Professor Honored for Work in Maternal and Child Health
“Students studying maternal and child health are a very passionate group,” says Lois McCloskey, associate professor and associate chair of community health sciences. “It’s very rewarding to help turn that passion into analytic thinking and real-world problem solving.”
To honor her decades of leadership in the field, the Association of Teachers for Maternal and Child Health presented McCloskey with the Loretta P. Lacey Academic Leadership Award at its annual meeting on November 11.
Citing McCloskey’s contributions to education, public health practice, scholarship, and policy work, fellow professors of community health sciences Judith Bernstein and Eugene DeClercq nominated her for the award, writing that she “places women at the center of their own lives” and “promotes reproductive justice and social equity in all aspects of her work.”
McCloskey helped the School of Public Health acquire the first federal maternal and child health training grant from the Health Research Services Administration in 1995, which led to the establishment of the Department of Maternal and Child Health a few years later. She currently codirects the Maternal and Child Health certificate program and serves as director of the Maternal & Child Health Center of Excellence.
“In 2018 we have more MCH students than ever before—over 100—making us one of the two largest programs in the country,” McCloskey says.
McCloskey teaches two practice-based courses: Implementing Community Health Initiatives: A Field-Based Course in Leadership and Consultation and Sexual and Reproductive Health Advocacy: From Rights to Justice. In both, students are immersed in practice in real-world settings such as community health centers, advocacy organizations, and the Massachusetts Statehouse.
“I love fostering the sense of confidence among students as they realize they can do the deep thinking it takes to design change and then use persuasive argument to get leaders to act—no matter how new they are or what position they hold,” McCloskey says.
McCloskey’s current research, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, focuses on the barriers to follow-up testing and prevention for women with gestational diabetes. With PCORI funding, she and Bernstein hosted a national conference at BU last summer titled “Bridging the Chasm between Pregnancy and Women’s Health over the Life Course.” The conference launched a network of researchers, patients, advocates, clinicians, and health system leaders who are collaborating to set the national agenda on continuity in women’s health, especially for women of color.
“The three-fold greater risk of maternal mortality faced by Black versus White women has finally received the national attention it deserves,” McCloskey says. “But if we continue to only address the acute clinical failures that sadly occur during childbirth and immediately after, we miss the heart of the problem: the chronic neglect and disrespect that many Black women experience within the healthcare system long before the final tragic outcome.
“Women’s health is often used as a euphemism for abortion rights—which is important—but we’ve also begun to talk about it in a broader frame as an issue of reproductive justice, and that’s what I’m most passionate about.”