Deb Erickson-Owens

The word “midwife” ordinarily does not conjure images of a military jet soaring over Alaska with a pregnant woman aboard or taking a snow plow to a hospital in a blizzard to help a woman give birth. But such events are simply part of College of Nursing Associate Professor Deb Erickson-Owens accomplished career.

The retired Air Force lieutenant colonel has excelled as a nurse midwife, educator and researcher by being anything but ordinary. Erickson-Owens headed the obstetrical department at the Air Force Academy hospital in Colorado Springs, served as midwifery consultant to the Air Force surgeon general and credits her 20-year career as a nurse and midwife in uniform with widening her perspective.

“I have had the opportunity to see different ways of doing things that get you to the same result,” said Erickson-Owens, who retired from the military in 1998. In September Rhode Island Monthly magazine recognized her accomplishments when it chose Erickson-Owens as Nurse Midwife of the Year as part of its Excellence in Nursing awards, presented with the Rhode Island State Nurses Association. Honorees are nominated by peers and judged by a regional panel of nursing leaders.

“It blew me away that it was the first time midwives were nominated and that I was selected out of a pool of so many who should be honored,”she said.  These days you will find Erickson-Owens teaching graduate nursing students and pursuing umbilical cord-clamping research with URI Professor Emeritus Judith Mercer. Their work has shown results for improving infant health and development and has led to a project examining the infant brain that is underway with Brown University.