In Memoriam: Sandra Woods

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Memorial RemembranceSandra “Sandy” Woods, CNM, MS

May 20, 1943 – October 19, 2021

Photo: from the 2015 ACNM Annual Meeting when The Midwives of Color Committee honored Sandy for her long midwifery career and the Sandy Woods Scholarship for Advanced Study was given.

ACNM, on behalf of the NYC Midwives, is saddened to announce the passing of a great midwife, Sandra “Sandy” Woods, CNM, MS. She was a pioneering midwife of New York City, who passed away on October 19th, 2021 surrounded by her loving family in St. Louis. Contributions can be made to the ACNM Foundation directed to the Midwives of Color Scholarships in memory of Sandy Woods, or to the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in NYC where Sandy attended and volunteered in the soup kitchen. Rest in peace Sandy, you are truly an inspiration.

Sandy was born in New Orleans on May 20, 1943 where she was raised by her mother Gwendolyn alongside her sister Leah. Sandy dreamed of having a big family of her own and wanted at least 4 kids, which she laughed about later in life because obviously that is not how it turned out. She was a career woman and dedicated her life to serving others. As a young woman she was accepted to Louisiana State University’s nursing program in the first year it was de-segregated. This proved to be challenging for many reasons, especially since the hospitals were not yet desegregated in Louisiana; since LSU did not have nursing faculty of color who could go to hospitals of color, it was impossible for her to obtain a clinical site. Ultimately she had to transfer to Dillard University where she obtained her nursing degree. She joined the Army when she graduated and was stationed in Vietnam for a year, followed by time in Germany. Upon coming back to the US she decided she’d had enough of dealing with men (her words) and pursued midwifery.

She attended Columbia University, class of 1974, training as a student under the legendary Barbara Brennan and Jeanne Kobritz at the old Roosevelt Hospital in NYC; she later jointed their practice and together they opened Midwifery Services Inc, one of the first private midwifery practices in NYC. They were pioneers of private midwifery practice and opened NYC’s first in-hospital birthing center at Roosevelt Hospital in 1996. They were instrumental in changing the culture of the hospital to be inclusive to midwives and to allow women alternatives to conventional obstetric care. That was not an easy task, but these ladies are tough and did not back down. That practice thrived for 32 years, welcoming thousands of babies and caring for their mothers not only during pregnancy but throughout their lifespan.

In 2006 Midwifery Services Inc closed it’s doors, but Sandy was not ready to hang up her hat. She pivoted and entered a practice with Dr. Jacques Moritz, where she again was the backbone of a thriving midwife practice in NYC. She worked until 2013, delivering countless babies and caring for whole families in the process. She couldn’t walk down the street without being approached by former patients wanting to give her a hug. She also reached the point in her career where she was delivering babies that she delivered! What a delight that was.

Any time off was spent caring for family, friends, and even strangers. When her sister passed away from Breast Cancer at a young age, Sandy adopted and raised her niece Tyner, and was very close to her other niece Courtenay, who took care of her in these final years. As Sandy’s mother aged she would travel back to New Orleans to care for her on her weekends off. There wasn’t a day, or even a minute that went by that she wasn’t doing something for someone else. Sandy will be remembered for her wit, her no-nonsense attitude, and mostly for the exemplary care she gave and the lengths she went to for her patients. She was a living saint, and we are all blessed to have known her. 

Rest in peace, Sandy Woods. The community loves you and is so grateful for your service to women and to the following generations of midwives.

– written by Coralie Macqueen CNM, Sandy’s apprentice, patient, and loving friend.