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The Annual Jean Orr Lecture 2021

Keynote Speaker: Professor Fran McConville: 'Tackling Leadership Challenges: Strengthening the capacity of Midwives for National and Global Impact'

The School of Nursing and Midwifery's 2021 Jean Orr Lecture was held on 25 March via MS Teams. Keynote Speaker, Fran McConville, Honorary Professor of Professional Practice in SoNM and WHO Midwife Advisor provided us with a fascinating, enlightening and inspiring event which was very well attended by both internal and external delegates.  Feedback received has been very positive.

Professor McConville's Biography:

Fran McConville has been the Midwifery Adviser at the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the past 8 years and is based at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fran’s focus is on addressing how women, newborns and their families can access quality, equitable and dignified midwifery care that strengthens women’s own capabilities, prevents unnecessary interventions and ensures timely referral to emergency obstetric and newborn care if needed. Fran’s work aims to support the 194 WHO Member States to improve evidence–based quality midwifery care for all women, newborns and their families everywhere. This includes working with global partners to support research, advocacy, capacity building and ensuring the voice midwifery leaders.

Prior to WHO, Fran was a Health Adviser to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). This included leading on maternal and newborn policy at DFID HQ, as well as being the DFID Health Adviser in Bangladesh, as well as Somalia (based in Kenya). This built on three decades of development and humanitarian experience in sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health with UNICEF, IFRC, and a range of NGOs through living and working in Bangladesh India, Burma, Malawi, Kenya, Somalia and Iraq. Fran initially gained development experience as a VSO midwife in Bangladesh, and then through field work in Africa, Asia and the Middle East while being a lecturer in maternal and newborn health/ gender and reproductive health, at the University of Wales, Swansea.

Fran is a midwife, a nurse, has an MA (Health Economics), and a BSc (Life Sciences). In 2020 Fran was awarded the title Honorary Professor of Practice at Queen’s University Belfast.

About the Annual Jean Orr Lecture:

Pictured above: Professor Jean Orr at the unveiling of her portrait commission in the Great Hall; Professor Jean Orr


This lecture is named after the late Professor Jean Orr CBE, (died January 11, 2020) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the development of nursing and midwifery education at Queen's University.  Professor Orr became a Professor of Nursing in 1991 and was the inaugural Head of the newly created School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen's University Belfast in 1997.  Her leadership and commitment made a significant contribution to the profession, recognised with a CBE awarded in 2004.

Professor Orr was renouned for her leadership and since 1995, for her work as a patron with victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, through the WAVE Trauma Centre, a charity which offers support to victims of the Troubles.  Professor Orr worked with Wave to establish Northern Ireland’s first degree programme in trauma studies in 2007 and acted as its chairperson from 2014 to 2018.

Professor Orr retired in 2008 after an astonishing career as Professor of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s however, she remained a close friend of the University in the years that followed.  In 2018 Professor Orr was named among the 70 most influential nurses and midwives in the history of the NHS.  She was honoured in 2019 with a portrait commission for the walls of the Great Hall at Queen's.

The purpose of this lecture is to promote career progression and career advancement for our undergraduate students as they enter the workplace.  Each year it is delivered by an inspirational woman from nursing or midwifery and is done so this year in the memory of, and as tribute to, the inspiring woman who gave so much.

View the QUB Tribute to Professor Jean Orr here.