UBC Midwifery to welcome Prof. Soo Downe as the first Elaine Carty Visiting Scholar

Soo Downe, PhD, RM, OBE, is the inaugural Elaine Carty Visiting Scholar. She will deliver a public lecture on Tuesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. in the CFRI Chan Auditorium at BC Women’s Hospital.

“We have invited Soo be our first visiting scholar to raise the discussion in BC about how we support women to birth, and how the care that we provide impacts on women, their families and future generations” said Michelle Butler, Director of Midwifery at UBC. “We hope that her visit and insights into normalizing birth will stimulate debate, encourage practitioners, researchers and students in British Columbia to reflect on how the work that they do impacts on birth outcomes, and act as a catalyst to collaborative research around normal birth.”

Currently a Professor of Midwifery Studies at University of Central Lancashire in England, Prof. Downe leads research focused on the nature of, and culture around, normal birth.

“Getting childbirth right is profoundly important for the wellbeing of families, and for future generations,” said Downe. “While I have always believed this intuitively, recent exciting evidence from epigenetics seems to suggest that there is biological evidence for the impact of labour and birth on the way genes might be expressed for the child, and for their adulthood, and then their own children in the future.”

Prof. Downe worked for 15 years as a midwife at Derby City General Hospital in various clinical, research and project development roles. In 2001, she joined the University of Central Lancashire, where she set up the Midwifery Studies Research Unit. She now leads the Research in Childbirth and Health group. Her investigations take place at both the local and international levels. She was recently the principal investigator of two large studies, a trial of the use of self-hypnosis in labour (funded by the NHS Research for Patient Benefit) and a European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action on childbirth contexts, cultures and consequences. She is currently running a four-year COST Action on labour and birth with more than 100 multidisciplinary participants from 25 countries.

Prof. Downe was a member of the Steering Group of The Lancet’s recent Series on Midwifery and is currently working on the Steering Group of the in-progress Series on Stillbirth, also for The Lancet. She is also working with the World Health Organization on the development of new antenatal care guidelines. She is editor of the book Normal Birth: Evidence and Debate (2004, 2008) and the founder of the International Normal Birth Research conference series.

Prof. Downe has held a number of visiting professorships, most recently in Belgium, Hong Kong, and Sweden. In 2011, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her services to midwifery.

We look forward to welcoming Prof. Downe to UBC as the inaugural Elaine Carty Visiting Scholar. A reception will take place at 6 p.m. in the Chieng Atrium before the public lecture.