The doctor who delivered President Obama

The family of David A. Sinclair MD, the late Honolulu obstetrician who delivered Barack Obama on August 4, 1961, were surprised and honored to learn of his role when the President recently released his long-form birth certificate.

David Sinclair MD
David Sinclair MD

Dr. Sinclair was a freshly minted young doctor in 1961. Born in Portland, Ore., Dr. Sinclair had moved to Hawaii with his family as a child. He served as a fighter pilot in World War II, settling back down in Hawaii after the war. There, he attended college at the University of Hawaii, where he met his wife, Ivalee.

Dr. Sinclair received his medical training, including his residency in obstetrics and gynecology, at the University of California at San Francisco. He returned to Hawaii in 1960.

He delivered babies all over Hawaii, but his practice was centered at a hospital now known as Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu, where President Obama was born, according to news accounts.

Dr. Sinclair died in 2003 at the age of 81.

"I'm just honored and proud of my father," said Karl Sinclair, one of Dr. Sinclair's six children.

"I think it's great," said Dr. Brian Sinclair, another son. "Hawaii was a very small place back then so I guess I'm not surprised."

The Danish royal twins go home

Frederik, the crown prince of Denmark, and his wife, Crown Princess Mary, brought their newborn twins home from Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen today.

Danish royal twins
Mary, Frederik and the twins

 

The boy and girl were born on Jan. 8. In the custom of Danish royalty, the babies will receive their names at their christening, which could be as long as three months from now.

“I’ve just been told that they were born on Elvis’s (Presley) birthday,” the prince said at a press conference just after the birth. “Then we’ll call one of them Elvis.”

The birth started spontaneously and lasted about five hours, said Princess Mary’s obstetrician, Dr. Morten Hedegaard. The birth team also included midwife Birgitte Hillerup, who said the princess, 38, had an epidural for pain. Frederik attended the birth.

The twins, along with older siblings Christian, 5, and Isabella, 3, are expected to visit their mother’s native Australia this year, perhaps for Christmas. The prince met the princess, nee Mary Donaldson, the Tasmanian-born daughter of a math professor, at a Sydney pub during the 2000 summer Olympics.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

New York delivers for midwives

Last Friday, New York's Gov. David Paterson signed into law A8117b-S5007a, the so-called Midwifery Modernization Act, which removes the requirement for midwives to obtain a written practice agreement from a physician or hospital to practice in New York State. The bill will take effect in three months.

Paterson's signature was by no means a sure thing — the Democratic governor, who is not seeking re-election in the fall, vetoed thousands of bills this summer, and he waited until the very last possible day to sign the midwifery bill.

Not only that, but the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the new political arm of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, lobbied against the legislation. The group argued that it would make midwife-assisted birth less safe, as midwives who did not have formal relationships with doctors might not be able to access medical care in an emergency.Pregnant Graffiti WPAs have been a condition of practice for midwives in New York since 1992.

But old certitudes and worst-case-scenarios fell flat in Albany this summer.

The closing of St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City last spring created a crisis for those relatively few women seeking home birth with midwives, and provided an object lesson in the difficulties the requirement for a written practice agreement could create. By June, seven midwives who had had WPAs with St. Vincent's were still scrambling to find doctors willing and/or able to formally partner with them, and hundreds of mothers who had been planning to deliver at home were in a state of limbo.

Beyond the immediate concerns, though, the ease with which the bills sailed through the New York legislature — the vote was unanimous in the Senate — suggests that midwifery has attained a mature level of acceptance in New York, which has perhaps 900 midwives, more than any other state.

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, for example, one of the bill's sponsors, had her children with midwives, including two home births.

Groups that represent midwives emerged as effective lobbyists for the bill, mustering thousands of calls, emails and signatures on petitions.

Meanwhile, ACOG's efforts were notable for gaffes like a quote in the New York Times from Donna Montalto,  executive director of ACOG's New York division, who said physicians might balk at providing emergency care without a WPA.

“What obstetrician who has never seen the patient, doesn’t know the midwife, and happens to be at home at their son’s baseball game is going to say, ‘Sure, I’ll come in and take care of your patient,’?” Montalto said.

Perhaps most importantly, the new act affirms the view that birth is a natural event, and not necessarily a medical one. New York legislators have given midwives a vote of confidence, one that could portend a significant shift in attitudes about childbirth.

"Pregnant Graffiti" by Petteri Sulonen