The History of the Midwifery Program

A Program With a Rich History

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University is one of the 64 SUNY campuses located throughout New York State. It traces its roots to 1860. Today, the campus encompasses thirteen acres with a total student body of approximately 1,600. The School of Health Professions (SOHP), formerly known as the College of Health Related Professions (CHRP), was established in 1966 as one of SUNY Downstate's four schools and approximately 300 full and part-time students are currently enrolled. The nurse-midwifery program was one of CHRP's original academic units. In 1996, the program was the first program accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives to accept students with other than a nursing background.

SUNY Downstate is the only academic health science center in Brooklyn, New York. Located in one of the largest inner-city, underserved areas in the nation, it has long thrived with a changing diverse population, including many people of color and many first and second generation immigrant families. SUNY Downstate, as a public institution, is deeply committed to providing access to quality education and has a long history of serving the community by graduating scores of well-prepared physicians, nurses, midwives, physician assistants, physical and occupational therapists, as well as a myriad of other health professionals.

The SUNY Downstate nurse-midwifery program began in 1932 as the Maternity Center Association Education Program (MCA). In 1958, MCA began using Kings County Hospital Center (KCHC) in Brooklyn as its primary clinical site for student experiences. A close affiliation soon developed between the Nurse-Midwifery Program and the College of Medicine/Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Downstate Medical Center/KCHC. In 1974, the registration of the nurse-midwifery program was changed from MCA to Downstate Medical Center.

The opportunity for the development of the graduate midwifery track within the program evolved over almost four decades. In the 1950's the MCA faculty envisioned that in the future, the nurse-midwifery program on the Downstate campus would be offering a program of study at the graduate level. Over the years, this one year certificate nurse-midwifery program offered nurses with associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees the opportunity to become nurse-midwives. The lack of graduate programs in CHRP through the early 1980's precluded the faculty from fulfilling their hopes of changing the certificate program to a master's degree program.

In the early 1990's, the midwifery faculty began joint planning with the CON faculty to launch a master's completion program in the CON for nurse-midwifery graduates. In 1997, SUNY Central Administration and the New York State Education Department (SED) approved the CON's master of science completion program leading to a MS degree in nursing with a concentration in nurse-midwifery and in July 1998 approved CHRP's master of science degree in midwifery. The program is only one of two in the United States to offer a Master's degree with a specialization in Midwifery. Today, the program offers both an Advanced Certificate to students who have a related graduate degree (as determined by the faculty) and a Master’s in midwifery.

In the state of New York, legislative barriers and opposition from within and outside of the nurse-midwifery profession were strong forces to be overcome. From 1982 to 1992, the certified nurse-midwives in New York State lobbied to change the law to facilitate people from a variety of backgrounds to become professional midwives; this effort culminated in the passage of the New York State Professional Midwifery Act in 1992. The development of standards established by the ACNM Division of Accreditation (DOA) in 1995, paved the way for the faculty of the SUNY Downstate Midwifery Program to work in partnership with the Midwifery Education and Service Division of North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH), one of the municipal hospitals of the Health and Hospital Corporation of the City of New York. Together they were able to plan, develop and implement the first ACNM accredited Midwifery Program in the nation to prepare people from a variety of backgrounds to become midwives. To date, over 110 certified midwives have graduated from the SUNY Downstate Midwifery Program.

This midwifery program is the culmination of a vision shared by SUNY Downstate administration, midwifery faculty, graduates, present students, and future CNMs and CMs.