Holly Powell Kennedy, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN

Holly Powell Kennedy

Helen Varney Professor of Midwifery

Yale School of Nursing

email: holly.kennedy@yale.edu
phone: 203-785-2393


As an internationally known midwifery researcher and leader Dr. Kennedy is the first person to be appointed as the Varney Professor of Midwifery at Yale in 2009. She came to the position with broad experiences as a clinician, researcher, educator, policymaker and leader in a variety of settings. Collectively these experiences have shaped her current vision of academic and clinical scholarship in US maternal-child health care.

She is Past-President of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the professional association representing Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Midwives in the US. She received the 2016 Hattie Hemschemeyer Award, the highest honor bestowed by ACNM in recognition of her contributions to research, education, and practice. 

Dr. Kennedy received a diploma in nursing from Miami Valley Hospital School of Nursing, Dayton, Ohio, a bachelor’s degree from Chaminade University, Honolulu, HI, a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner from the Medical College of Georgia, a certificate of midwifery from the Frontier School of Midwifery & Family Nursing, Hyden, KY and a doctorate in nursing from the University of Rhode Island. She has held academic positions at the University of Rhode Island and most recently at the University of California San Francisco. She holds a visiting faculty appointment at King’s College London where she was a distinguished Fulbright Fellow in 2008. She served over 30 years in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (active and reserve) and is a retired Colonel.

Dr. Kennedy’s program of research is rooted in her clinical and educational experiences during which she was challenged by a prevailing lack of trust in and fear of childbirth. Her research is committed to understand the links between “how” care is provided during pregnancy and birth with clinical and social outcomes. Part of her work has culminated in a conceptual framework of midwifery care reflecting (a) the relationship between the woman and the midwife, (b) orchestration of an environment of care by the midwife to meet the woman’s needs, and (c) life journeys, or outcomes for both, that go beyond usual perinatal measures. She has employed mixed methods to examine the provision of care in complex settings and with various models. She has been instrumental in developing the concept of “optimality” in maternity care which strives to achieve the maximal outcome with minimal intervention in the context of the woman’s obstetrical, medical, and social background. Her future work will examine cultural issues in applying evidence supporting low-interventive care in complex birth settings and shared decision-making among women and clinicians about birth care.

Research Interests

Linking practice to outcomes, barriers to evidence-based practice, shared decision-making. and qualitative methods.

Selected Publications

Kennedy, H.P., Cheyney, M., Dahlen, H.G., Downe, S., Foureur, M.J., Homer, C.S.E., Jefford, E., McFadden, A., Michel-Schuldt, M. Sandall, J., Soltani, H., Speciale, A.M., Stevens, J., Vedam, S., Renfrew, M.J. (2018). Asking different questions: a call to action for research to improve the quality of care for every woman, every child. Birth, 31, 242-243.

Sandall, J., Tribe, R.M., Avery, L., Mola, G., Visser, G.H.A., Homer, C.S.E, Kidanto, H., Gibbons, D., Kennedy, H.P., Taylor, P., Temmerman, M. (2018). Lancet Series – CS epidemic:  Short and long-term impacts/or effects of caesarean section on the health of women and children. The Lancet, 392(10155):1349-1357.

Tribe, R.M., Taylor, P.D., Kelly, N.M., Rees, D., Sandall, J., Kennedy, H.P. (2018). Parturition and the perinatal period: can the mode of delivery impact on the future health of the neonate. Journal of Physiology, 596, 5709-22.

Vedam, S., Stoll, K., MacDorman, M., Declercq, E., Cramer, R., Cheyney, M., Fisher, T., Butt, E., Yang, Y.T., Kennedy, H.P. (2018). Mapping integration of midwives across the United States: impact on access, equity, and outcomes. PLOS ONE, 13, e0192523.

Kennedy, H.P., Myers-Ciecko, J.A., Carr, K.C., Breedlove, G., Bailey, T., Farrell, M., Lawlor, M., Daniels, E., Darragh, I. (2018). United States model midwifery legislation & regulation: a Delphi study. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 63, 652-659.

