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Maternal health app co-founded by Brown alum wins Westly Prize for Young Social Innovators

First-generation, low-income science education nonprofit founded by Brown alum also named as finalist

<p>The Westly Prize for Young Social Innovators is awarded by the Westly Foundation to initiatives that improve access to healthcare and education. </p><p>Courtesy of Ijeoma Uche</p>

The Westly Prize for Young Social Innovators is awarded by the Westly Foundation to initiatives that improve access to healthcare and education.

Courtesy of Ijeoma Uche

Birth By Us, a maternal health app co-founded by Ijeoma Uche ’21, is one of three winners of the 2024 Westly Prize for Young Social Innovators, the Westly Foundation announced Jan. 23 on X, formerly known as Twitter. Uche and co-founder Mercy Oladipo will be awarded $40,000 in unrestricted funding.

The Westly Foundation “invests in California’s underserved youth” by funding initiatives that “advance education, improve healthcare access and support the growth and well-being of our children.”

Birth By Us is a pregnancy and postpartum app for Black women. “We essentially empower women of color to shape their own birthing experience while giving providers and hospital systems necessary insights to best support their pregnancy, birth" and postpartum experience, Uche said in an interview with The Herald. 

Uche’s motivation to create Birth By Us originated in her undergraduate years at Brown, where she took classes and conducted research that exposed her “to the (maternal health) disparities that exist in all these different communities, specifically the Black community,” she said.


Oladipo explained that the app was created because Black women “face one of the worst outcomes and the worst experiences when it comes to pregnancy and postpartum care.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women due to a variety of factors, including underlying chronic conditions and implicit bias. 

Uche said she hopes Birth By Us can help improve maternal outcomes by reducing preventable peripartum complications and maternal deaths.

When Uche found out that Birth By Us won the Westly Prize, she felt “pure excitement,” she said. “I personally felt so supported in a way I haven't felt in a very long time.” Because Birth By Us is primarily focused on solving a problem rather than generating profit, “it's harder to get the funding that it needs in order to progress as fast as other companies,” she explained.

The $40,000 from the Westly Prize will go towards expanding the Birth By Us team “so that we can make the impact that we want to make as fast as we anticipate,” Uche said.

Gabriel Reyes

Courtesy of Gabriel Reyes

FLi Sci, an education nonprofit founded by Gabriel Reyes ’18, was also named one of eight finalists for the prize, according to a Jan. 5 Westly Foundation press release.

Founded in 2020, the nonprofit focuses on providing programming and resources for students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds to “set them up for success navigating a scientific career.” 

After growing up without access to STEM and research programs for high schoolers, coming to Brown allowed Reyes to learn about science and participate in research they wouldn’t have been able to explore  otherwise, they told The Herald. 

As a Columbia graduate student, Reyes noticed that “no one was talking about the most obvious thing: how inaccessible science can be if you grew up in a poor family.”


Reyes then founded FLi Sci to expand learning resources and provide scientific experiences to people outside of Brown, they explained. FLi Sci is currently recruiting applicants for the third year of its FLi Sci Scholars Program, a two-year-long research fellowship program for 60 first-generation and low-income high school students.

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