Mary Renfrew is a leading health researcher and midwife. She has conducted research in maternity care and in infant feeding for over 30 years, and her work has informed and helped to shape policy and practice in those fields nationally and internationally. Her work has a core focus on improving health and care for women, babies and families, and reducing the impact of inequalities, and she has a longstanding record in involving women and families in research, development, and improvement.
A graduate of the University of Edinburgh (Social Science and Nursing 1975), Mary did her PhD with the MRC Reproductive Biology Unit in Edinburgh (1982). She has worked in the universities of Oxford, Leeds, and York, and in Alberta, Canada (where she also co-founded and led the Alberta Association of Midwives in the 1980s), and has held NHS roles as a midwife, midwifery sister and senior midwife for practice development. She established and led the national Midwifery Research Initiative at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit in the University of Oxford (1988-1994), was Director of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s Public Health Collaborating Centre for Maternal and Child Nutrition (2004-2008), and founded the multidisciplinary Mother and Infant Research Unit in 1995.
Mary has received funding of over £20 million in research and development grants from agencies including the Medical Research Council, National Institute of Health Research, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, government departments, NHS agencies, and charities. She has around 170 academic journal publications, and has written and edited books for academic, professional and lay audiences. Mary has presented to audiences in more than 20 countries, and has advised government departments and global organisations including the WHO, UNICEF, and ICM. She has been co-editor of the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group, member of commissioning groups for funding agencies including the MRC and NIHR, and Council member of the NMC. She is currently a Board member of UNICEF UK, and a member of the International Council of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. She is Principal Investigator and Chair of the Executive Group for the groundbreaking global Lancet Series on Midwifery. She was awarded inaugural Senior Investigator status with the UK National Institute for Health Research in 2008, and has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy for science and letters – the only midwife or nurse to be elected to date.