Vedam, S., Stoll, K., MacDorman, M., Declercq, E., Cramer, R., Cheyney, M., Fisher, T., Butt, E., Yang, Y.T., Kennedy, H.P. (2018). Mapping integration of midwives across the United States: impact on access, equity, and outcomes. PLOS ONE. 13, e0192523.

Kennedy, H.P., Yoshida, S., Costello, A. Declercq, E., Dias, M.A.B., Duff, E., Gherissi, A., Kaufman, K., McConville, F., McFadden, A., Michel-Schuldt, M., Moyo, N.T., Schuiling, K., Speciale, A.M., Renfrew, M.J. (2016). Asking different questions: research priorities to improve the quality of care for every woman, every child. Lancet Global Health, (II), e777-e779.
Kennedy, H.P., Doig, E., Tillman, S.T., Strauss, A., Williams, B., Pettker, C., Illuzzi, J. Perspectives on promoting hospital primary vaginal birth: a qualitative study (2016). Birth. Epub ahead of print.
Dahlen, H.G., Downe, S., Wright, M.L., Kennedy, H.P., Taylor, J.Y. (2016). Childbirth and consequent atopic disease: emerging evidence on epigenetic effects based on the hygiene and EPICC hypotheses. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 13, 4.
Elter, P.T., Kennedy, H.P., Chesla, C.A., Yimyam, S. (2016). Spiritual healing practices among rural postpartum Thai women. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 27(3), 249-255. 
Braun, L.A., Kennedy, H.P., Womack, J., Wilson, C. (2016). Integrative literature review: U.S. military women’s genitourinary and reproductive health. Military Medicine, 181(1), 35-49. 
Braun, L.A., Kennedy, H.P., Sadler, L., Dixon, J. (2015). Research on U.S. military women: recruitment and retention challenges and strategies. Military Medicine, 180(12):1247-55. 
Shorten, A., Fagerlin, A., Illuzzi, J., Kennedy H.P., Lakehomer, H., Pettker, C., Saran, A., Witteman, H., Whittemore R., (2015) Developing an internet-based decision aid for women choosing between vaginal birth after cesarean and repeat cesarean birth. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 60(4), 390-400.
Kennedy, H.P., Cheyney, M., Lawlor, M., Myers, S., Schuilling, K., Tanner, T. (2015). The development of a consensus statement on normal physiologic birth: A modified Delphi study. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 60(2), 140-145. (Finalist for best journal paper 2015)
Dahlen, H.G., Downe, S., Kennedy, H.P., Foureur, M. (2014). Is society being reshaped on a microbiological and epigenetic level by the way women give birth? Midwifery, 30(12), 1149-51.
ten Hoope-Bender, P., de Bernis, L., Campbell, J., Downe, S., Fauveau, V., Fogstad, H., Homer, C., Kennedy, H.P., Matthews, Z., McFadden, A., Renfrew, M.J., Van Lerberghe, W. (2014). Improving maternal and newborn health through midwifery. The Lancet, S0140-6736(14)60930-2.
Renfrew, M. J., McFadden, A., Bastos, M.H., Campbell, J., Channon, A.A., Cheung, N.F., Silva, D.R., Downe, S., Kennedy, H.P., Malata, A., McCormick, F., Wick, L., Declercq, E. (2014). Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence-informed framework for maternal and newborn care. The Lancet, S0140-6736(14)60789-3.
Shorten, A., Shorten, B., Kennedy, H.P. (2014). Complexities of choice after prior cesarean: A narrative analysis. Birth, 41(2), 178-84. doi: 10.1111/birt.12082. 
Lyndon, A., Zlatnik, M.G., Maxfield, D.G., Lewis, A., MacMillan, C., Kennedy, H.P. (2014). Contributions of clinical disconnections and unresolved conflict to failures in intrapartum safety. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 43(1), 2-12.
Maycock, L., Kennedy, H.P. (2014). Breast care in the transgender individual. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 59(1), 74-81. PMID: 24224502.
