Institute Carries on Resident’s Work

Dr. Lillian Runnerstrom Taught Hundreds of Nurse-Midwives

Lillian Runnerstrom

FORT MYERS – You may not have met Dr. Lillian Runnerstrom, but her name is very well known at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing. That’s where she was recently honored with the establishment and dedication of the Lillian Runnerstrom Institute of Excellence in the Study of Women, Children, and Family Health.

Dr. Runnerstrom, who has been a resident of our community since December of 1990, was a professor and head of the department of Maternal/Child Nursing at UIC from 1969 through 1980, and founded the Nurse Midwifery Program there in 1972. This program was the first and only program of its kind at the University, as well as the first graduate program for the department. In fact, the Midwifery Program was the only one of its kind in the entire state of Illinois.  Her program’s vision was – and continues to be – a vision to make nursing a viable career option and promote creative, innovative nursing research.

Dr. Runnerstrom is no stranger to universities. After accepting the opportunity to go into a Midwife program, Dr. Runnerstrom became an R.N. at St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, received her Bachelors and Masters from Columbia, her C.N.M. from Maternity Center Associates, and her Ph. D. from New York University. She also has done numerous studies inside and outside of midwifery. The Midwifery program at UIC is currently ranked the number three top program in the U.S. and was the first program in the U.S. to receive the “Midwifing Midwives, for a Lifetime” award from the American College of Nurse Midwives in 2002.

To honor Dr. Runnerstrom and continue her legacy of excellence in nursing education, nursing practice, and research, the Institute will provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the fields of women’s health, midwifery, pediatrics, and family health. “The Institute is dedicated to Dr. Runnerstrom because of her significant contribution to improving the health of women and children in the United States and globally, through her work at the World Health Organization, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the American College of Nurse Midwives, and the University of Illinois at Chicago,” said Rosemary C. White-Traut, UIC Associate Professor and Department Head.

The Institute’s goal is to continue Dr. Runnerstrom’s work through the accomplishments of its students and faculty and will provide resources for those persons by the endowment of professorships that will support creative teaching and innovative research. Current Institute studies also include the study of life support decisions for extremely premature infants, how families make decisions regarding genetic testing, as well as research on the process of lactation in mothers of premature and full-term infants. Over the years, more than 400 nurse-midwives have graduated from the UIC program, which has attracted both students and parents-to-be to having safe, natural birthing choices. Numerous studies over the past 20 to 30 years have documented the ability of nurse-midwives to independently manage about 80 percent of all perinatal – including prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care – and up to 85 percent of the family planning and gynecological needs of women of all ages. Nurse-midwives work in a collaborative role with OB/GYN physicians and either consult with or refer to other health care providers on cases outside their scope of practice (for example, high-risk pregnancies, women with concurrent chronic disease).