The 2018 DONA International Summit (the annual conference) is just shy of eight weeks away and the keynote lineup has been announced and it is simply spectacular. This year there are options for both in-person attendance July 19-21, 2018 at the beachside W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA and virtually on August 4th, 2018 with continued access to the virtual conference sessions for 90 days. Here are some things to consider as you decide whether to choose in-person, virtual or both.

In-Person Conference Registration Includes

  • The special pre-conference Welcome Reception on Thursday, July 19, 2018
  • The core conference beginning the evening of Thursday, July 19, 2018, and ending Saturday, July 21, 2018
  • Ability to earn 15 contact hours for recertification
  • Admission to the Exhibit Hall
  • Opportunities to network and connect with doulas, educators, speakers, and others
  • Some meals to include breakfast (Friday and Saturday) and lunch (Friday and Saturday)

Virtual Conference Registration Includes

  • Access to the live one-day virtual conference on Saturday, August 4, 2018, with on-demand viewing for 90 days
  • Ability to earn 11 contact hours
  • Interactive chat during the sessions with participants, DONA International leaders, and speakers (as available)
  • Admission to the virtual Exhibit Hall
  • Access to the virtual sessions for 90 days after the conference

Attendees from outside the United States receive special pricing for the in-person summit in Ft. Lauderdale. Combining both events will offer 25 continuing education credits. Additionally, DONA International will be holding pre-conference workshops on the morning of July 19th for those interested in acquiring additional skills. Watch the conference website for more details and information on the pre-conference event. Early bird pricing ends May 30th.

Keynote Speakers

This year’s keynote speakers include leaders of the highest caliber in the field of maternal-infant health. I have heard several of the keynotes speak at other events over the years and I personally could not be happier at the keynote offerings. Look for interviews with our keynote speakers right here on the blog in the weeks leading up to the conference.

Neel Shah
Designing Systems to Improve Care for Every Mother, Everywhere

For families who are in the exciting but vulnerable phase of their lives that spans pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting, our care systems are unreliable and often inadequate. In the United States, we are excellent at responding to emergencies. But in every geographic corridor of the country and every segment of society, avoidable suffering occurs because the system of care is not currently designed to deliver on a broader set of goals beyond emergency response.

This keynote session is about how we can design a system that ensures every person can start or grow their family with dignity by accessing childbirth care that is safe, supportive, and empowering.

Dr. Neel Shah, MD, MPP, FACOG, is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Harvard’s Ariadne Labs.

As an obstetrician-gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Dr. Shah cares for patients at critical life moments that range from childbirth to primary care to surgery. As a scientist and social entrepreneur, he is a globally recognized expert in designing, testing, and spreading solutions that improve healthcare.

Dr. Shah is listed among the “40 of the smartest people in health care” by the Becker’s Hospital Review and has been profiled by the New York Times, CNN, and other outlets. He is senior author of the book Understanding Value-Based Healthcare (McGraw-Hill), which Don Berwick has called “an instant classic” and Atul Gawande called “a masterful primer for all clinicians.” Prior to joining the Harvard faculty, Dr. Shah founded Costs of Care, a global NGO that curates insights from clinicians to help delivery systems provide better care. In 2017, Dr. Shah co-founded the March for Moms Association, a coalition of 20 leading organizations, to increase public and private investment in the well-being of mothers.

Penny Simkin
The Winds of Change in Maternity Care.  What is DONA’s  Role?

Maternity care is not stagnant; it is always in flux, these days especially. Since DONA doulas and others have been thrust forward as an answer to the maternity care crisis, we must ask, “Are we ready and able to meet the need? What might it take?” We will explore these questions in light of the state of the doula movement today, and prospects for the future.

Penny Simkin, PT, is a physical therapist who has specialized in childbirth education and labor support since 1968. She estimates she has prepared over 14,000 women, couples, and siblings for childbirth. She has assisted hundreds of women and couples through childbirth as a doula.

She is the author of several books for both parents and professionals. She has developed teaching materials for birth classes and produced several videos for educators, doulas, and families, the latest of which is for siblings-to-be,“There’s a Baby.” She is a co-founder of DONA International and PATTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth).

