Fionnuala Cooney IBCLC certificate small

Fionnuala Cooney 2016 Recipient 2019 Certified (Ireland)
Dr. Fionnuala Cooney MB, MRCOG, MSc Epi, FFPHMI, IBCLC.
Area Director of Public Health 

Being a Trudi Szallasi scholarship recipient has been a very positive and life-enhancing experience. Indeed, not only did I benefit from having access to a range of excellent materials in preparation for the IBCLE examination, but also my professional status was enhanced and is continuing to be enhanced by being a scholarship recipient. Having the IBCLC qualification has enabled me to provide more authoritative inputs into policy, practice, and research on various aspects of human lactation in my Public Health work. These have included development of a national policy in Healthy Weight for Children, updating policy on vitamin D supplementation for infants, and providing input into the National Medicines Information Centre bulletin on the use of medicines for breastfeeding women. I also have contributed to a position paper on breastfeeding by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and I have been invited to join the editorial board of The International Breastfeeding Journal. As an IBCLC I have recently become a council member of the Association of Lactation Consultants in Ireland.

Qualifying as an IBCLC has been a very important part of my professional development and receiving the Trudi Szallasi scholarship was an incredibly positive incentive to me on my journey. It is my firm intention to continue to increase awareness on the public health importance of human lactation and to support actions that promote and protect breastfeeding.


Autumn 2022 Nguyen smallNguyen Nhat Vu Dao 2018 Recipient 2021 Certified (Australia)
The pathway where I became an IBCLC
By Nguyen Nhat Vu Dao - Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship Recipient in 2018

After being announced that I was the scholarship recipient for 2018 by Health E-Learning, I was informed that my Dad only had months to live as his cancer had reached the final stage. When I went to Vietnam to spend time with him, I also discovered that I was pregnant with my 4th baby; and before that, we had just moved house. Never in my life had so many things happened at the same time: up and down, happiness and sadness, hope and fear.

Even though I told my Dad about the scholarship, I decided not to let him know that he was going to have another grandchild. I had mix feelings about the decision because the fear that he was not going to be with us anymore when the baby was born made my heart sink. After his funeral, I went back to Australia to complete the course that I was granted, I remembered that I finished it a few months before my son was born in April 2019. Then we moved again one month later! Spending the rest of 2019 with my new born baby and our busy household with three older boys, I was about to study for my IBCLC exam in 2020 then the pandemic hit the world. My kids were learning online and my husband had to close his clinic as a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner. We felt safest when we were home together and I became the sole income source as a remote interpreter and translator. During the pandemic, I continued to volunteer at the National Breastfeeding Helpline of the Australian Breastfeeding Association as well as the LiveChat. I also continue to manage the Breastfeeding Group on Facebook for Vietnamese community that I had been doing for years. But being a mum, it started to get ‘too much’ for me to be able to sit for the exam in 2020 as a requirement in the scholarship, given the situation at the time.

Becoming an IBCLC was always the goal I wanted to reach, that was why I applied for the scholarship. Therefore, I emailed Carole Dobrich about my situation and asked if I could sit for the exam the following year instead. Carole was very empathetic and supportive, as well as Trinity Rafferty, the Student Services & Accounts Officer at Health E-learning, to reassure me that they understood my circumstances and encouraged me to apply for the exam in 2021. I decided to apply for the September exam, after a few lockdowns in Victoria, Australia, due to the rising of COVID cases. However, just a few weeks before the actual exam began, the testing centre was closed again and I had the options of either going ahead with the remote exam or to reschedule my test day to 2022. OMG, I had been studying so hard, I had spent a lot of time reading, studying with a lot of my buddies, I participated in study groups, creating A LOT of revising materials using visual aids to contribute to the IBCLC Study Group that I was managing. How could I sit the exam at home with my 4 kids with the possibility that I could be disqualified anytime during the test if one of my kids rushed into the room? But how about doing it the following year? I emailed Trinity to inform about my situation, and that I might have to take it in 2022.

