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Huston-Tillotson University and BCBSTX to announce collaboration aimed at culturally-aligned health care and improving Texas maternal, infant health outcomes


Huston-Tillotson University and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) to announce collaboration aimed at culturally-aligned health care and improving Texas maternal, infant health outcomes

Special Beginnings expands with HT’s new Boldly B.L.U.E. grant to train doulas and develop midwife and lactation curriculums, business acumen, research network



Thursday, September 14, 2023
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Press conference, check presentation 

 2:00 -3:00 p.m. Media interviews



Huston-Tillotson University
King-Seabrook Chapel

Parking: 800 Chalmers Ave. Austin, TX 78702 (no on-campus parking will be available)



Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) and Huston-Tillotson University, a historically Black college or university (HBCU), will announce and outline the new Boldly B.L.U.E. program, which stands for birthing, learning, understanding & empowering, to improve Texas maternal & infant health. The program – as part of BCBSTX’s expanded Special Beginnings initiative – aims to increase the number of culturally-aligned and diverse doulas, lay midwives and certified lactation consultants in Central Texas while building a maternal health research network that leverages the insights of birth workers and their clients to derive best practices and policy insights.

The innovative collaboration between BCBSTX & Huston-Tillotson seeks to address Texas’ significant challenges to maternal health equity by increasing access to continuous birth support and creating structures and processes that infuse community voice into maternal health research. The collaboration also expands maternal health programs pioneered by nonprofit partners Black Mamas ATX and the Healing Hands Community Doula Project, who will play key roles in the multi-armed initiative.

The expansion of BCBSTX’s Special Beginnings® – which is statewide with special attention in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Rio Grande Valley and Austin areas – is guided by recommendations in the 2022 Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee and Department of State Health Services Joint Biennial Report.



Dr. Melva Wallace, Huston-Tillotson University President and CEO

Dr. Archibald Vanderpuye, Huston-Tillotson University Provost & VP for Academic Affairs

Dr. Amanda Masino, Huston-Tillotson University Chair of Natural Sciences & Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Rohan Thompson, Huston-Tillotson University Dean, School of Business and Technology

Dr. Mark Chassay, BCBSTX VP & Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Angela Moemeka, BCBSTX CMO of Texas Medicaid

Dee Cavaness, BCBSTX VP Texas Medicaid

Chevalier DeShay, BCBSTX Senior Director Network Management

Kelenne Blake, Black Mamas ATX Executive Director

TBD: Regional elected official(s)




About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) — the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas — is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with more than 140,000 physicians and health care practitioners, and 520 hospitals to serve more than 7 million members in all 254 counties. BCBSTX is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) (which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico). Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. | | | | BCBSTX Community Highlights


About Huston-Tillotson University
Huston-Tillotson University, the first institution of higher education in Austin, Texas, has roots dating back to 1875. HT is an independent, church-related, historically black, four-year liberal arts institution located on a 23-acre tree-lined campus near downtown in East Austin. Huston-Tillotson University’s mission is to nurture a legacy of leadership and excellence in education, connecting knowledge, power, passion, and values. The University offers associate and master’s degrees in addition to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in more than 19 areas of study. Huston-Tillotson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees.


About Black Mamas ATX
Black Mamas ATX’s mission is to ensure that Black women survive and thrive before, during and after childbirth. BMATX seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate the alarming maternal mortality and morbidity rates among Black mothers in Central Texas. With effective collaborative partnerships and through culturally-congruent programs, training, outreach, and research, BMATX is leading the charge in Central Texas to improve Black maternal health and wellbeing over the childbearing spectrum. Our work centers

around the health and wellbeing of Black women who are pregnant and through the first year postpartum.


About Healing Hands Community Doula Project
Healing Hand’s mission is to produce an effective maternity care education model and maternity workforce that eliminates disparities and improves outcomes childbearing people of color and infants. Healing Hands’ Community Doula training trains doulas to provide high touch perinatal support with (at least) monthly visits prenatally, weekly visits for the first 6 weeks postpartum and then monthly check in visits until the infants first year. Their perinatal community health worker (CHW) training program employs an in-house developed curriculum. Doula and CHW training are combined with mentorship to ensure that candidates are supported to the completion of training and certification.


Cristen Hixson, 214-718-5438

Shaquille Dillon, 512-505-3381