Currently, she serves on the editorial board of the journal, Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, and serves on the senior faculty of the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University, which was named in her honor.

Today, her practice consists of childbirth education and birth counseling, combined with a busy schedule of conferences and workshops. Penny and her husband, Peter, have four grown children

Jennie Joseph
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Jennie Joseph is a well-respected health advocate for women and newborn babies. A British-trained midwife, Jennie has become one of the world’s most respected midwives and authorities on women’s health: healthy pregnancies, healthy deliveries, and healthy babies. She’s become a true advocate for systematic reform that puts women and babies first in healthcare; before profit, convenience, and the numerous reasons America trails other developed nations in healthy births. Jennie’s common sense approach has won her the attention of global news media and brought her invitations to speak all over the world.

Jennie is the founder and executive director of Commonsense Childbirth Inc. She moved to the United States in 1989 and began a journey that has culminated in the formation of an innovative maternal child healthcare system, markedly improving birth outcomes for thousands of women and children.

Jennie firmly believes in patient-centered, woman-centered care and works tirelessly to support the systems, providers, and agencies charged with delivering that type of care. “Until women and their loved ones feel that they have enough knowledge and agency to be part of the decisions around their care and until they have access to the education and support that they are lacking, they will continue to be at risk.”-Jennie Joseph. 

Hilary Hartling

Building Your Brand to Captivate Your Clients

In Hilary’s Keynote Presentation, “Building Your Brand to Captivate Your Clients,” you’ll learn branding strategies you can implement to attract your ideal clients so you can grow your business doing work you love.

After 15 years marketing movies from  Disney, Pixar, Marvel and  Dreamworks, and helping launch multi-million franchises for global brands, Hilary Hartling made the leap from the corporate world to become a brand strategist for Visionary Entrepreneurs. Hilary helps entrepreneurs elevate their brands to captivate their clients and grow businesses they love.


Natalie S. Burke
Looking for Equity in Childbirth? Start by Looking in the Mirror and Get Ready to Get Uncomfortable.
The culture of childbirth in this society reflects the best and worst of who we are. Childbirth inequities are a tangible expression of the value we place on womanhood, social identities (especially race), and the role of women in bringing forth new life. The journey to childbirth and health equity starts with introspection, discomfort, and ultimately requires that we change ourselves in order to change the world. To produce the childbirth experience and birth outcome every woman and child deserve, we must apply an equity lens to our practices and even to our language. That requires each of us to ask, “Who experiences the benefit and who experiences the burden of my decisions, behaviors, and actions?” In this session we will explore how to change language, develop leadership, and apply an equity lens – all to create a culture of equity in childbirth.

A nationally-known speaker, strategist, master facilitator, and public health leader, Natalie S. Burke leads CommonHealth ACTION–whose mission is to develop people and organizations to produce health through equitable policies, programs, and practices. Natalie believes that to alter our collective health destiny, we must change our language; challenge deeply held beliefs about equity in our society, and accept the role we each play in the production of the public’s health.

Nina Martin
Lost Mothers: How Doulas Can Combat Maternal Mortality

In this session, ProPublica’s Nina Martin will discuss her Lost Mothers project (with NPR) on maternal mortality and severe complications in the U.S.  The speaker will offer ideas for how doulas can help women and family members advocate for themselves and their loved ones and improve their short- and long-term health.

The session will draw upon two years of reporting in which Ms. Martin and her team gathered the stories of nearly 5,000 women and conducted interviews with scores of birth workers, clinicians, and researchers. A key focus will be on the role that doulas can play in addressing stark disparities in outcomes for black mothers and babies and educating women about emerging risks.

Nina Martin is a reporter for the news organization ProPublica. Her Lost Mothers project, examining maternal mortality and morbidity in the U.S. (with NPR), has been honored with the George Polk Award, the 2018 Goldsmith Award for investigative journalism, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. She is based in Berkeley CA.

I invite you to explore the Summit website, look for keynote interviews in upcoming weeks and say hello to me in Fort Lauderdale, in late July! I can’t wait. The DONA Summit is a can’t-miss opportunity for doulas to come together and experience leading-edge continuing education and professional development.