Statement on the Death of ACNM Past-President Elizabeth Sharp
The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) is saddened to learn of the passing of Past-President Elizabeth Sharp, CNM, DrPH, FAAN, FACNM. Liz, as she was known to many, had a career in midwifery that spanned many decades and many functions, from clinical practice to midwifery education to establishing ethical guidelines for the profession. Her many accomplishments earned her ACNM’s Hattie Hemschemeyer Award in 1999.
Liz received her midwifery education from Yale University, graduating in 1959. She founded the Yale Young Mothers’ Program which provided special services to adolescent mothers, starting a long relationship between American midwifery and the needs of teen moms. She was an early supporter of expanding the role of midwifery to the provision of family planning. Liz was instrumental in the establishment of the midwifery service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA. By the late 1970s, she started the midwifery education program at Emory University, using Grady as the primary clinical site for those students. She and Johanna Borsellega, CNM, also developed a midwifery refresher education course to convey the new policies, philosophy, and clinical skills of modern US midwifery to foreign-educated and non-practicing midwife candidates.
Liz was ACNM president from 1973 through 1975 – a period of intense debate within the College over professional identity. A period of rapid expansion in the number of midwifery education programs and midwifery graduates led to a larger workforce of better-skilled midwives who initiated moves toward independent practice. Liz led a major revision of the ACNM bylaws in 1974, only 2 years after the ACNM national office had moved to Washington, DC, further cementing the organization as an entity separate from any previous institution.
Later in her career, Liz was very involved in the development of ethical standards for midwifery through the ACNM Ethics Committee, including serving as chair. She was also active for many years with the Division of Accreditation (the official accrediting body of ACNM at that time), including acting as site visit coordinator in the early 2000s, when she brought her “considerable diplomatic skills” to bear on some tough midwifery education situations.
At this time, Liz was described by her peers and contemporaries as the epitome of “everything we can hope for in an ACNM leader.” She was an expert in fostering and navigating the interpersonal relationships necessary to establish a practice during a time when tensions were high among midwives, physicians, and nurses. Liz will be well remembered for her numerous, outstanding contributions to midwifery and ACNM.
Liz passed away Sunday, February 7, at age 82. Her family requests that any donations in her name be made to the A.C.N.M. Foundation, Inc. and/or to the Elizabeth Sharp Scholarship in the School of Nursing at Emory University.