D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s National Maternal and Infant Health Summit is from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have put a pause to nationwide and local in-person events, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt and Executive Director of D.C.’s Thrive by Five Dr. Faith Gibson Hubbard are thoroughly looking forward to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Third Annual National Maternal and Infant Health Summit.

This will be a virtual summit with sessions Tuesday through Friday. And anyone interested can find the full summit agenda at dcmaternalhealth.com, “ Bowser said in her daily press briefing on Sept. 14.

Although the summit is generally held at the Washington Convention Center in downtown D.C., Bowser, Nesbitt and Gibson Hubbard assured reporters, D.C. residents and national participants alike, that the Maternal Health Summit will be as rewarding and informational as it has been in years past when held in-person.

“Many of the conventions and conferences that have been shifted to be on a virtual platform have an ultimate responsibility and dedication to serve these folks, and are seeing record and unexpected enrollment and participation in their sessions. So I can tell you as someone who has participated in both , the ability to focus and the ability to gain information, to really experience the goals and objectives of a session is not compromised by the format,” Dr. Nesbitt said after one reporter challenged the idea and efficacy of a virtual summit.   

“Having to work under these type of conditions because the pandemic requires it will not compromise the integrity of the summit, the goals and objectives of the summit and the people who are dedicated to providing the best resources for their constituencies that they serve will show up and will be able to gain from this summit,” Nesbitt added passionately.  “And I know that Faith will tell you she has gone above and beyond this year to meet all the goals and objectives to be able to bring to the residents and to the nation in its third year.”

Dr. Gibson Hubbard underscored Nesbitt’s enthusiasm for a virtual summit, with an emphasis on elevated numbers in terms of RSVPs and participants.

“This year we’ve already doubled the amount of RSVPs for the summit. In years past, we’ve been at about 3,000 RSVPs and about anywhere between 1,500 folks appear. Last year, we also had a significant amount of streaming views, we had about 3,500 streaming views, which means that people are hungry for the content.  This year we have 6,500 RSVPs already, and we have extended it to four days of events, and people are very, very excited.”

The Thrive by Five executive director, who is spearheading the summit, also noted that this year’s virtual summit allows for the work happening in the nation’s capital to be seen nationwide and helps with accessibility for a number of barriers that may have prevented participants from attending the conference in the past. 

“It allows us to take the work that we’re doing here in the District of Columbia, the vision of the Mayor, the work of Dr. Nesbitt at D.C. Health, out to the rest of the world in ways that we can show them the innovations that’s happening here in the District of Columbia. And it also allows us to engage with people who may have never made it to the Convention Center in the first place. Perhaps, there were other barriers. I am a mom of two. I’ve been able to engage in many more things now, being able to cook and do work, and learn at home. And this gives parents, and any stakeholder, as we all have a role in maternal and infant health, the opportunity to engage.”

Gibson Hubbard said that there will still be mainstage discussions and breakout sessions with the virtual summit, as has been done at the in-person event in years past.  According to Nesbitt, Gibson Hubbard and Bowser, the National Maternal and Infant Health Summit is necessary and in high demand.

“We know that people really want it. We will have the same virtual expo. We have the same amount of participants in the expo this year, where people can connect to resources and there’s so much more to come even after the summit.”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor