Kortney James, PhD, RN, PNP-C

Kortney James, PhD, RN, PNP-C


PhD  Nursing, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

Biography: Dr. Kortney James is a PhD prepared nurse and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. James earned her PhD in Nursing from Georgia State University. She holds an MS in Nursing, specializing in Pediatric Primary Care, also from Georgia State University. Her BS in Nursing is from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  

Dr. James has an extensive background in leadership, public health policy, and primary care as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. While practicing as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in a well-baby nursery on a postpartum unit, Dr. James’ research interests related to maternal/child health disparities were born. Her dissertation explored the racial identity of Black mothers and its relationship to their postpartum depressive symptoms, maternal functioning, and attachment to their infants. Dr. James has published two publications from her dissertation thus far. The first manuscript, Examining the Relationship Between Black Racial Identity Clusters and Postpartum Depressive Symptoms, affirmed the complexity of Black racial identity and that Black women are not a monolith. The study’s findings also suggest that the most used assessment tool to detect postpartum depressive symptoms may be inadequate for Black postpartum women. The second manuscript, Racial Identity Clusters and Their Relation to Postpartum Maternal Functioning in Black Women emphasized that assessment tools should not solely focus on emotional symptoms of postpartum depression in Black women. Complementary tools that focus on women’s adjustment to motherhood may help identify those who may need resources.  

During this Fellowship, Dr. James’ health policy research has focused on supporting the physical and mental well-being of Black women, birthing people and their families using a health equity lens grounded in the Reproductive Justice framework. Dr. James’ mission is to co-create solutions with Black women and people capable of pregnancy to achieve health equity. To conduct this work, Dr. James is collaborating with and learning from Adjoa Jones at The Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM). Because Dr. James is new to Los Angeles, Adjoa Jones has helped Dr. James learn more about and participate in Los Angeles’ strategies to address the unacceptably high rates of Black infant and maternal deaths within the County and ensure healthy and joyous births for Black families.  

Due to the guidance from and interdisciplinary collaboration with various mentors, Dr. James has been very productive during her time in the NCSP fellowship. Dr. James has been mentored by Dr. Kristen Choi, Assistant Professor in the UCLA School of Nursing, Dr. Courtney Thomas Tobin, Assistant Professor in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Dr. Nina Harawa, Professor in the UCLA School of Medicine, and NCSP Program Director, Dr. Joann Elmore. Dr. James completed an international health policy elective in London, UK over the summer of 2022 to expand her knowledge of maternal health policy. During this elective, Dr. James was mentored by Dr. Jenny Douglas, senior lecturer at Open University, to enhance Dr. James’ knowledge of interventions implemented internationally with success in decreasing maternal mortality and improving the health, access, and quality of maternal health care.  

During NCSP Dr. James has published six manuscripts, several in high impact journals. Select publications include “NIH funding: Hone efforts to tackle structural racism” featured in Nature and “Factors associated with postpartum maternal functioning in Black women,” featured in Journal of Clinical Medicine. Dr. James has been awarded $230,000 to support her research related to Black perinatal mental health. She received $30,000 from the Iris Cantor UCLA Women’s Health Center to support her mixed methods study that aims to identify and understand culturally and racially relevant influences on their journey to healing with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. James also received $200,000 from the American Nurses Foundation to implement an educational intervention to support ambulatory care nurses and other healthcare staff to support Black pregnant and postpartum people.  

Following NCSP, Dr. James will begin a full-time position as an Associate Health Policy Researcher at RAND Corporation. Her research continues to focus on health system and policy solutions to the pregnancy and birth inequities in the United States.