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Photo of Liese, Kylea Laina

Kylea Laina Liese, PhD, CNM

Assistant Professor

Department of Human Development Nursing Science

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


Building & Room:

840 NURS


845 S. Damen Ave., MC 802, Chicago, IL 60612

Office Phone:



I am a medical anthropologist and certified nurse midwife who engages a reproductive justice framework to contextualize and address the social drivers and repercussions of maternal morbidity and mortality. I use mixed methods to examine causal pathways and unforeseen consequences that link reproduction and health disparities in communities with intersecting identities of oppression. I conceptualize my global and domestic research programs as part of broader efforts to anchor reproductive trends in maternal mortality and morbidity in bio-social and socio-medical realms.

My current research focuses on the health system structures and obstetric racism that drive disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality. Maternal mortality is 6x higher for Black women in Chicago than white women and >50% of these deaths are potentially preventable. With funding from the PCORI foundation and in partnership with the non-profit organization, Melanated Midwives, this project assess the implementation and impact of a culturally-adapted and patient-centered model of maternity care inclusive of broad structural changes to attenuate the impacts of structural racism. Melanated Group Midwifery Care (MGMC) was designed with our community partners to center the voices of Black women and adopt the Illinois Maternal Mortality Review Committee’s(MMRC) recommendations for preventing maternal death. MGMC merges four evidence-based interventions: 1)Racial concordance between patients and providers; 2) Group prenatal care; 3) Maternal care coordination; and 4) In-home, postpartum doula support. The overall goal of this initiative is to increase maternal health equity and attenuate the impacts of structural racism in maternal healthcare.

My global work focuses on how social, political and historical processes shape reproductive health experiences and outcomes across geo-political borders. In Central Asia (Tajikistan/Afghanistan), I am interested in how political instability (e.g., fall of the USSR, decades of civil wars) reverberates to peripheral regions and impacts the everyday lives of families. Between 2005-2008, I conducted surveys of maternal mortality and comparative ethnography to understand women's experiences in two villages across a narrow geo-political border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the Badakhshan region.  I am currently supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation to examine how large-scale male migration to Russia impacts the reproductive experiences of Tajik women who are married at increasingly younger ages to fill labor shortages and ensure the remittances of migrants.

I completed my BA at Emory University and my MA and PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University. My early research in global maternal health drove me to also pursue my MSN at Yale University and become certified as a nurse-midwife. My midwifery practice informs and grounds my academic research. Currently, I attend births in both the hospital and community settings in Chicago.

Selected Grants

Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), Black Midwives for Black Women: Maternity Care to Improve Trust and Attenuate Structural Racism, PI

Wenner-Gren Foundation, Migration, Marriage and Maternal Risk in Tajikistan, PI

U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Fulbright Scholars Program, Maternal Morbidity, Mortality and Survival in Badakhshan, PI

Institute for Race Relations and Public Policy, Intrapartum Inequalities: Birth Experiences and Obstetric Interventions among Immigrant Women in Chicago, PI

Internal Research Support Program University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing, Every Birth Counts: A Mobile Birth Tracking Application to Strengthen Health Systems in Low Resource Settings, PI

National Science Foundation, Maternal Mortality on the Border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, PI

Selected Publications

2021. KL Liese, Davis-Floyd, R, Stewart, K, Cheyney, M. Obstetric Iatrogenesis in the United States: The spectrum of disrespect, violence and abuse. Anthropology and Medicine.  DOI: 10.1080/13648470.2021.1938510

2020. KL Liese, Kapito, E, Chirwa, E, Liu, L, Mei, X, Norr, KF, Patil, CL. Impact of Group Antenatal Care on Key Antenatal Services and Educational Topics in Malawi and Tanzania. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Oct 23. Doi: 10.1002/ijgo.13432.

2019. KL Liese, Mogos, MF. Abboud, S. DeCocker, K. Koch, AE. Geller, SE. Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Severe Maternal Morbidity Across the Pregnancy Continuum. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. March 15. Doi:10.1007/s40615-019-00577-w.

2018. KL Liese, Robinson, S. Pauls, H. Patil, C. Estimating Sub-National Maternal Mortality Using the Sisterhood Method in Tajikistan. Central Asian Journal of Global Health. Accepted.

2018. KL Liese. Childbirth and Social Change in Afghanistan. War and Health. Catherine Lutz and Andrea Mazzarino, eds. New York University Press: New York

2017.  KL Liese and AE Maeder. Social conditions and maternal mortality in the Muslim world. Global Health Review. Sept. 20:1-15.

2017. KL Liese. Maternal mortality in the context of conflict. Modern Afghanistan: The impact of 40 years of war. Nazif Shahrani, eds. Indiana University Press.

Notable Honors

2017, NIH Scholar, Health Disparities Research Institute

2017, Faculty Fellow, Institute for Race Relations and Public

2016, Deatrick Junior Faculty Award, UIC College of Nursing


2012 MSN Yale School of Nursing: Nurse-Midwifery

2009 PhD Stanford University: Anthropology
Dissertation: Mothers’ Deaths in Childbirth: Explaining Maternal Mortality in Badakhshan Tajikistan and Afghanistan

2005 MA Stanford University: Anthropology

1998 BA Emory University: Anthropology, Summa Cum Laude

Licensures and Certifications

Certified Nurse-Midwife since 2012, licensed in IL since 2015

Professional Memberships

Sigma Theta Tau International

American College of Nurse Midwives

Council for the Anthropology of Reproduction

American Anthropological Association

Research Currently in Progress