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Alumna of the month - April 2011

Dame Karlene Davis, D.B.E
BEd Hons Nursing Education in Service, 1996

Dame Karlene Davis

By achieving her degree at LSBU, Dame Karlene Davis has made a positive impact on the midwifery profession and Healthcare, and has gone on to become one of the most respected female figures in the NHS and UK’s first black woman trade union leader. Her achievements have been recognised throughout her career, and in 2001 Karlene was made Dame Commander of the British Empire for services to Midwifery and the NHS.

Karlene was born and raised in Jamaica, where from a young age she had a great interest in the medical profession in particular nursing. Her passion to be a nurse continued to grow and because the British Healthcare Service was very highly regarded, Karlene chose to move to the UK to continue her studies.

Karlene first trained as a nurse, then as a midwife, before going on to teach midwifery. Karlene chose to study Nursing Education at LSBU because of the high reputation of the course and the fact we were one of the few institutions which offered part-time study. Karlene speaks very highly of her time at LSBU. She mentions “The support and teacher interaction was fantastic, I made some close friends whilst studying here and I am still in contact with one of my former tutors.”

Upon graduating Karlene started working as a Midwife teacher, and was soon promoted to Senior Midwife Teacher for midwifery education at Croydon; she was later headhunted for the Director of Midwifery Education position at Guys, St Thomas’s and Lewisham. Her next move in her career was to become the Regional Midwifery Advisor for the Regional Health Authority South East Thames.
Karlene’s work led her to become involved with a variety of different organisations outside of her day to day life.

In 1994 Karlene was appointed as deputy General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives. She became General Secretary in 1997. As the NHS often experiences a shortage of midwives, Karlene’s mission whilst serving under this title was to ensure that there was at least one midwife for every woman going through labour. She is very focussed on improving the birthing experience by promoting a wellbeing approach, and believes that this level of attention and service is extremely important. Karlene’s guidance has helped give the college a more powerful voice in the media and government circles. Around this time Karlene also became a member of the Wellbeing Council at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

By 1997 Karlene became the Director of the WHO (World Health Organisation) Collaborating Centre for Midwifery.  Her role here was to support the advancement of Midwifery practice and education worldwide but particularly in Europe as well as shaping policies and monitoring practices to ensure enhanced services for women experiencing the services.

Karlene became a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in the late 90’s, and in 2001 she was awarded a Dame Commander of the British Empire for Services to the National Health Service and Midwifery. She is honoured for her lifelong devotion to improving the status of midwives in Britain and advancing the British midwifery service.