The AWHONN Board of Directors assures effective leadership and sound management; establishes strategic direction; oversees business required to carry out the mission and goals of the association; sets core program and fiscal functions; and appoints panels and committees.

Board of Directors Point of Contact: leadership@awhonn.org
Cyndy Krening, MS, CNS, RNC-OB, C-EFM, President

Cyndy holds a BSN and an MSN in perinatal nursing.

She has worked in inpatient obstetric settings for 37 years in tertiary teaching, and community hospitals as an L&D staff nurse, charge nurse, manager, outreach coordinator and OB flight nurse. Cyndy is currently a perinatal CNS at SCL Health Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver.

Cyndy has been active in AWHONN for the last 35 years. She has served on the national education, practice, public policy and section advisory committees, as Colorado section chair, and two terms on the national Board of Directors. She’s contributed to AWHONN publications, position statements, books, and spoken at many AWHONN conferences and conventions. Cyndy has served on NCC’s Inpatient OB and EFM certification test committees. She represents nursing on the Colorado Maternal Mortality and the NYC Maternal Mortality Steering Committees. Cyndy has won the Nightingale Award – the highest honor given to a Colorado nurse.

Sandra K. Cesario, PhD, MS, RNC, FAAN, President-Elect

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.

After serving in a variety of roles and locations, including an Iraq deployment, her professional path led to a perinatal nurse practitioner and nurse entrepreneur career. A dedicated and loyal member since 1989, she’s a strategic thinker that’s assisted AWHONN move forward as a nationally respected organization by holding multiple elected leadership positions including Section Chair and two Board of Directors terms.

Additionally, she served on numerous committees including the AWHONN Fetal Heart Monitoring revision groups, state-wide perinatal advisory taskforces, and maternal-newborn mortality review boards. Being passionate about inter-disciplinary education, mentoring, and professionalism, she lectures on obstetric topics, is actively involved in conducting clinical research and is published in multiple peer reviewed journals and textbook. She is also co-author of Mosby’s Pocket Guide to Fetal Monitoring: A Multidisciplinary Approach, an editorial board member for the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing and a reviewer for Nursing for Women’ Health. Her goals include: implementing initiatives that are reflective of the needs of the members and our patient populations as well as enthusiastically set AWHONN’s agenda for successful future.

Julie Zimmerman MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, Secretary Treasurer

Julie has a BSN and MSN in Women’s Health from the University of Iowa College of Nursing

She has 22 years of clinical experience as a staff nurse, educator, and Clinical Specialist in GYN/Medical-Surgical and Labor and Delivery. She has served as Chapter/Section leader for SC, Board of Directors, and a member of the first Emerging Leader Program. She also volunteers with Save the Children advocating for global maternal and newborn issues. She earned her BSN and MSN from Medical University of South Carolina, and Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Walden University. She is certified in Maternal Newborn Nursing from NCC and Professional Development from ANCC. Kelly is married to Stephen and has two children, Ashley (15yo) and Zachary (14yo).

Jeanne Alhusen, PhD, CRNP, RN, Director

Jeanne Alhusen, PhD, CRNP, RN is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Research at the University of Virginia School of Nursing.

Jeanne earned her BSN from Villanova University, MSN/FNP from Duke University, and her PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology, focused on perinatal women, at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has practiced as a nurse and family nurse practitioner for more than twenty years, largely focused on caring for women, and children living in poverty. Her research has been funded by NIH, HRSA, and multiple organizations, including March of Dimes and AWHONN.

The broad theme guiding her research is improving the health of women and children, particularly those living in poverty. Current funded grants include illuminating the role of partner violence on adverse neonatal outcomes, mental health during pregnancy and its impact on mothers and children, mindful eating to reduce excessive gestational weight gain, and unintended pregnancy among women living with disability.

Jeanne has been an active member in AWHONN for over 10 years and has served as an abstract reviewer, corresponding member of the research advisory panel, and is currently a panel member of the research advisory panel. She also serves on the editorial board of JOGNN, and is a board member of several other organizations focused on improving maternal health. In recognition of her research contributions, she received Villanova University’s Award for Outstanding Scholar (2014), the Southern Nursing Research Society (SNRS) Early Science Investigator Award (2015) as well as AWHONN’s Award of Excellence in Research (2016).

Suzanne Baird, DPN, RN, Director

Dr. Baird is a graduate of Rush College of Nursing’s DNP Executive Leadership track and Vanderbilt University MSN and BSN programs.

