Growing the future of midwifery research through Limited Term Chair appointment

Dr. Beth Murray-Davis, Limited Term Chair of Midwifery Research at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), and Meagan Furnivall, Midwifery Research Lead at LHSC.

January 10, 2024

Dr. Beth Murray-Davis – a renowned researcher in midwifery – is beginning a new collaboration with London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) through her appointment as Limited Term Chair in Midwifery Research.

Through the Limited Term Chair, awarded as part of LHSC’s Academic Realignment Initiative Awards and funded by Children’s Health Foundation, Dr. Murray-Davis is leading and mentoring a team of professionals in the Department of Midwifery at LHSC. As an established career researcher, registered midwife and Scientific Director at the McMaster Midwifery Research Centre, Dr. Murray-Davis is uniquely equipped for a position that is a first of its kind in Canada.

“LHSC has a track record for innovation and commitment to strengthening midwifery in a way that I have not seen in other places,” said Dr. Murray-Davis. “This is the first opportunity for a funded research chair for midwifery in the country that I am aware of – it was a special opportunity to be part of something new and innovative.”

Immediate and long-term impact

The research program will explore the contribution of midwives to optimizing health outcomes during “the first one thousand days” (from conception to two years of life), a critical period for newborns and their families. Research projects will include an exploration of health outcomes, patient experiences, system efficiencies and collaborative models of care, including an evaluation of the TIME program, an innovative clinical partnership between Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Midwifery, and skin-to-skin contact in the operating room for infants born by caesarean section.

Parents and children undergoing cesarian births at Children’s Hospital at LHSC are already experiencing the impact of investment in the Midwifery Chair with the introduction of the JoeyBand – an innovative tool developed and being studied by the Midwifery Department that is enabling families to experience the benefits of skin-to-skin contact in the operating room without manual assistance. Creating opportunities for more families to experience skin-to-skin immediately after birth is a priority of the team due to the numerous benefits of this practice. 

“Having Beth in this position has been game-changing. Midwives have plenty of ideas about how we want to change the health care system and things we want to explore, but as clinicians we are really busy,” said Meagan Furnivall, Research Lead in Midwifery at LHSC. “Having Beth come in with her experience and skillset has allowed us to take our dreams, our goals and ambitions, and map them out and execute on them.” 

Rather than using the funds provided for the Limited Term Chair to support one researcher and their work, the team is using the investment strategically to grow overall research capacity for midwifery at LHSC.

“We’re creating something really unique here and developing opportunities for midwives in the department to build research skills and evaluate evidence in real time,” said Furnivall. 

Engaging midwives in new ways

The team’s research also aims to assess and understand current gaps and opportunities where midwives could be further integrated into the healthcare system.

“We know that midwives can be really amazing troubleshooters – our skillset is diverse and could be applied to many areas within the health care system,” said Dr. Murray-Davis. “We want to evaluate if there are new and innovative ways that midwives can help create system efficiencies. For example, looking at the emergency department – how could midwives play a role and help to triage people with pregnancy concerns or postpartum concerns to help alleviate pressures?”

The expertise and experience of Dr. Murray-Davis combined with the passion and dedication of local LHSC midwives will ensure that the Limited Term Chair is used to establish research infrastructure and to enable future high-quality, midwifery-led research in London for years to come.

“Midwifery research is still very much at its early stages,” said Dr. Murray-Davis. “We’ve seen growth over the last decade, but having the infrastructure and support to allow midwives to dedicate time to research is still very challenging. To see an organization like LHSC prioritize midwifery in this way is phenomenal, and it will help put the organization at the forefront of future research and collaborations in the midwifery space.”

LHSC’s Academic Realignment Initiative Awards aim to inspire research, quality improvement projects and other forms of innovation to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families. The partnership between LHSC, London Health Sciences Foundation (LHSF) and Children’s Health Foundation (CHF) supported 23 research and quality improvement initiatives in its inaugural round of funding in 2022.

“I am really proud of the team and the plan that we have for the Limited Term Research Chair,” said Katelyn Fisher, Midwifery Executive Lead at LHSC. “I think it shows a novel approach to supporting midwifery and the potential for midwifery research at tertiary care centres, and I am very grateful for the opportunity that the Academic Realignment Initiative Awards have given to us.”