Aug 31, 2020

Our CHEER Champion of the week is Dr. Michelle Owens, MD, MS, Professor, Division Chief and Fellowship Director, Maternal Fetal Medicine, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. In these roles, she provides hospital and clinic care for pregnant women and their babies and is responsible for the education of trainees and physicians. She was nominated not only for being a relentless maternal health and breastfeeding champion, but also for her presentation on the CHAMPS COVID Response Webinar- Changes and Challenges to Newborn Care: COVID and Beyond.

“I love seeing mothers and their families thrive. I love helping people feel valued and experience their best selves, especially in health.” – Dr. Michelle Owens

Dr. Owens became a breastfeeding advocate when she witnessed the natural beauty, social acceptance, community and family bonding around breastfeeding during her foreign medical mission. She has since become a proud exclusive-breastfeeding mom for her three children, donated breast milk to mothers in need, and worked within her hospital to advance BFHI. She also lobbied for appropriate accommodations for breastfeeding mothers in corporate and community areas, encouraged mothers who were afraid or unsure about their ability to breastfeed, and participated in educational projects aimed at increasing awareness for healthcare team members, the general public, and students in the health professions.

In spite of the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Owens and her team have continued to work tirelessly to care for all moms and “protect the sanctity of the maternal-infant dyad”. She expounded on the idea of stigma as an unintended consequence of COVID-19, and how it amplifies the isolation that people feel. “It is as if those who have not tested positive, judge those who have been exposed” she said. “There is so much uncertainty with this virus that people tiptoe around, fearful of those who have tested positive, not knowing what to say or do.”  She explained that this affects care because patients often sense the fear and decide not to disclose their diagnosis,- even when it involves their direct treatment and care. Dr. Owens charges everyone, especially those in patient care, to acknowledge the uncertainty, address their fears, and abolish this stigma whenever possible.

When asked about her motivation, Dr. Owens described herself as a champion for justice who is motivated by love; love of people and a strong desire to contribute to something greater than just herself. She enjoys helping women through some of the most exciting and difficult times of their lives and considers her role an honor and a privilege.

In addition to her work in patient care and medical education, Dr. Owens does research in hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and hosts a weekly radio show “Southern Remedy for Women” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting; a talk show focused on women’s health issues.

​Congratulations Dr. Michelle Owens, thank you for being such a tireless advocate for maternal child health and breastfeeding!