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Kelsey entrusts midwifery practice to next generation

October 12th, 2017 | Tommy Wells Print this article   Email this article  

Mary Lou Kelsey, CNM, didn't really plan to retire only 36 years into her (medical) midwifery career. She just happened to look up one day and discovered the practice she and her husband, Dr. Bill Bell, had helped start was fully staffed with some of the best young midwifery and medical talent.

With that in mind, the legendary nurse midwife decided she really could take a little time away from the bedside to enjoy some of the other items on her list of things to do.

With over 1,200 newborns and two generations having been delivered into her hands since she arrived in Kachemak Bay in 1981, Kelsey will take the first step toward accomplishing some of the other things on her agenda after Oct. 13, when she officially retires from her nurse midwife position with Homer Medical Center. A special retirement ceremony will be held for her, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Best Western Bidarka Inn.

"I'm 64 years old and have a lot of things I'd like to do," she said. "I looked around and saw our HMC and West Wing practice was fully staffed by four Certified Nurse Midwives, two OB-GYNs, two nurse practitioners, and five family physicians, in addition to the OB, ER and surgical services offered by South Peninsula Hospital. I feel very confident that this team will continue to carry on the excellent birthing and primary care services that our community hospital is known for. I'm happy to step away from a successful midwifery practice and know that it will be in great hands."

Building a medical clinic in Alaska was probably not high on Kelsey's list of goals while growing up, the oldest of Tom and Shirley Kelsey's four children in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.

Born in 1953 in Lakewood, Ohio, she said she knew she wanted to be a nurse early on. After graduating from high school, she enrolled in nursing school at the University of Cincinnati. After completing her degree, she then enrolled at the University of Utah to become a nurse midwife.

Shortly after completing her degree. Kelsey and her husband - who now serves as the medical director at HMC - decided to accept an invitation from Dr. Paul Eneboe to join a family practice health clinic in Homer.

Since their arrival, Kelsey and her husband have both played vital roles in improving the overall health care services in the Kachemak Bay region. The two, along with the Eneboes, created a successful clinic and helped build the Homer Medical Center.

"I'm really proud of our service and the outcome that has happened here," she said. "I think all of us are thrilled at seeing how the services available here have improved."

More than anything else, she said she has treasured working with the families over the years.

"I've enjoyed working with all of the young families who are going through such an important part of their lives, and seeing them enter the next stages of their lives as parents," she said. "It is such an honor to be allowed to be a part of that. I treasure all of those special memories."

With more time on her hands, Kelsey said she was looking forward to focusing more energy on her projects, including the Kachemak Bay Family Planning organization, on which she serves as the president for its board of directors.

Kelsey also indicated she would likely take some additional time to spend with her two children in Haines and Sitka, and to enjoy some of the recreational opportunities the Homer area has to offer, including walking on the beach and kayaking.

The one thing Kelsey said she wouldn't be doing is leaving Homer.

"I'll be staying here," she said. "This is our home and we love it here."


Tommy Wells can be reached at

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