Suzanne has extensive clinical experience in obstetrical nursing and currently works as a consultant throughout the U.S. with her company, Clinical Concepts in Obstetrics, LLC and the Maternal QI Specialist for TIPQC.

Previously, Suzanne served as an Assistant Director of Nursing Clinical Program Development at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, taught obstetric and critical care nursing at Vanderbilt University, and worked in L&D at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Suzanne has served on numerous programs for AWHONN including CCOE and PEOP modules author and editor, review of the Obstetric Triage toolkit, and Implementation of Evidence Based Practice Advisory Board. She is currently on the board of editors for JPNN, an editor/author for the 5th edition of the textbook Intrapartum Management Modules and AWHONN High Risk and Critical Care, 4th edition textbook.

In 2015, Margie was awarded March of Dimes Nurse of the Year for Education. She completed her Doctorate Degree from Walden University and Masters of Nursing and BSN from the University of Washington. Margie has been married for 36 years, has 4 amazing children and 4 fantastic grandchildren.

Margie Bridges, DNP, RNC-OB, ARNP-BC, CNS, Director

Margie is a Perinatal CNS and adjunct faculty, dedicating three decades to perinatal nursing with a passion for moms, babies and nurses who care for them.

Formally an AWHONN emerging leader, Margie then served on the National Conference Planning Committee and started an AWHONN Chapter. Currently Margie is the Washington State AWHONN Section Chair, and member on the National AWHONN Education Advisory Committee.

Margie is committed to improving care and outcomes for mothers and newborns as an active member in the Washington State Perinatal Committee working with “Substance use, Mental Health and Pregnancy”, “Obesity” and “Postpartum Follow up” workgroups. She is an appointed member of Washington States Maternal Mortality Review Panel that conducts comprehensive, multidisciplinary reviews of maternal deaths and recommends system changes to improve outcomes for women in the state. Additionally, Margie serves on the Washington State Hospital Association Steering Committee and Content Development Group for the Safe Delivery Road Map.

In 2015, Margie was awarded March of Dimes Nurse of the Year for Education. She completed her Doctorate Degree from Walden University and Masters of Nursing and BSN from the University of Washington. Margie has been married for 36 years, has 4 amazing children and 4 fantastic grandchildren.

Kellie Griggs, DNP, MSN-Ed, RNC-OB, Director

Kellie Griggs, DNP, MSN-Ed, RNC-OB is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and a unit-based maternal-infant clinical nurse educator.

Her dedication to empower bedside nurses as frontline experts and advocates surrounding policy and practice initiatives has been recognized by several professional nursing organizations.

She has been engaged with AWHONN as an emerging leader, public policy committee member, southeastern NC section chair and co-legislative chair, journal reviewer, and fetal heart rate monitoring instructor. She recently received the 2019 NC AWHONN Nurse Leader award. Her passions include nursing safety initiatives and advocacy. She portrays this through publishing her work and speaking at conferences. Kellie serves as a community engagement liaison for marginalized women by connecting nurses to meaningful service opportunities. She is an energetic advocate who enjoys promoting AWHONN and being a champion for women and infants. She has been married 20 years and has 4 dynamic children.

Shakira Henderson, PhD, DNP, MS, MPH, RNC-NIC, IBCLC, Director

Shakira Henderson, PhD, DNP, MS, MPH, RNC-NIC, IBCLC, has been a longtime volunteer with AWOHNN at the local, regional, and national level.

She started as an AWHONN emerging leader and has served as a chapter leader, section leader, national conference chair, national committee member, journal reviewer, and NOEP4 module reviewer and writer. A certified neonatal nurse by training, Shakira is passionate about maternal-child health nursing and research to improve the health of women and infants. Her passion for maternal-child health has led her to focus on breastfeeding research and advocacy. She has served in unit leadership, unit education, and corporate administration. She currently serves as the founder and senior administrator of the Vidant Health Center for Research and Grants.

An experienced nurse scientist in the practice setting, who is both PhD and DNP prepared, Shakira has worked across small community hospitals and large academic health systems. With innovation as her core skill, Shakira has built and executed several research and practice programs in a variety of clinical and community settings. She has been recognized for outstanding achievements in academia and nursing practice with awards from National Association of Neonatal Nurses, March of Dimes, AWHONN, Florida International University, and DAISY.

Elizabeth Kester, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Director

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.

She started as an AWHONN emerging leader and has served as a chapter leader, section leader, national conference chair, national committee member, journal reviewer, and NOEP4 module reviewer and writer. A certified neonatal nurse by training, Shakira is passionate about maternal-child health nursing and research to improve the health of women and infants. Her passion for maternal-child health has led her to focus on breastfeeding research and advocacy. She has served in unit leadership, unit education, and corporate administration. She currently serves as the founder and senior administrator of the Vidant Health Center for Research and Grants.