Palacios, J.F., Strickland, C.J., Chesla, C.A., Portillo, C.J., & Kennedy, H.P. (2013).  Weaving dreamcatchers: mothering among American Indian women who were teen mothers. Journal of Advanced Nursing, PMID: 23713884.
Kennedy, H.P., Grant, J., Walton, C. Sandall, J. (2013). Elective caesarean delivery: a mixed method qualitative study. Midwifery, 29(12), e138-144. 
Dahlen, H.G., Kennedy, H.P., Anderson, C.M., Bell, A., Clark, A., Fourer, M., Ohm, J.E., Sherman, A., Taylor, J., Wright, M., & Downe, S. (2013). The EPIIC hypothesis: Intrapartum effects on the neonatal epigenome and consequent health outcomes. Medical Hypotheses, 80(5), 656-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2013.01.017.
Kennedy, H.P., Stalls, S., Kaplan, L.K., Grenier, L., Fujioka, A. (2012). Thirty years of global outreach by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Maternal Child Nursing, 37(5), 290-295.
Waldman, R.N., Kennedy, H.P., Kendig, S. (2012). Collaboration in Maternity Care Possibilities and Challenges. Obstetric Clinics of North America, 39, 435-44.
Kennedy, H.P., Doig, E., Hackley, B., Leslie, M.S., Tillman, S. (2012). “The midwifery two-step”: a study on evidence-based midwifery practice. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 57, 454-60.
Kennedy, H.P., Farrell, T., Paden, R., Hill, S., Jolivet, R., Cooper, B.A., & Rising SS (2011). A randomized clinical trial of group prenatal care in two military settings. Military Medicine, 176(10), 1169-77.
Dixon, L., Fullerton, J., Begley, C., Kennedy, H.P., Guilliland, K. (2011). Systematic review: the clinical effectiveness of physiological (expectant) management of the third stage of labour following a physiological labour and birth. International Journal of Childbirth, 1(3), 179-195.
Lyndon, A. & Kennedy, H.P. (2010). Perinatal safety: from concept to nursing practice. Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing, 24(1), 22-31. 
Kennedy, H.P., Grant, J., Walton, C., Shaw-Battista, J., Sandall, J. (2010). Normalizing birth in England: a qualitative study. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 55(3), 262-269.
Kennedy, H.P., Nardini, K., McLeod-Waldo, R., & Ennis, L. (2009). Top-selling childbirth advice books: a discourse analysis. Birth, 36(4), 318-24.
Kennedy, H.P., Fisher, L.T., Fontaine, D., & Martin-Holland, J. (2008). Evaluating diversity in nursing education. A mixed method study. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 19, 363-370.
Shannon, M.T., Kennedy, H.P., & King, T. (2007). Allostasis: a theoretical framework for understanding and evaluating perinatal health outcomes. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 36, 125-34 (nominated for best journal paper 2007).
Kennedy, H.P., Erickson-Owens, D., Davis, J.A.P. (2006). Voices of diversity in midwifery: a qualitative research study. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 51, 85-90.
Kennedy, H.P., Shannon, M.T., Chuahorm, U., & Kravatez, M.K. (2004). The landscape of caring for women: a narrative study of midwifery care. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 49, 14-23.
Kennedy, H.P. & Shannon, M.T. (2004). Keeping birth normal: research findings on midwifery care during childbirth. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 33, 554-60.
McCloskey, L., Kennedy, H.P., Declercq, E.R., & Williams, D.R. (2002). Nurse-midwives and the maternal and child health safety net in the era of managed care: Reports from the field. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 6, 127-136.
Kennedy, H.P. (2002). The midwife as an “instrument” of care. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 1759-1760. (PMCID: PMC1447324)
Kennedy, H.P. (2000). A model of exemplary midwifery care. Results of a Delphi study. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 45, 4-19.