But then I decided to change my mind and I’m glad that I did it. What prevented me from taking the test? Fear of failing? I heard a lot of people failed a few times before they passed, and the test cost is not cheap. The worst test in my life was probably the … driving test, which I had to take 4 attempts before having my license. Would the IBCLC test be more difficult? It was hard to say haha. But do I love to become an IBCLC? Yes. Do I have the passion to become an IBCLC to help many families, especially Vietnamese families in my community? Yes. Then what if I failed? I’d do it again until I pass. Deal. Booked it. Then I did it, and I passed!

Receiving IBCLC credential is not the destination, but the beginning of my journey to continue the act of service as my love language – the way I feel loved and love my life. I’m currently providing support for a network of Vietnamese Breastfeeding Counsellors in Vietnam, and mentoring for two of them who are aspiring IBCLCs.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Health E-learning for their amazing supports and understanding, especially Carole, to whom I not only admire her expertise, experience but also her wisdom and empathy.


Luciana Stehlik 2022 smallLuciana Stehlik 2020 Recipient 2021 Certified (Romania)

So about me lately, I had a lot of new things happening in my personal life. On 15th of January we welcomed baby Sebastian in our lives and the month following to birth we tried to find a new balance in our family life.  In the following weeks I lost my mother, so I felt the need to give me time and space to process and to grief.

As an IBCLC, I joined a breastfeeding clinic (Clinica de alăptare) who is formed by IBCLC's and pediatricians who are supporting breastfeeding and helping mothers overcome breastfeeding problems. I did at home consultations and online support at the peak of the pandemic waves. Also, I have created a breastfeeding class for new parents who will help them guide throughout first days. The scholarship helped me with an extensive knowledge about breastfeeding combined with the counseling skills that help me see the mother and baby dyad in a unique way. In the future I dream about opening my own private practice and to offer support to mothers pre and post birth. I created a Facebook and Instagram page as well - Jurnal de alăptare - who is meant to educate the public and new parents about what are the newborn needs, what is normal in breastfeeding and break the myths.

Also, together with ACLR (the Romanian association of breastfeeding counselors) I am providing a class on How to become IBCLC for the persons interested in becoming certified lactation consultants. This guidance job makes me feel accomplished as I help people realize how important is to have professionals in the breastfeeding area from all the backgrounds.

Personal experience with the Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship

Denise Rangel-Holbrook (San Antonio, Texas, USA) 2015 Scholarship Recipient

The path towards becoming an IBCLC can be a long one. For myself, there were college courses, additional educational hours and much more to consider. It quickly became overwhelming as the costs added up, but each year I made sure to do something towards certification to slowly inch my way closer to becoming qualified to sit for the exam. I was already a La Leche League Leader but I also got certified to teach breastfeeding classes and became heavily involved in the birth and breastfeeding community in my city. This was in addition to completing any course work that needed to be done.

A couple of years ago, while reviewing the IBCLC Core Curriculum I realized something was missing. Although I had many lactation specific educational hours accumulated from conferences, I felt the need to take a comprehensive course that would cover the full IBLCE exam blueprint. It was during my research for this course that I learned about Health e-Learning and the Trudi Szallasi Scholarship. I still remember the day I received a call from Carole asking me additional questions about my application and letting me know that I was in the final running.

The official confirmation that I had been chosen came a few days later and in 2015 I was the recipient of the Trudi Szallasi Scholarship. What a relief. My goals were becoming a reality and the path that had been long and unsure now had a clear finish line.

The full 120hr BreastEd program and other courses provided to me by Health e-Learning filled gaps I had in my lactation knowledge and helped me identify my strengths and focus on my weaknesses. Each module left me more knowledgeable and there was a significant boost in my confidence in my work as a La Leche Leader.

When it came time to prepare for the exam, the practice tests helped switch my thinking from student to practitioner, as I had to critically think and identify the problems and solutions to the scenarios that were presented to me. Throughout all of this, if I ever had a question or needed help understanding a concept, a Health e-Learning mentor was available to help me.