An experienced nurse scientist in the practice setting, who is both PhD and DNP prepared, Shakira has worked across small community hospitals and large academic health systems. With innovation as her core skill, Shakira has built and executed several research and practice programs in a variety of clinical and community settings. She has been recognized for outstanding achievements in academia and nursing practice with awards from National Association of Neonatal Nurses, March of Dimes, AWHONN, Florida International University, and DAISY.

Cheryl Larry-Osman, RN, MS, CNM, Director

Cheryl Larry-Osman is a Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Michigan. She has over 20 years of experience in obstetrics with focus in the clinical areas of Labor and Delivery, Postpartum, High Risk Antepartum, Normal Newborn, and Women’s Health. Cheryl Trained as a certified nurse midwife and is regularly invited to present on a host of clinical topics related to the care of women and newborns.

Cheryl is an active member of AWHONN. Since joining in 2003, she has been involved as a SE Michigan Chapter Leader; member of the Michigan Section Leadership Team; 2012 AWHONN Emerging Leader; 2015 Nurse in Washington Scholarship Recipient; Legislative Coordinator for MI; and, is also a member of the Public Policy Committee.

As a complement to clinical practice, Cheryl is trained as a healthcare Equity Ambassador through the Henry Ford Health System, serving as an expert in the areas of cultural competence and healthcare equity in the hospital system. As a researcher, she has been co-primary investigator for a cultural competence study, and is currently primary investigator for a “virtual nurse” digital education platform for postpartum moms. Cheryl is a passionate advocate for the optimal and equitable care of women and children and has involvement in policy and clinical strategies as the national, state, and local levels addressing preterm birth, infant mortality, and the reduction of maternal morbidity/mortality. Cheryl has also volunteered at perinatal loss and domestic violence prevention events.

Shellie R. Nelson, RN, MS, Director

Shellie Nelson, RN, MS has faithfully given her time to Women’s Services as a nurse, charge nurse, manager and director.

Kris received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northern Illinois University, and her Master of Science in Parent Child Nursing from the University of Minnesota. Kris has 28 years of nursing experience in women and infant care as a staff nurse, prenatal educator, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adjunct Faculty Member, Manager, and Director. She has worked in both community and Level III teaching hospitals in several states. Kris recently completed serving four years as the Colorado AWHONN Section Chair, having been re-elected after her first term.

She was then selected to serve on AWHONN’s Development Committee starting in January of 2017. Kris’ previous AWHONN involvement includes education and newsletter Coordinator positions in MN and WI, conference planning committees in WI and CO, and she was a member of AWHONN’s Section Advisory Panel in 2015 and AWHONN’s Leadership Conference Planning Committee in 2016. Kris has been very involved with the March of Dimes, serving seven years as a Walk Team Captain and five years as a Signature Chef’s fundraiser committee member.

She served as a nurse leader representative on two state task forces for the Colorado Hospital Association and the Department of Health. Kris is passionate about the care of women and infants, nursing, and professional practice and is a certified Caritas Coach through Jean Watson’s Caring Science Institute.

Ex-Officio Directors

Rebecca Cypher, MSN, PNNP, Immediate Past-President

Rebecca is a proven nursing leader with 30 years of front-line perinatal nursing experience, including a 20-year active duty Air Force career.

After serving in a variety of roles and locations, including an Iraq deployment, her professional path led to a perinatal nurse practitioner and nurse entrepreneur career. A dedicated and loyal member since 1989, she’s a strategic thinker that’s assisted AWHONN move forward as a nationally respected organization by holding multiple elected leadership positions including Section Chair and two Board of Directors terms.

Additionally, she served on numerous committees including the AWHONN Fetal Heart Monitoring revision groups, state-wide perinatal advisory taskforces, and maternal-newborn mortality review boards. Being passionate about inter-disciplinary education, mentoring, and professionalism, she lectures on obstetric topics, is actively involved in conducting clinical research and is published in multiple peer reviewed journals and textbook. She is also co-author of Mosby’s Pocket Guide to Fetal Monitoring: A Multidisciplinary Approach, an editorial board member for the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing and a reviewer for Nursing for Women’ Health. Her goals include: implementing initiatives that are reflective of the needs of the members and our patient populations as well as enthusiastically set AWHONN’s agenda for successful future.

Kathleen A. Hale, MS, RN, NE-BC,  Interim Chief Executive Officer