Amelia Henning, CNM, MSN, is a staff nurse-midwife and lactation specialist on the Midwifery Service in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mass General. She cares for patients at the Mass General main campus in Boston.
How long have you worked at Mass General?
Describe your journey into health care.
I figured out pretty early in college that I was interested in women’s health and had an interest in traditional medicine. I spent time in east Africa as an undergraduate, where I learned about prenatal care and birth in various settings. When I “discovered” midwifery, I was thrilled to find that it brought together all of my interests. I had already completed my BA, so I chose a midwifery program that gave me the option to do an accelerated nursing degree (a BSN), followed by a masters degree (MSN) in midwifery.
Midwifery is, of course, a field that is filled with women, so I trained in a very supportive environment.
What do you like most about your job?
There are so many things I love about my job! First and foremost, I get to work as a midwife, caring for women and families through their pregnancies, attending births and following women in the postpartum period.
For so many women, having a baby is a period of transition when they enter new territory. One of the things I love most about midwifery is how we share information. We empower women to make the choices that are right for them. And, of course, attending births is also an amazing part of the job.
Here at Mass General, I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of colleagues that make my job even more fulfilling.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
I have two thoughts on this.
The first thing is role-modeling and mentoring from women who are already in the field. Mass General has a great program that allows high school students to spend an afternoon with a health care provider in their field of interest (the Mass General Youth Scholars Program). Programs like this give girls a great opportunity to get a taste for the field. They make connections that can be important as they move through their education. We can also engage more young women in the sciences through outreach and mentoring relationships with college-age women.
The second thing, which actually comes first, is that it starts early. Think about what kinds of toys and activities are marketed to girls starting at a very young age. I have two daughters and two sons, and I see the stark delineation of toys along gender lines. It’s really important that we give girls opportunities to develop their interests in science and health care from the beginning. Put a snap circuits set alongside that box of crafts or give your niece a building set along with the doll. We should also create extracurricular and school-based activities that encourage girls to explore their interests and potential, such as math groups or robotics clubs.
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care?
I had a fabulous, really smart chemistry teacher in high school who encouraged my friends and me to follow our interests. She supported us in creating the school’s first chemistry club and let us experiment as long as we followed the rules and stayed safe. I started college as a chemistry major largely because of her positive influence.
Also, my mom. She always, always believes in me and gives me a confidence boost when I need it most.