Meet the ICM president--British midwife Dame Karlene Davis: Karlene Davis has led the UK's Royal College of Midwives for 10 years; next year, as ICM President, she welcomes the ICM to Glasgow.

AuteurDuff, Elizabeth

Q: What first attracted you to the idea of becoming a midwife?

KD: In fact my first ambition was to be a teacher--the fascination of midwifery came later on. At home in Jamaica, where my mother was a teacher and my father was a policeman, people in these professional roles were held in respect and had influence in the community. I hoped to be able to make a difference by working towards such a qualification. But then I came to the UK and decided to become a nurse. After qualifying, I was encouraged to go on to midwifery studies, as at that time it was commonly seen to enhance promotion opportunities. As I moved further towards working in midwifery, I found my interest and passion grew. I realised how important it was that women received appropriate and high quality care at this special time in their lives. My Caribbean background had instilled from the beginning the idea that motherhood is a highly regarded status and the family is a strong element in the community. When I saw how midwives can support the mother and in this way help to strengthen her parenting role, I wanted to be part of that process--I was gripped!

I began also to understand how the midwife has an important part to play in public health and in society as a whole. I think it was this aspect that took me back to the idea of teaching midwifery, after I had pursued my clinical work for some time. I wanted to share with students the joy and the experience of midwifery, and 1 knew that clinical credibility was extremely important in education.

Q: What route did you travel to become head of your national midwifery association?

KD: Thirty years ago there were no other midwifery associations so it was assumed that all midwives would join the Royal College of Midwives as their professional association and trade union--of course I joined. The College remains the largest midwifery association in the UK and indeed one of the largest in the world. It has a tradition of drawing on the expertise of its members to assist in its national work and before long, I was asked to contribute by joining the educational activities. At that time I was teaching students working for the Advanced Diploma in Midwifery at the University of Surrey, but midwifery education had not yet moved into the universities--that was about to happen. My focus was around linking theory to practice, which became a very important issue as the location of teaching moved away from health-based institutions to higher...

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