Nigeria’s first doctorate in midwifery awarded at the University of Chester.

Posted on 31st October 2017

A Nigerian senior lecturer in Midwifery is due to make history this week, when she becomes the first midwife in her country to be awarded a doctorate in her subject.

Faith Diorgu with Faruk Umar Abunakar
Faith Diorgu with Faruk Umar Abunakar

Dr Faith Diorgu is now the most qualified midwife in Nigeria, helping pregnant women in her country through her research. Her historic and groundbreaking achievement has also been recognised by the country’s professional regulatory body for nurses and midwives - the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). In addition, the NMCN’s Secretary General, Faruk Umar Abunakar, has written to the University of Chester’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Wheeler, to thank the institution for its role in Faith’s achievement.

Faith is currently a Senior Lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria. With a vast amount of clinical experience, she currently teaches undergraduate students, as well as supervises research projects and case studies.

She originally completed a Master’s and PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria. However her interest in midwifery practice and education then led her to undertake a second Master’s at the University of Nottingham and then a PhD in Midwifery at the University of Chester, which was partially funded by the University’s Faculty of Health and Social Care. She will be presented with her award on Wednesday (November 1).

Her interest in women’s experiences of birthing positions and perineal trauma during childbirth emerged as a result of her work in Nigeria. She said: “As a midwife, I practiced in a country where birthing position practices and perineal care are not based on best evidence, and little is known as to why this is the case. I am interested in raising the profile of midwifery care and research, maternal health and wellbeing, and maintaining perineal care during childbirth.”

Fath hopes that her current research will bring about change in midwifery practice in Nigeria, based on the evidence that would offer women a better childbirth experience. As a result, Faith has also invented a birthing chair, to facilitate birth in the upright position for African women.

Birthing Chair

She said: “My work is in the area of evidence based practice and childbirth in Nigeria and Africa as vital in the promotion of women’s autonomy and wellbeing during the birthing process. This is the factor that led to my invention of a birthing chair.”

The chair has been recognised and licenced by the Nigeria Copyright Commission and is currently undergoing patent registration. Once approved, the chair will support a number of women birthing in various upright positions.

She added: “My PhD has given me the opportunity to improve the quality of my work as a midwife educator and a researcher, championing evidence-based practices in maternity care in Nigeria. My studies provided me with many opportunities to undertake collaborative research, and to network nationally and internationally.

“One of the most helpful parts of my PhD was the incorporated element of supervision and feedback that was given throughout by my team of supervisors - Professor Mary Steen, Professor June Keeling and Professor Elizabeth Mason-Whitehead. My utmost gratitude goes to them, I could not have wished for a better team and I hope to continue collaborative work with them. Professor Mary Steen, who is now a Visiting Professor having previously been a Professor within the Faculty, also gave me an opportunity to undertake a research internship at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of South Australia. At the airport in Australia, as l was about to return to Nigeria, Professor Steen gave me a silver bangle to wear on my  wrist with an inscription “Dance as though no one is watching you;” this is so significant to me.”

Professor Mary Steen said: “In 2013, Faith contacted me and asked if I would be her Principal Supervisor for a PhD study that would involve investigating and exploring birthing positions and incidence of perineal trauma - it is an area in which I have specific expertise. I accepted and requested Professor June Keeling and Professor Elizabeth Mason-Whitehead help supervise Faith to undertake a mixed methods study.

“Collectively, we have all been on a research journey with Faith, to enable her to complete her PhD studies successfully. Faith has demonstrated that she is a midwifery researcher in her own right and will enable other midwives and nurses in Nigeria to undertake PhD studies. Faith will always have a special place in my heart and it was an honour to supervise and support her. I look forward to further collaborative work and making a difference to women’s lives.”

Professor Elizabeth Mason-Whitehead said: “Faith’s PhD journey has been a positive experience of international collaboraton which has been of mutual benefit to all concerned. Faith continues to be an excellent role model for her colleagues and those wishing to undertake doctoral study. Her work will make a positive difference to the lives of the mothers in her care.”

Professor June Keeling added: “Faith’s work will generate a positive change for women who birth in Nigeria, as she promotes care that is based on evidence, while ensuring that women have a voice in their birthing experience. By using her research to inform midwifery practice, a culture of change may be introduced and overseen by Faith, as she continues her research in the future.”

Faith also engages in collaborative research with international counterparts in the UK, Canada and Australia, with the overall aim of improving the care and services for pregnant women and their families. She is now extremely driven to continue improving midwifery practice in Nigeria.

She added: “My plan is to take midwifery practice forward and to incorporate the skill into my academic activities. I want to continue to drive change and promote evidence-based practice throughout Nigeria. My vision is to translate my study into clinical practice and encourage other midwives to undertake PhD studies. To my knowledge, l am the first Nigerian midwife to be awarded a PhD in midwifery. I really feel that I have got a lot to offer.”

Faruk Umar Abunakar, Secretary General at the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), said: “The NMCN is proud of Faith for achieving this feat. This groundbreaking success has become the nucleus for sustainable development in midwifery education and practice in Nigeria. It will also pave the way for a fruitful relationship between the NCMN and the University of Chester.”

Faith is keen to thank the many individuals who contributed to the successful completion of her PhD: “I sincerely thank them all. I also appreciate the financial support of the 50% PhD scholarship from the University of Chester’s Faculty of Health and Social Care, that enabled me to pursue my PhD studies, and l would like to thank Professor Annette McIntosh-Scott, Executive Dean for supporting this.

“Also to my own home institution, the University of Port Harcourt under the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ajienka, for his support, which gave me dedicated time to undertake my studies while in employment.

“Finally, I thank my family, my wonderful husband Dr AV Diorgu, who has shown me great support and patience, and my beloved children Dr Kelechim, Dr Atuokiki, and Winner, a medical student, for their never-ending love. I love you all.

“Becoming a Doctor of Midwifery is a dream come true, and l am particularly thankful to the University of Chester for giving me this opportunity.”