Advocacy, Education, Leadership

A Day in the Life of Midwife, Educator and Climate Change Researcher Burcu Avcibay Vurgeç 

30 April 2024


After graduating in midwifery and working clinically for a few years, Burcu Avcibay Vurgeç decided to pursue a career in midwifery research. She began as a research assistant, then earned a master’s degree followed by a doctorate. Over time, became the Head of the Midwifery Department at her alma mater, Cukurova University in Türkiye*. 

In her current role, her aim is to enhance the education of young midwives to be more dynamic and comprehensive than what she experienced as a student. Burcu strives to equip midwives with knowledge, skills, and a global perspective to provide top-quality care and strengthen the midwifery profession in Türkiye. 

As a researcher, she is passionate about the connection between climate change and maternal health. Over the past five years, she has focused on the link between extreme heat and anxiety in women. She also developed an awareness scale for the effects of climate change on maternal and foetal health, along with an educational tool to raise awareness among students. Recently, she collaborated on a project to study the relationship between daily temperature changes and high-risk pregnancies, aiming to create an early warning system for pregnant women. 

This is what a day in her life looks like:  

My routine has recently changed since becoming the head of the department. My days are less predictable now, with more managing and planning, and less teaching. But some things remain constant. I wake up early to get my 8-year-old son ready for school. After dropping him off, I head to the university. 

At the university, I start by reviewing my day and completing managerial tasks, such as planning for the upcoming months and reviewing lesson plans. Then, I prepare for my own lessons. Nowadays, I teach for 1 to 3 hours a day. I aim to educate open-minded midwives who understand midwifery practices globally and can apply the best practices from different countries to their work.

Once or twice a week, I supervise my students during clinical work. I enjoy these sessions as they help students connect classroom learning with real-life experience. I simplify concepts and guide them through the process, while the clinical midwives act as excellent mentors. 

Recently, we introduced a ‘career improvement lesson’ into the curriculum. We invite midwives from various settings, such as the Ministry of Health or complex clinical environments, to explain their roles to students. We aim to showcase the diverse career paths available to midwives and inspire students to pursue their interests. 

I usually return home around 17h. Luckily, my mother lives in the same building and takes care of my son until I get home. After dinner with my family, I dedicate evenings to my research. 

A few years ago, I noticed a lack of research on climate change and pregnancy, which motivated me to explore this topic. Climate change is a global issue, and while we may not see its full impact now, I believe it will become more evident in the near future. My research aims to minimise its effects on mothers and babies.

I incorporate my passion for climate change and maternal health into my teaching by dedicating one lesson a week to the topic for third-year midwifery students. The course has been well-received, with students reporting that it helps them make more sustainable decisions in their practice and feel more confident advising pregnant women on mitigating the impacts of climate change. 

My dream is to collaborate with the Columbia University Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education. A few years ago, I co-wrote a chapter on climate change and mental health for pregnant women with some of its members, and I aspire to conduct further research with them. 

In the long term, I hope to establish a centre in Türkiye focused on health education and climate change, similar to the one at Columbia University. This will take time, especially with a young child, but I believe it’s crucial to create dedicated spaces for addressing such important issues. As midwives and health professionals, we must deepen our understanding of the health impacts of climate change and implement effective mitigation strategies, whether through education, early warning systems, or crisis preparedness. We need to lead the way in addressing the challenges that affect women and babies the most. 


* Cukurova University is the first and only midwifery program in Türkiye with accredited 5-year midwifery education.