In April of 2017 I sat and passed the IBLCE exam and was awarded the IBCLC credential.

The Trudi Szallasi Scholarship not only enabled me to complete my certification earlier than I expected, but it has given me insurmountable knowledge that I will use to guide me in my work with families. I am truly honored to carry the legacy of Trudi Szallasi, a remarkable woman, and carry on her passion through my work. Thank you to everyone at Health e-Learning for your support and wisdom. I am forever grateful.

Denise Rangel-Holbrook, IBCLC

Personal experience with the Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship

Ms. Shela Akbar Ali Hirani (Awardee of the Year 2012 from Pakistan)

Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship has enabled me to fulfill my dreams of pursuing formal education in lactation, confidently appear for the IBLCE certification exams, and become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). My IBCLC credentials is facilitating me to strive for promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding in my country Pakistan through my clinical practice, community services, teaching to nursing students, and research work.

As an Assistant Professor (full time Pediatric Nursing faculty) at Aga Khan University (Pakistan), my IBCLC credentials is enabling me to teach new advancement in lactation to the undergraduate and graduate level nursing students, and develop their interest in this specialty area. Being a pediatric faculty having IBCLC credentials, I have been serving as thesis committee member for the graduate and advanced diploma level nursing students interested in pursuing their research work pertinent to lactation. Till date, I have supervised/served as thesis committee member of students interested to analyze the effects of Kangaroo Mother Care on infant's outcomes, association of breastfeeding with childhood obesity, effects of maternal employment and their breastfeeding practices on children's emotional development.

Since becoming an IBCLC, on voluntary basis, I conduct training sessions for the pregnant and postnatal mothers at diverse community based setups, including community health center, baby day care center, women's workplace, health camps etc. My credentials as an IBCLC is enabling me to promote, support and protect breastfeeding by providing practical, timely and culturally relevant counseling to mothers having sick babies, preterm/low birth weight child, breast engorgement, insufficient milk supply and several other issues etc. As an IBCLC, I counsel lactating women on voluntary basis as per their convenience i.e. in person, emails and through telephone/Skype call. In Pakistan, where several myths and misconceptions are associated with the breastfeeding, I am glad that with my extended knowledge and skills gained during my education period in lactation I am able to address the concerns of lactating women and their extended family members in a competent manner. Lactating women and their family members admires my knowledge, skills and commitment to respond to their concerns on timely basis.

After becoming an IBCLC, on the basis of my expertise in research, I also served as "Research Committee Member for the IBLCE" (2013-2015). Since 2012 to date, I am also serving as an active member of International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) to keep myself upgraded with recent advances in the field of lactation. Since 2014 to date, I am also serving as President of Rho Delta Chapter (Pakistan chapter) of Sigma Theta Tau International: A Honor Society of Nursing. In my leadership capacity, I am involved in organizing and executing hospital/community based programmes to improve health outcomes of young children through breastfeeding promotion. I am also mentor novice nursing faculty and nurses who are interested in pursuing their specialization in lactation and early child development.

Keeping in view my intense interest in research pertinent to maternal and child health, during and after my formal education in lactation from "Health-e-learning: and International Institute of Human Lactation, Canada", I have published several manuscripts in the refereed journals and presented my research papers pertinent to lactation at the national and international conferences.

