Joia A. Crear-Perry, MD, FACOG is a physician, policy expert, thought leader and advocate for transformational justice among those leading the charge and demand for Black women and birthing people to receive fair and equitable healthcare here in the U.S. and in countries around the globe.
As this year’s Urban One Honors celebrates the achievements of Black women, Crear-Perry stands as a beacon of light whose shining is especially needed at this moment in time.
As the mother of three (to Jade, Carlos, and Roby), it was her own experience during her second pregnancy that alerted her to the challenges and racially-biased treatment that she and other Black women were facing while pregnant, during labor, and postpartum.
As she watched her premature son struggle during the first few precious days of his life, she realized that despite her own advanced education (and training as a medical professional), access to insurance, and financially stability, that she and her baby were more likely to die or have diminished birth outcomes – for no other reason than the fact that they were Black. This realization ignited a spark that continues to fuel her present-day work advocating for Black mamas and their babies.
In 2016, the inspirational leader founded the National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC) initially to focus on the infant mortality crisis. However, working alongside her peers in the space and seeing the rates at which Black women were dying in comparison to their white counterparts caused her to expand the organization’s focus to also include Black maternal health.
Now, Dr. Joia (as she’s affectionately called) and NBEC work to create global solutions that optimize Black maternal, infant, sexual and reproductive wellbeing. Part of the organization’s mission is to “…shift systems and culture through training, research, technical assistance, policy, advocacy, and community-centered collaboration.” The organization’s vision (and Dr. Crear-Perry’s) is that all Black mamas, their babies, and their villages thrive.
Crear-Perry is a highly sought-after speaker and subject matter expert who identifies and challenges racism as a root cause of health inequities – including as it relates to Black Maternal Health.
“We’re not biologically different; there’s no Black gene or Black heart or Black kidneys,” she explains. “We’ve spent generations blaming Black people for their outcomes without really addressing the underlying root causes of racism, classism and gender oppression. So, when people ask me what is the cause for Black maternal death, the answer is not race. It’s racism.
”Dr. Crear-Perry’s expertise as a leader on the front lines of the Black maternal health crisis has been featured in countless publications including Essence, Glamour, Ms. Magazine, The Washington Post, and more. and has been featured on CBS News, The Tamron Hall Show, ABC Nightline’s Hear Her Voice to name just a few.
But where Dr. Crear-Perry’s voice may be most invaluable is in terms of educating policymakers about the Black maternal health crisis. Both in her role as founder and president of NBEC and as a member of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA)’s Board of Directors, she has helped lift up bills like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act aimed at addressing the health inequities in maternal health outcomes among underrepresented populations.
Dr. Crear-Perry has also addressed the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights twice – both to elevate the cause of gender diversity and to urge a human rights framework toward addressing maternal mortality.
A proud recipient of both the Congressional Black Caucus Healthcare Heroes award and the Maternal Health Task Force at Harvard University Global Visionary Award for Commitment to Advancing Women’s Health, Dr. Crear-Perry’s most notable efforts include the removal of race as a risk factor for illnesses including premature birth.
Dr. Crear-Perry currently serves as a Principal at Health Equity Cypher and, as previously noted, on the Board of Trustees for Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), Community Catalyst, National Clinical Training Center for Family Planning and the UCSF PTBi.
Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Birthing Project, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and as the Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department. In that role, she was responsible for four facilities that provided health care for the homeless, pediatric, WIC, and gynecologic services within the New Orleans clinical service area.
A daughter of New Orleans, Dr. Crear-Perry has also been celebrated for her work improving the availability and utilization of affordable health care for New Orleans citizens after the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.
Dr. Crear-Perry has testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as the Democratic witness in support of the only Maternal Health Bill signed into law under the Trump administration and recently testified before the U.S. House Of Representatives Oversight & Reform Committee.
Through funding NBEC received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), she has worked with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) to develop a Standard for Respectful Maternity Care – the framework of which was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and is anticipated to greatly impact the quality of care for Black birthing people.
Crear-Perry also serves on the National Quality Forum Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Committee and the Joint Commission Perinatal Safety Project Technical Advisory Panel.
Dr. Crear-Perry received her M.D. from Louisiana State University after attending Princeton University and Xavier University for her undergraduate work. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine and is recognized as a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
She is married to Dr. Andre Perry and as previously mentioned, is the mother of three.
Her love is her family; health equity is her passion; maternal and child health are her callings.