Nicole Evans still remembers the stories she heard as a young girl from her grandmother, who was a nurse’s aide in the maternity ward of a local Los Angeles hospital and assisted in women’s labor and delivery.
“She would tell me about the experiences she had helping women bring new life into the world, and she always mentioned the differences she saw in the way African American women received health care compared to other women,” said Evans. “I didn’t know it then, but now I know that I was influenced by those early conversations and that’s when my thirst for equity began.”
A secondary influence was her family’s history in politics and activism, especially from her great uncle, who was president and CEO of the Urban League of New Orleans and shaped history at Louisiana State University. “The university’s African American Cultural Center was built and named after him because of the work he had done to combat inequality,” she said. “He was a powerful inspiration for me.”
Today, Evans is the senior program manager for Maternal and Infant Health Equity at Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan. Since joining Blue Shield Promise in 2022, she has focused on standing up the mandated Medi-Cal doula benefit, which was added by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) in January 2023. “The goal of this mandate is to eliminate inequities in maternal and infant health by offering doula services to Medi-Cal members,” she explained.
Among her responsibilities are ensuring that contracted doulas successfully complete the DHCS credentialing process, setting doula network goals so there are enough Blue Shield Promise contracted doulas to meet the expected member demand in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, enabling doula access to network hospitals, and developing training modules and web content.
Evans also leads Blue Shield Promise’s partnership with First 5 LA, an independent public agency that positively impacts health-related outcomes for pregnant and new members enrolled in its home-visiting program. Additionally, Evans is a collaborative partner of the Medicaid and Midwifery Learning Collaborative of the Institute for Medicaid Innovation, which focuses on improving access to evidence-based, high-value maternal models of care that include access to midwives and birth centers.
A California native, Evans had a geographically diverse academic education. She earned an undergraduate degree in social work at Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana; a master’s degree in social work from University of Cincinnati in Ohio; and an MBA degree from Texas Woman’s University.
One of Evans’ early jobs after receiving her MBA was as program manager for the Ft. Worth Healthy Start Program run by Catholic Charities in Texas. “It was a life changing experience to be able to play a role in helping to reduce infant mortality and improve the birth outcomes for mothers. I fell in love with this work, and it ignited my public health career focusing on maternal and infant health equity,” she said.
With a return to California in 2013, Evans held pivotal leadership positions for more than eight years with the City of Pasadena Public Health Department, including director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, which focused on improving the health and well-being of women, infants, children. and adolescents throughout the city of Pasadena.
“Throughout my career, I’ve gotten tremendous satisfaction in helping under-resourced racially and ethnically diverse populations. In my current role, I see many possibilities for improving health equity and health care outcomes for our Medi-Cal members, who put their trust in us,” said Evans. “It’s a great feeling to wake up to every day.”
When she’s not engaged in health equity issues, Evans enjoys hanging out with her son, traveling, spending time in nature, hiking waterfalls in Oregon, and attending professional sporting events with her husband.