Carol Leona Wood


Greenbush - Carol Wood, a leader in the field of nurse-midwifery and a distinguished educator, died in her home in Greenbush, Maine, on January 6, 2019. She was born in Fresno, California, on December 4, 1943, to Gladys (Foster) and C. Ross Wood. When she was six the family moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where her mother taught school (the naming of the Gladys Wood Elementary School in Anchorage in 1970 honored her many years of service as teacher, principal, and superintendent) and her father pursued a variety of interests (he is said to have brought the first Rolls-Royce automobile to Alaska).

After graduating from high school Carol, a self-described "rebellious teenager," lived in Anchorage, later in New Mexico, in Denver, and for one summer under a parachute-silk tent in Yosemite National Park. Along the way she took occasional college courses in search of a direction. In 1970, then living in Chicago, she embarked upon her 40-year career when she entered the nursing program at the University of Illinois Chicago campus. In 1977, with her B.S. and M.A. degrees in hand and two children in tow, she drove still farther east to join the faculty of the Yale School of Nursing in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1987 she moved to the University of Maine in Orono, where she would remain for 23 years. In 1992 she earned the degree of Ed.D., and shortly thereafter she was named coordinator of the graduate nursing program.

Carol's nursing specialty was midwifery. She was certified a nurse midwife in 1977, and in addition to her teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities she was active in clinical practice in New Haven and later in Orono. In 1979 she was appointed director of the Yale Nurse-Midwifery Practice, a public clinic, administered by the school of nursing, that was at the time unique in the nation. In the course of her career she delivered (or "caught," as midwives say when no civilians are around) some hundreds of babies, each of them the prettiest or handsomest baby that ever was. Two of them were her own grandchildren.

Her master's thesis on neonatal jaundice had earned her the faculty appointment at Yale. There she conducted a large-scale study of the accuracy of estimated delivery dates and found that the usual rule-of-thumb methods were often wrong by several days. Such errors had clinical implications, for they could lead unnecessarily to induced deliveries, which are more prone to complications than normal ones. She published her findings and her much more accurate Wood's Rule in 1985. Later she was invited to contribute the chapter "Complications of Gestational Age and the Postdate Pregnancy" to the 4th edition (2004) of the standard textbook Varney's Midwifery.

During a period of enforced rest with a broken pelvis she developed an enthusiasm for sewing and what can only be described as a mania for quilting, and for decades thereafter hardly a wedding or a birth came within her ken that did not result in a beautifully designed and executed work of craft.

Carol retired from UMaine in 2010 and for a time resumed exploring the country. In 2016, having tasted the charms of New York City and of San Diego, she returned to Maine and to the house that she had designed and built in Greenbush some 15 years before. Early in her final illness she determined that she wished to pass her last days there, overlooking the Penobscot River, and that is just what she did.

Carol is survived by her sister, Donna Wood of Anchorage; three children, Tiffany Crowell (Joseph) of Gloucester, Massachusetts, James Ostler (Catherine) of North Rigton, England, and Marilyn Sinnett (Gregory) of San Diego; by three stepchildren, Juliet Nichols (George) and Janice Nichols (Karl) of New Haven, Connecticut, and Dr. Frederick Nichols (Silvia) of Ferndale, Michigan; by six grandchildren (Ariel Twomey, Patrick Twomey, Jade Lafferty, James Ostler, Jared Ostler, and Maia Sinnett) and two step-grandchildren (Hannah Schultz and Arjun Nichols); by her husband, Robert McHenry; and by uncounted friends, colleagues, and former students and patients who loved her for her character, kindness, intelligence, and wit. We will be forever grateful for the gift of having known her.

No formal rites will be observed, nor is any memorial service planned at this time - except such as may spontaneously arise whenever friends and family gather to celebrate Carol's life. All others are invited to take inspiration from Carol's sterling example of strength and generosity.
Published on January 8, 2019
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