice Act. Our original goal was to provide quality direct-entry midwifery education for women of color in an academic setting in Los Angeles, and to provide access to out-of-hospital midwifery for low-income families through a freestanding birth center.


We did not end up establishing a midwifery school or opening a birth center, and we do not teach people to become midwives, but we do work to integrate the Midwives Model of Care into public health, community and hospital programs, with the purpose of improving birth outcomes for all pregnant women and persons.

In 2011, we established the DBA The Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health (AWMNH) to reflect our evolving work as a training and advocacy organization.

Our trainings promote evidence-based maternity care   based on the principles and steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI) developed by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS).

In 2015, we  received national recognition when we received  Community  Advocate Award by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services  for our work galvanizing the perinatal community to promote and  implement  Mother-Friendly Childbirth in Los Angeles County clinics and public health departments, doctor’s office and hospitals.

The Association for Wholistic Maternal Newborn Health provides training and mentorship opportunities for  persons to enter the perinatal professions, and opportunities for networking  and learning, bringing people together who are not normally at the same table to strategize and collaborate on ways to eliminate health disparities, improve maternity care quality, reduce maternity care expenditures, increase access to midwives and doulas and promote evidence-based, culturally appropriate, respectful care.

Many of our volunteers and graduates of our courses got their first exposure to the world of perinatal health promotion in our courses. Many are now working as licensed and certified Doulas, Midwives, Nurses and Lactation Consultants. The majority of our board members, graduates and volunteers are persons of color and immigrants who are actively working to improve  quality of life  and maternal-child health for families in their communities and organizations.


  •  We design community-based initiatives and strategies, engage and mobilize diverse stakeholders to develop  programs and policies that improve maternal and child health.
  • Create networking and continuing education opportunities for perinatal professionals: seminars, conferences, webinars, panel discussions, film screenings, etc.
  • Offering free and low-cost doula, lactation support and childbirth education for disadvantaged, hard-to-reach pregnant women and adolescents.
  • Provide  certification programs in maternity care: Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Perinatal Support Specialist, and Postpartum Doula.
  • Organizing for Community Empowerment through consulting with ministries of health, health plans, hospitals and clinics to implement evidence-based, mother and baby-centered, holistic and respectful maternity care.
  • We provide staff development training for community perinatal health workers, nurses, and other professionals and assist prenatal programs in developing protocols and evidence-based, culturally appropriate maternity care.



Our trainings include The Perinatal Support Specialist Training, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training and more. We have worked with dozens of organizations in California providing training opportunities, including UCLA, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Maternal-Child Health Access, UMMA Clinic, Black Infant Health, South Los Angeles Health Projects, Fresno Department of Public Health, and more.

Conferences and Events

Our conferences and events include The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Symposium, The Birthing Justice Forum, The Maternal-Child Health Champion Awards Ceremony, and our film and discussion series where we provide a forum to discuss tough issues such as racism in maternity care  and the lifelong impact of maternal stress on fetal  development.

Speakers at our conferences include renowned experts including Dr. Sarah Buckley (researcher and physician, author of Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing), Dr. Christine Morton, Ph.D., (Sociologist/Researcher at California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative at Stanford University), Dr. Sayida Peprah, Psy.D., (Perinatal Psychologist), Dr. Chinyere Oparah, (Editor and Co-Founder, Black Women Birthing Justice), Dr. Robbie Davis-Floyd (Medical Anthropologist and author of Birth as An American Rite of Passage), Hermine Hayes-Klein, JD (Birth Justice Attorney and Founder of Human Rights in Childbirth), Paula X.Rojas, LM, CPM (Co-Founder of Mamas of Color Rising and Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman Clinic in Austin), Ena Suseth Valladares (California Latinas for Reproductive Justice) and others.


Cordelia Hanna, MPH, CHES, ICCE, CLE, CBA,  is the visionary behind our work. She serves as our Executive Director  and the Director of the Health Net Community Doula Program. We serve more than 150  mostly African-American and Latino women and persons  every year who have Medi-Cal or are low to moderate income and live in Los Angeles County. The Community-Based Doula Program is  an innovative, community-based approach to address seemingly intransigent ethnic perinatal health disparities through emotional support and advocacy.

Cordelia  is a Childbirth Educator/Birth Activist, Childbirth Companion/Doula, Assistant Midwife/Primary Midwife Under Supervision; she has also worked as a Public Health Program Director and Reproductive Health Educator since 1991 in various settings, including  domiciliary, clinic, community, hospital and public health.

From 2002-2012, Cordelia worked for The Pasadena  Public Health Department Black Infant Health Program where she developed the very first  Community-Based Doula Program for African-Americans in Los Angeles County, and a childbirth education curriculum, addressing an unmet need in Pasadena, California for Medi-Cal recipients.

Cordelia is a third generation community organizer working for social justice, equality, and peace. Cordelia’s career has focused on  perinatal health equity, reducing ethnic perinatal health disparities  and increasing  access to all childbirth options, and promoting respectful, quality, evidence-based maternity care.

Cordelia  has a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from Loma Linda University where she majored in Health Education and Promotion/Maternal-Child Health. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) accredited by National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), and a Certified Childbirth Educator accredited by ICEA– International Childbirth Education Association, and Certified Lactation Educator accredited by CAPPA–Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association and a is a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program Administrator with Le Leche League. She was trained  and certified as a Doula/Birth Assistant  and Postpartum Doula with ALACE -The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators.

In 1994, Cordelia represented the California Association of Midwives where she helped ratify the expansion of the National Organization for Women’s (N.O.W) definition of Reproductive Freedom to include choices in childbirth, including licensed midwifery and support for all childbirth options — including homebirth. As Midwifery Childbirth Awareness Project Director of California Association of Midwives from 1992-1995, Cordelia  helped organize the passage of the California Midwifery Licensing Practice Act, which became law in 1993, making “non-nurse” midwifery legal in California by creating a direct-entry pathway into the midwifery profession. Now that Licensed Midwives are able to apply to be Medi-Cal providers, our organization’s original intent— to reach low-income communities of color –is soon to be realized in California.

From 2002-2004, Cordelia was a Course Leader for The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE–now called tolabor organization), leading their Doula/Birth Assistant Training.

Cordelia apprenticed with several midwives in Los Angeles county starting   in 1991 and  has attended hundreds of births in hospitals, birth centers and in homes. Cordelia has  taught hundreds of families childbirth education at Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), public health departments, community clinics and organizations.  Cordelia provides birth doula support, postpartum care and childbirth education to expectant parents.