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(December 14, 2000, Gazette)

Leaders in women’s health

(L-R) Prof. Kay Matthews and Dr. Sharon BuehlerPhoto by HSIMS

(L-R) Prof. Kay Matthews and
Dr. Sharon Buehler

By Sharon Gray

Two members of Memorial’s community were recently honoured with Leadership Awards for Women’s Health in Atlantic Canada. The awards were given to Dr. Sharon Buehler, Community Health, and Prof. Kay Matthews, Nursing, by the Maritime Centre for Excellence in Women’s Health.

The two women are old friends with similar histories of service to the community and the university. Both moved with their husbands and young children to Newfoundland in 1967 and helped found the Children’s Centre, a non-profit daycare centre formed as a co-operative of parents who hired teachers trained in early childhood education.

“We met in the fall of 1967 at a university meeting,” said Dr. Buehler. “As a midwife, Kay had taught the Lamaze birth method and I had done it — which, in the 1960s, was unusual. Kay started Lamaze training here and has always been one of the major advocates in the province for breastfeeding. Both of us were at the founding meeting of the LaLeche League in 1968.”

An Oxford-trained midwife and nurse, Prof. Matthews worked at the maternity unit of the Grace General Hospital from 1973 until she became a full-time faculty member at the School of Nursing in 1986. Her dedication to fostering maternity care that supports women’s wishes and health practices has been the focus of her practice, teaching and research for the past three decades. Her commitment to ensuring that women have choices in their childbearing years has led to numerous awards and her advice has been sought throughout the Atlantic region. In recent years, her work has extended internationally to Ghana, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Sharon Buehler’s career has also focused on improving women’s health. She began work in the 1970s at the new medical school as a research assistant in immunology and worked toward a PhD in epidemiology. She was consultant epidemiologist with the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation and director of the Provincial Cancer Registry. In the mid-1980s she was appointed to faculty in the Division of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Buehler’s work in cancer epidemiology has included research into the prevention and management of women’s cancers. She has served as a volunteer board member with the Canadian Cancer Society at the national and provincial level. She is particularly proud of her role as a founding member of the management committee of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative, and her participation and involvement in founding the Women’s Health Network, a provincial non-profit organization that works to improve women’s health through networking and conducting research on women’s health issues.

Through her work in cancer education and directing the Newfoundland site of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, Dr. Buehler has become a strong advocate for the use of plain language in communicating research to laypersons.

Although pleased with the tribute to their own work represented by the leadership awards, both Prof. Matthews and Dr. Buehler are gratified that their work is being carried on by younger women. Prof. Matthews is frequently sought by students for advice on choosing maternal/child health as a career focus, and she was recently asked by the former minister of health to serve on the Midwifery Implementation Committee, charged with preparing legislation and regulation around the legalization of the practice of midwifery within the province. Dr. Buehler notes with satisfaction that all of her graduate students have been involved in research work on issues predominantly affecting women.

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