Remembering Nivia Nieves Fisch

After a hard fought battle with cancer, Nivia Nieves Fisch, CNM, FACNM, surrounded by her family, passed peacefully in Harlingen, Texas. She was 68 years old. She is survived by her devoted husband, Stan; her sons, Harold and Nathan; her siblings, Gloria, Migdalia, Sonia, and Julio; and her innumerable friends who brought her so much joy throughout her life and gracious aid to her and her family in her final days. Nivia was also one of the founders or "Mothers" of ACNM's Midwives of Color Committee (MOCC).

Nivia was born the middle of 5 children of Lydia and Julio Nieves, a farm worker and barber in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. When she was 8 years old, her family moved to the Bronx in New York City, where her father found work in a mattress factory. Though her family was poor and struggled for many years, they were able to provide a loving home and the foundations for a wonderful future for Nivia.

Nivia was a bright student and advanced quickly through school. She became a nurse after attending a vocational high school and Bronx Community College. During her student years, she met a young medical student named Stanley, who became the love of her life. They were married in 1970 and remained happily together for 46 years.

In 1973, Nivia and Stan moved to Harlingen on assignment with the US Public Health Service. Though they expected to stay for only 2 or 3 years, they found themselves deeply committed to the Valley community and to their shared life mission of providing health care to the area. In 1976, after continuing her training, Nivia began her service as a nurse-midwife. Alongside her mentor, role model, and dear friend, Sister Angela Murdaugh, she established a birth center within Su Clinica Familiar in Harlingen and was delighted to see it grow into a major provider of maternity care.

Nivia continued her service to the women and families of the Rio Grande Valley in 1983 when she joined Harlingen Obstetrics-Gynecology Associates with Drs. Martinez and Munoz, then later with Drs. Cantu and Torres, and created what became a model of collaborative midwifery practice. In 1994, Nivia became the first nurse-midwife in the Valley to be credentialed to work in a hospital. At Valley Baptist Medical Center, and later at Harlingen Medical Center, Nivia extended her model of collaborative midwifery practice in a hospital setting. Over the years, from her days at Su Clinica until her retirement in 2014, Nivia was deeply honored to take part in the delivery of more than 7,000 babies.

Nivia was very active in ACNM and was honored for her service in 2015 by being named a Fellow of the College and receiving the National Distinguished Service Award. Over the years, Nivia taught nursing and nurse midwifery in many programs around the country. In the Valley, Nivia served for many years as member and president of the board of directors of Holy Family Birth Center in Weslaco. She also served on the faculty of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio as part of their RAHC campus, introducing medical students to gentle, non-interventive childbirth.

She was a proud and active member of the Jewish community in the Valley, and was a part of the congregations of both Temple Beth El in Brownsville and Temple Beth Israel in Harlingen, serving at various times on the boards of each.

Nivia was a light to her family, friends and this community. The amount of joy and love she provided to the people in her life are immeasurable. The family would like to offer their sincerest gratitude to the friends, families, and medical professionals who offered their time and assistance to Nivia in her time of passing.

Following are quotes from members of the Midwives of Color Committee:

"Nivia's loss is very personal to me. I met Nivia at the birth of MOCC over 30 years ago. The struggle waged to transform MOCC from an Ad Hoc Committee to a standing committee in ACNM was successful largely due to a group of women of color that included Nivia. Nivia will be remembered as a steadfast champion for providing care to low-income women and women, children, and families of color. The Midwives of Color will honor Nivia's memory by continuing her legacy of care and leadership." Patricia O. Loftman, CNM, LM, MS, FACNM

"Tears are welling up and my heart grieves Nivia, who is one of the reasons I'm a midwife today." Karline Wilson-Mitchell DNP, MSN, RM, RN, CNM

"Nivia impacted the spirit of all who had the pleasure of knowing her. Nivia's warmth, infectious laugh and caring attitude always shown through." Shirley White-Walker, CNM, Ed.M, FACNM

"Nivia sought me out to join MOCC back in 2003. I always found her to be a warm, powerful, kind, and welcoming woman. Nivia was a trailblazer, our champion, and most important a caring midwife mother to so many." Susan Stemmler, CNM

"Nivia was the President of MOC when I became a midwife. I will never forget her passion." Felina Ortiz, CNM

"Nivia's warm spirit, and deep passion will be with us always." Victoria Fletcher, CNM, FACNM

The family would like to ask that in lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider making a generous donation in Nivia's honor to a charity of your choice.

Donation information is also available at http://www.midwife.org/Charitable-Contributions. You may donate online or you can download forms that can be faxed or mailed in with the donation form. Two Foundation endowed funds might be of interest to donors who wish to make a donation in Nivia's memory. The Midwives of Color Scholarship Fund, which supports the Carrington-Hsia-Nieves Doctoral Scholarship for Midwives of Color. This scholarship is awarded to a CNM/CM of color who is actively enrolled in doctoral or post-doctoral education. This award is named in honor of Nivia and two of ACNM's most distinguished midwives of color: Betty Watts Carrington, CNM, PhD, FACNM and Lily Hsia, CNM, PNP, MSN, FACNM. The other fund is the CTCNM Texas Creation Scholarship Fund. The first award from this fund will be given in November 2016 in Nivia's honor.