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Dame Karlene Davis, DBE

Dame Karlene Davis, DBE

As General secretary of the RCM during a decade of intense development and change in the health services, Dame Karlene Davis firmly established the RCM as the voice of midwifery in the UK. That voice was heard at the highest level of government, throughout the NHS and extensively in the media. She modernised the RCM with her vision and strategic leadership, she restored its financial and reputational stability and she meshed into a cohesive whole the RCM’s inter-related facets of professional association, trade union, charity and business.

As a champion of lifelong learning and professional development it was perhaps inevitable that the RCM would achieve IiP status under her leadership.

In a remarkable career Dame Karlene made a real impact on the development of her profession and its standing.  Her work transformed the working lives of midwives and improved the care of childbearing women in the UK and far beyond.  A visionary shaper of policy and stalwart negotiator, she has been an inspiration as a midwife, an educator, and a leader having made it to the very top as the UK’s first black woman trade union leader.  

Dame Karlene made her mark in midwifery education and health services management before coming to the RCM in 1994 as Deputy General Secretary.  Her service as General Secretary from 1997 to 2008 led her profession through a significant time of change.

In her period of leadership Dame Karlene transformed the RCM into the modern professional membership organisation and effective trade union that it is today.

Her determination in negotiations at the highest level of government championed the status and role of the midwife.  It secured enhanced conditions and reward, consistent across the UK, through Agenda for Change. 

Dame Karlene established the Annual Midwifery Awards, at which midwives are recognised for the pivotal role they play in the health of women and families.  As a result of innovations and resources developed during Dame Karlene’s period of strategic direction and leadership, midwives today enjoy greater opportunities to develop as leaders, and a range of policy, practice, education and research capital.

She brought the Triennial International Congress of Midwives to Glasgow in 2008 – showcasing UK midwifery and the RCM to a global audience.  Dame Karlene also contributed to world midwifery through her leadership of the RCM’s international collaborations and her term as President of the International Confederation of Midwives, as Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Midwifery and as Vice-Chair of the European Forum of National Nursing and Midwifery Associations.