The results are in! AWHONN members have elected new members for the open positions on the 2021 Board of Directors.  Newly elected board members officially take office January 1, 2021.

More information about the voting process can be found in the AWHONN Bylaws.

For questions or comments, please email


Sandra K. Cesario, PhD, MS, RNC, FAAN

Sandra is the PhD program director at Texas Woman’s University; Women’s health specialist with 44 years of clinical, research, education, and policy development experience. She has been an AWHONN member for 32 years, actively engaged as chair of the National Practice committee and serving on advisory panels, JOGNN and NWH editorial boards and leading EBP guideline development teams.

AWHONN leadership:
She has been an AWHONN member for 32 years, actively engaged as chair of the National Practice committee and serving on advisory panels, JOGNN and NWH editorial boards and leading EBP guideline development teams. She is an AWHONN awardee for Distinguished Professional Service, NWH Excellence in Writing, and Excellence in Education.

Other leadership:
Sandra’s research interests include violence against women, reproductive decision-making, gynecologic cancers, nursing education, second stage labor management, newborn abandonment, and cultural aspects of childbearing and birth.  She has provided care to women and newborns throughout the United States and internationally and was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2008.

Sandra holds leadership roles in Sigma Theta Tau, Texas Nurses Association, Texas Medical Center Women’s Health Network, and the Women’s Health Initiative of Texas.

Mission and goals for AWHONN:
Sandra passionately supports AWHONN’s advocacy goals through promotion of diversity and inclusivity, education of nurses and communities, and policy development to improve the care of women and newborns.


Julie Zimmerman MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

Julie has a BSN and MSN in Women’s Health from the University of Iowa College of NursingFor over 40 years, she has been a staff nurse at UnityPoint – St. Luke’s Hospital Birth Care Center in Cedar Rapids, IA. Julie also serves as nurse residency program facilitator.  She teaches EFM and POEP AWHONN programs and was previously an educational outreach coordinator   

AWHONN leadership:
Section Advisory Council – District 4; Participates on the EFM task force and staffing guidelines committees; EFM instructor for 23 years; EFM instructor trainer for 17 years- conducting numerous courses across MidwestLegislative liaison for Iowa; 2018 national conference planning committeeFormer Iowa Section Chair; committee member for POEP and EFM programs. 

Other leadership:
Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, former March of Dimes and Iowa Breast Cancer Action Foundation board member, previously on IHI committee for UnityPoint Health. 

Mission and goals for AWHONN:
AWHONN should be THE leader in healthcare change.  In this time of social change we have an opportunity to reduce and end racial disparities through education and legislative workBut there is an urgency to act now. As an organization, AWHONN has the opportunity to come through this time in history stronger and more visible as the leading nursing organization in the U.S.  

New 2021 Directors

Jeanne L. Alhusen, PhD, CRNP, RN, FAAN

Jeanne is an Associate Professor and Acting Associate Dean for Research at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. Jeanne is also a practicing family nurse practitioner and has maintained a clinical practice for over 20 years. Jeanne received her BSN from Villanova University, MSN from Duke University, and PhD and postdoctoral fellowship from Johns Hopkins University.

AWHONN leadership:
Jeanne is a full panel member and Chair of AWHONN’s Research Advisory Panel (RAP).  Since 2018, she has been a Director on AWHONN’s National Board of Directors

Other leadership:
Jeanne volunteers on two additional boards, both whose missions are focused on improving health outcomes for families living in poverty.

Mission and goals for AWHONN:
Jeanne believes AWHONN’s strengths lie in its staff and members, each wholly committed to improving the lives of women, newborns and their families. She is deeply committed to a) fostering the next generation of nurse clinicians and scientists through mentoring, engagement, and leadership opportunities; b) expanding our research funding, particularly as it relates to health inequities among women of color and the role of racism, and other forms of oppression; c) demonstrating accountability in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by fostering diverse perspectives and actively pursuing equity in all aspects of our work; and d) launching the AWHONN Fellows program which will recognize nurse leaders who have made substantive and sustained contributions to the field while also better utilizing their talents to advance AWHONN’s mission.

Elizabeth Kester, MSN, RN, NEA-BC

Elizabeth is a nurse leader and passionate advocate for women’s rights and patient-centric empowered birth experiences. She is the Nursing Director of the labor and delivery unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Elizabeth serves as the Marketing Director for March for Moms, a national advocacy organization that promotes policies ensuring every family can grow with dignity and support. Elizabeth has experience delivering care in maternity services in vastly different settings, from rural critical access hospitals to large academic medical centers.

Elizabeth holds an advanced degree in communications, with a specialization in marketing and design, having enjoyed a successful career in advertising prior to transitioning to women’s health nursing.

AWHONN leadership:
New Hampshire Section Coordinating Team Leader; National Corresponding Member, Program Committee; Emerging Leader Mentor and Participant; National Nominating Committee.

Other leadership:
March for Moms Steering Committee, Marketing Director; Executive Planning Committee, Perinatal Leadership Forum; and Ariadne Labs, expert consultation on TeamBirth and Nurse Influence.

Mission and goals for AWHONN:
Elizabeth’s goals for AWHONN include promoting education and policy that reduces maternal morbidity and mortality by:

  • Educating members and advancing policies grounded in equity; addressing structural racism, listening and supporting black-led organizations.
  • Strengthening advocacy efforts surrounding equal access to care and healthcare disparities.


Shellie R. Nelson, RN, MS

Shellie Nelson, RN, MS has faithfully given her time to Women’s Services as a nurse, charge nurse, manager and director. Her clinical experience includes an outstanding academic background which includes; a BBA in accounting from Prairie View A&M University, a BSN in nursing from Avila University, and a Master’s of Science in Health Systems Management from Texas Woman’s University.  Shellie is currently in her final stages of studies for her PhD in Nursing Science.

AWHONN leadership:
Shellie has served Texas as the Secretary/Treasurer and Section Leader.  She has also served on the Finance Committee and planning committee for the National Conference in New Orleans. She currently serves on the Section Advisory Committee representing both Texas and Oklahoma.

Other leadership:
Shellie currently works as a Director of Women’s Services for Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). In her role as Director she has developed and implemented many programs in efforts to assist her staff in providing safe, quality and efficient care. She is actively involved in maternal and infant health initiatives both on the job and in her community. Improving care for all patients by educating on the importance of diversity and inclusion has become a highlight in her career.

Mission and goals for AWHONN:
Shellie’s dedication to her craft and the health of women and infants motivates her to continue her quests of inspiring others to become more involved. She strongly believes that every healthcare experience provides an opportunity to have a positive effect on a patient’s health and should be designed to relate to all cultures.