Sharon Rising, MSN head shotSharon Rising, MSN is at the center of an alternative healthcare option for pregnant women

Fifteen minutes. For Sharon Rising, MSN, who had spent 27 years as a nurse midwife, it appeared to be roughly the amount of time allotted to pregnant women with their obstetrician, midwife or nurse for routine visits—and it seemed woefully inadequate. In 1993, she convened groups of women for two-hour meetings over the course of their pregnancy for pre-natal care, self-care, and open discussions. She then persuaded a Waterbury, Connecticut clinic to arrange 90-minute appointments in which a group of eight pregnant women would pool their time to meet with one doctor—and each other.

The concept– which Rising dubbed “Centering” – showed impressive results. A study of more than 1,000 women revealed a 33 percent decline in the rate of preterm birth for women in Centering groups, compared to those in traditional care.

Five years later, Rising retired from clinical practice to focus on leading training workshops for group leaders in CenteringPregnancy™. Today, as the founder and president emeritus of Centering Healthcare Institute, Rising remains at the center of centering. According to their website, More “than 255 workshops have been held, and nearly all states have at least one CenteringPregnancy™ site.”

The work of the Centering Healthcare Institute addresses systemic inequities in the U.S.. On the web, the mission is “to create a future where the risk of preterm birth, the inequities of Black women dying from pregnancy related causes and the disparities in early childhood are greatly reduced,” so that every child has the potential to enjoy future life chances, social and economic opportunities and overall well-being.”

In the back of Rising’s mind was the knowledge that preterm birth was (and is) the #1 killer of newborns in the U.S.. In her conversation with Regis College Assistant Professor Lawana Brown, Rising describes the progress that has been made and the work that remains to be done.