Jhenielle Reynolds’ interest in birth work and commitment to birth equity were sparked after living in rural Argentina and working with a team of midwives and obstetricians to learn more about their practices. Her professional experience has crossed public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. Today, Jhenielle is a practicing doula and the Program Manager for Community Health Acceleration Partnership (CHAP).
Jhenielle’s passion for wellness, desire to help people, and global perspective were cultivated early. Her parents emigrated to the United States from Jamaica in their 20s. With one in healthcare and another who nurtured a deep curiosity about the world through—among other things—frequent listening to NPR, looking at issues through medical, international, and systemic lenses has long come naturally to Jhenielle.
While attending high school in England, Jhenielle interned with ORBIS—the world’s only flying eye hospital—in Da Nang, Vietnam. Through ORBIS, concepts of accessibility and the idea of strengthening the capacity of systems and individuals to do impactful work were brought to life. For the traveling hospital, the priority was not the volume of patients served. Instead, goals were structured around lasting impact—identifying the cases that had the broadest relevance for teaching other providers. Participation of countries involved in the program was also based on self selection—counter to often-lauded models where external entities determined whether a community needed assistance. This approach to community self-determination struck a chord with Jhenielle.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jhenielle began to think more about the intersection between culture and health, and importantly, what the fields of medicine and healthcare might be leaving out with respect to peoples’ healing traditions and cultural practices. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies–Global Health in Latin America, with minors in Medical Anthropology and Spanish for the Health Professions. A study abroad opportunity proved especially transformative. Focused on public health and rooted in an urban environment, Jhenielle learned about the maternal care system in Argentina, where she had the chance to explore what policy looks like in practice by working with local obstetricians, midwives, and families. It was here that she encountered the framework of parto humanizado which loosely translates as “humanized birth” and centers the needs of the birthing person during labor and childbirth.
While Jhenielle’s interest in birth work was clear upon returning to the United States, her professional journey took a turn into higher education after completing her undergraduate studies. Jhenielle worked as an admissions counselor at UNC Chapel Hill and a virtual college advisor before eventually overseeing a national grant-funded initiative to increase the number of high achieving, lower income students attending top colleges and universities for Bloomberg Philanthropies. These experiences provided her the opportunity to toggle between engaging directly with communities and larger systems—balancing one-on-one work with first generation and BIPOC college students and supporting students in achieving their aspirations.
As the Bloomberg project drew to a close and the COVID-19 pandemic was underway, Jhenielle saw the chance to pivot. When asked what she would do if anything was an option, the answer was consistent and immediate: Jhenielle would be a doula. The thought of helping birthing people understand their options and navigate the systems around them resonated for her, particularly as she thought about working in the United States, where outcomes related to maternal and infant health are among the worst of all high-income nations.
In 2021, Jhenielle founded BloomMama Birth Services, where she
provides clients with evidence based information and takes a holistic approach to her work as a doula. A consistent priority for Jhenielle is connecting the individuals and families she serves with other perinatal professionals that can support them during pregnancy and postpartum, championing the value of the ‘village’ when it comes to care.
Jhenielle began her work with CHAP at the end of 2022. Eager to leverage her experience as a birth worker for systems-level change, Jhenielle was drawn to CHAP’s focus on birth equity and the opportunity for impact in ways and scales unavailable to an individual doula. As Program Manager, she partners with CHAP’s directors to support the organization’s portfolio of maternal health and community health grants and serves as CHAP’s liaison to the New Jersey Birth Equity Funders Alliance.