Q&A: PhD student Lastascia Coleman blends public health with nurse-midwife practice

Published on July 12, 2021

portrait of PhD in HMP student Lastascia Coleman

Lastascia Coleman, a PhD candidate in health management and policy, is also a certified nurse-midwife and clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Originally from Waterloo, Iowa, Coleman is incorporating public health policy into her research and practice.

Q: You’re a non-traditional student as you already have a career as a certified nurse-midwife and clinical assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology. What motivated you to pursue a degree in public health?

A: I am naturally a systems thinker and found in my daily practice as a nurse-midwife that some of the problems and difficulties with health care delivery faced by patients and health care workers cannot be properly studied or addressed on an individual basis. Access to care, equitable care, and health disparities require systemic intervention if we hope to have a positive, sustainable impact. Research and data are key components for decision-makers, and we don’t always have the data we need.

I was at a meeting for the American College of Nurse-Midwives several years ago, and after a talk on the midwifery model of care, a physician stood up and said he believed in the work that midwives do and knew it could improve outcomes for birthing people but we collectively are not great at collecting data and disseminating research. This really stuck with me.

Q: What have you found most valuable about your University of Iowa public health education so far?

A: I have really enjoyed getting to know my peers in my PhD cohort, MHA students, and the faculty with whom I have interactions. I look forward to meeting and getting to know other PhD students in my program as we are in person more and more. In my clinical life, everything is fast paced, so I value the change in pace which allows more time for thinking and space for imagination.

Q: How does your experience as a nurse-midwife help you as a student of health policy?

A: My work experiences strongly inform my research interests, but I appreciate the broader concepts in health care delivery, health insurance, and health economics I learned in my first year. I am trying to keep an open mind about what to get involved in because I don’t want to miss any opportunities that can add to my knowledge base when I’m done with my program.

Q: What does it mean to you to be recognized as one of the 100 Great Iowa Nurses for 2021?

A: This recognition was a surprise for me. I was honored to be selected. I reaffirms that the work I am doing is recognized as important.

Q: What are your career plans post-PhD?

A: I am also keeping an open mind about this as well. Many steps exist from now until I complete my program.

Q: What advice do you have for students thinking about pursuing a degree in public health?

A: I would encourage potential students to think about where they want to be long-term and consider where their skills and interests lie.