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Statement on the Passing of Lillian Runnerstrom

ACNM is saddened to learn of the passing of Lillian Runnerstrom, CNM, PhD, FACNM. She was a lifetime member of ACNM, serving on many committees and as president from 1967 to 1969.

Lillian was a 1955 graduate of the Maternity Center Association nurse-midwifery program. From 1963 to 1965 Lillian was an assistant professor of maternity nursing at the University of California, Los Angeles. She then moved to Baltimore and was an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the first nurse or midwife to hold that position. She led the nurse-midwifery education program there from 1965 to 1969. Her pursuit of graduate education for the program stimulated the eventual transfer of the program to the university’s School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1969.

As professor and head of the Department of Maternal Child Nursing at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing from 1969 to 1980, Lillian established their nurse-midwifery program in 1972. The program is now recognized nationwide for its excellence. In 2003, the UIC Department of Maternal Child Health founded the Lillian Runnerstrom Institute of Excellence in the Study of Women, Children, and Family Health in her honor.

Lillian was a true pioneer with broad influence. She worked most of her professional career to advance academic and clinical education for nurse-midwives. She was also an enthusiastic reader of science fiction and fantasy.

Joyce Roberts, CNM, PhD, FACNM, said, “I have many positive memories of Lillian. She hired me fresh out of my nurse-midwifery education in 1972 when she started the program at UIC. She had worked deliberately and successfully with the leaders in nursing and medicine to establish the practice of nurse-midwifery at Cook County Hospital (CCH). I remember an occasion when she came down to chat with me, and commented on the importance of collaboration with colleagues in nursing and medicine in order to educate nurse-midwives and enable them to practice successfully. Lillian was an effective and gracious role model. It is because of her leadership and the relationships she had developed that many CNMs in Illinois have a positive relationship with nursing within the legislative, educational, and practice contexts.”

Lisa Paine, CNM, DrPH, FACNM, said, “Lillian was a member of the first Board of Trustees of The A.C.N.M. Foundation, Inc., established shortly after incorporation in 1967. She also received the Foundation’s prestigious Dorothea M. Lang Pioneer Award in 2007 - in recognition for being the ‘founding mother of midwifery in Illinois.’ She was an inspiration to all of us!”

Carol Howe, CNM, DNSc, FACNM, said, “Lillian was the consultant on my first HRSA grant when I was a (very) novice educator. I learned so much in three short days. I was in awe.”

Janet Engstrom, CNM, PhD, FACNM, said, “She was a gift. Always an inspiration. She literally moved mountains for us. And she was always positive and always nice. I thank her often for my career both as a nurse-midwife and as a nursing professor. I am also eternally grateful to her for introducing me to Dr. Edwin Chen, the statistician who became my mentor and influenced my entire research career. He took me as a student as a favor to Lillian. She was like that. She connected people.”

"Lillian's many contributions to ACNM, midwifery and her many students, colleagues and to women and families will be long remembered. She provided us with wisdom and a focus on collaboration that serves as a strong foundation for our future,” said ACNM President Lisa Kane Low, CNM, PhD, FACNM.

Lillian passed away on June 12, 2016 at the age of 95. Gifts in her memory may be directed to:

Lillian Runnerstrom Institute
College of Nursing MC 802
Office of Advancement
845 S. Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60612-7350


American College of Nurse-Midwives.
8403 Colesville Rd, Suite 1550 | Silver Spring MD 20910
Phone: 240-485-1800 | Fax: 240-485-1818
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