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Birth Equity Clinical Scholar Training Program (BEST)

A two-year program for KU School of Medicine residents, sponsored by the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Family Medicine, and Population Health.

About the Program


To educate, advocate, engage, and empower providers to create and sustain inclusive, accessible, and equitable maternal care.


Every birthing person receives quality and intentional prenatal, neonatal, and postpartum care.


The Birth Equity Clinical Scholar Training Program is a two-year leadership development program designed to prepare medical residents for research and practice careers that advance birth equity. Scholars will benefit from birth equity training and research opportunities that will allow them to increase their understanding of respectful research and maternal and child health scholarship, network with local maternal health stakeholders, particularly Black-women-led community-based organizations and strengthen their communication skills and local and national maternal and child health policy insight.

Scholar Expectations

Birth Equity Scholars are expected to:

  • Complete the online birth equity training (5-module online course)
  • Attend monthly sessions and didactics
  • Work with a mentor team, clinical, research and community member to conduct your project.
  • Participate in virtual writing accountability groups to support progress in manuscripts
  • Participate in the monthly virtual maternal and child health journal club
  • Publish one research article and blog
  • Gain a deeper understanding of one maternal and child health community-based organization through meeting attendance and/or research
  • Participate in quarterly birth equity conversations - virtual coffee/tea
  • Support KBEN research and evaluation activities
  • Disseminate research results at the annual Resident Research Day
  • Learn about policy-making in Kansas, advocate for a policy in Kansas

Reasonable accommodations will be made for Birth Equity Scholars to complete all activities.

Meet the Scholars

Rebecca YangRebecca Yang, M.D.
1st Year BEST Scholar

I am a second-year Family Medicine resident. I am a St. Louis native but Kansas City has become my second home after spending the formative years of college here. In my down time, you can find me traveling, hiking, salsa dancing and working on getting my black belt in taekwondo (hopefully by the time I graduate residency!)

I felt drawn to maternal-child health during medical school and enjoyed working with this specific population during my first year of residency. Historically, medicine has had practices rooted in racism, disproportionately affecting the care and health of disenfranchised communities. In my training, it is important for me to recognize how this manifests in modern-day birth inequity as this will shape my future practice. Through open dialogue and partnership with the community, I look forward to learning and working towards improving birth outcomes for mom, baby and family together.

Noria McCartherNoria McCarther, M.D., Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow (PGY-5)
1st Year BEST Scholar

I wanted to participate in the BEST program because as a Black female physician, my commitment to eliminating the health disparities that Black women experience in the health system, particularly in the field of OB/GYN, is of utmost importance to me. I have spent a lot of time throughout my training immersing myself in the work of community organizations that lead the charge and joining the BEST program was a natural fit for the next step of my career. I'm looking forward to engaging networks in Kansas City that are committed to this important work and utilizing my skills to help translate this work to my daily clinical interactions and to implement systemic change within the hospital.

Brittany ElliottBrittany Elliott, M.D.
1st Year BEST Scholar

I am a PGY2 Rural Family Medicine Resident at KU. Growing up in a rural community in Northern Ontario Canada, I experienced firsthand the disparities of health care in such regions, especially those of women’s health. Although the canvas here in Kansas is different than that of Northern Ontario, advocating for those who are underserved is one of the endeavors I set out to focus on throughout my career as a physician. The BEST program allows me to combine my passion for women’s health and caring for vulnerable populations in a unique way. I hope to learn more about those negatively affected by racial and social inequalities, and help bridge the gap in such communities, as every person deserves adequate prenatal, postpartum, and reproductive health care.

Leslie DunmireLeslie Dunmire, M.D.
2nd Year BEST Scholar

I am a second-year OB-GYN resident at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. I am originally from Arkansas, but now consider myself a Kansan as I am marrying into a family full of Kansans and plan to stay in this area as I start my career in OB-GYN. I love to spend my spare time relaxing with my fiancé and our dogs, preferably over a lovely brunch spread! I am interested in birth equity because I desire to work in a system that takes the absolute best care of its patients, and the only way to do this is to do it fairly, honestly and without bias. I am interested in learning all I can to be the best physician I can be for my patients. What better way than to learn to confront my biases and pursue research endeavors that improve the lives of my patients?

Erika GazzettaErika Gazzetta, M.D., MPH
2nd Year BEST Scholar

I'm currently in my third year of OB-GYN residency. I have to question both the integrity and utility of health care without equity. The institution of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology has a long history of birth inequity. Many patients have turned to excellent, trusted and proven community resources. The BEST program was an incredible opportunity to continue to educate myself, learn of the community resources surrounding our hospital and hopefully begin to build bridges between these resources and our academic institution to better serve our patients with trustworthy, antiracist and equitable care.

Sierra MillerSierra Miller, D.O., M.A. Family Medicine PGY-1
2nd Year BEST Scholar

I'm currently in my first year of family medicine residency at KU. I became involved in the Birth Equity Scholar Training Program because I believe that all persons should have autonomy for their reproductive freedom. 

I believe that we have an ethical obligation to address racial and social inequalities with the intent to assure all people have access to sexual health and reproductive options and to assure optimal conditions for birth, birth outcomes, and child health.

Victoria ResendezVictoria Resendez, M.D.
2nd Year BEST Scholar

I am a PGY-1 in the Department of Family Medicine. Up to this point in my medical training, women’s health, and the health of the mother-baby unit has been important to me. Despite advances in medicine, poor outcomes in the time in and around pregnancy are increasing, disproportionately affecting people of color. My reason for joining BEST is to be better able to identify the barriers to health that our patients face and bring together community resources to act as a safety net for our most vulnerable patients, improving health outcomes and empowering patients to be able to advocate for themselves.

Aleshia ThompsonAleshia Thompson, PGY-2 OB/GYN Resident
2nd Year BEST Scholar

I am a PGY-2 OB-GYN resident. When I decided to become an OB-GYN, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the community I served and give back to those who live in communities like the one I grew up in. Given this desire with my personal experience with delivering my son emergently due to preeclampsia, I have a unique perspective on the disparities that exist as a birthing black mother. I hope through this program, I can truly make a positive change in maternal health outcomes.

Program Leadership

Sharla Smith Bio
Founder & Director

Oluoma Obi
Project Director

Eligibility and Application Information

The BEST Program is open to KU School of Medicine:

  • Fellows in the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology or Family and Community Medicine, and
  • Medical residents in the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology or Family and Community Medicine in their last two years of residency (PGY1 for Family and Community Medicine & PGY2 for Obstetrics and Gynecology)

Applications open in the spring of each year. When active, this page will be updated with an application link. 


For more information, please contact Oluoma Obi at

KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Obstetrics and Gynecology
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Mailstop 2028
Kansas City, KS 66160