International Peer Reviewed and Indexed Journals

  1. Hirani, S. A. (In press). Continuing Breastfeeding with Paid Employment: Perceived Availability of Support from Informal Social Network and Breastfeeding Practices of Pakistani Urban Women. Clinical Lactation [Indexed in Google scholar; Publisher: Spring Publishing Company] 
  2. Sachwani, S., Karmaliani, R., Hirani, S. A., Khowaja. A. R., & Lalwani, E. (2015). Association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity among school-going children, 5-16 years of age in Karachi, Pakistan. International Journal of Nursing Education, 8 (2), 265-270.
  3. Sachwani, S., Karmaliani, R., Hirani, S. A., Khowaja. A. R., & Lalwani, E. (2015). Whether maternal factors are associated with childhood obesity: A matched case-control study. International Journal of Nursing Education, 8 (2), 298-302.
  4. Hirani, S. A., & Karmaliani, R. (2013). The Experiences of Urban, Professional Women when Combining Breastfeeding with Paid Employment in Karachi, Pakistan: A Qualitative study. Women and Birth, 26 (2), 147-1515. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2012.10.007. [Indexed in PUBMED, MEDLINE, Scopus, & CINHAL; Publisher: Elsevier; impact factor: 1.696].
  5. Hirani, S. A., Karmaliani, R., Christie, T., Parpio, Y., & Rafique, G. (2013). Perceived Breastfeeding Support Assessment Tool (PBSAT): Development and testing of psychometric properties with Pakistani urban working mothers. Midwifery, 29 (6), 599-607. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2012.05.003. [Indexed in PUBMED, MEDLINE, CINHAL, Scopus; Publisher: Elsevier; impact factor: 1.707].
  6. Hirani, S. A., & Karmaliani, R. (2013). Evidence based workplace interventions to promote breastfeeding practices among Pakistani working mothers. Women and Birth, 26 (1), 10-16.doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2011.12.005. [Indexed in PUBMED, MEDLINE, Scopus, & CINHAL; Publisher: Elsevier; impact factor: 1.696].
  7. Hirani, S. A., & Karmaliani, R. (2012). Breastfeeding Support for working mothers: Global and Pakistani perspectives. Current Pediatric Reviews. 8 (4), 313-321. doi: 10.2174/1573212700124073963. [Indexed in CINHAL, EMBASE, Scopus; Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers].

In future years, with my IBCLC credentials, I am willing to continue to work towards supporting, promoting and protecting breastfeeding among Pakistani women in diverse care setups and would like to pursue my PhD studies with the focus on lactation. My gratitude to Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship Award for keeping up my motivation, facilitating me to reach all the glorious milestones in my academic career, and enabling me to make a difference in my region as an IBCLC.

Personal experience with the Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship

Latonia Anthony (Year 2013 USA) 

Now that I have received my IBCLC certification, many people wonder how I accomplished this goal.  Though I have been working as a nurse in long term care for the past few years, I have always had a passion for teaching others about the benefits of breastfeeding. I have been a dedicated volunteer for the African American Breastfeeding Network, an organization that helped me when I was pregnant with my first child.  Over the past 5 years, I have been involved serving many roles to help AABN reach families in the community.  AABN has monthly gatherings, advocates for mothers returning to work or school and provides lactation consulting.  It is a great organization that has really made a difference amongst an urban community that has some the lowest breastfeeding rates in the United States.

A few years ago, my mentor Dalvery Blackwell IBCLC encouraged me to become an IBCLC, knowing I had a nursing background (no pun intended).  I chose a pathway and soon discovered the Trudi Szallasi Scholarship offered by Health-e-Learning.  I was awarded the scholarship and began my studies Fall 2013.  The program is a very organized online format which gave me the flexibility to study while also working.  The teachers were very accessible, active in engaging students and were great resources.  The online forums gave me an opportunity to connect with my peers and clarify information from the classes. 

Overall, I was impressed with Health-e-Learning lactation program and am thankful that I had an opportunity to learn from them.  As the exam date approached I reviewed the many practice exams and forums quite often.   I was well prepared and sat for the exam July 2014.  I recently found out that I passed and I am so excited to begin my journey as a professional lactation consultant. I am now one of the few African-American International Board Certified lactation consultants in the United States.  I have accepted a position at St. Alexius Medical Center in Illinois.  

Krista Gray (Scholarship Year 2011 from Egypt)

I am honored to have been the Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship winner for 2011. Receiving this scholarship enabled me to continue my studies and in 2013 I sat for, and passed, the IBCLC exam. With all of the changes that came about in certification during those years, and not having a medical background, I had to take additional college courses to meet the requirements. With this additional expense, receiving the Trudi Szallasi Scholarship truly allowed me to continue my studies and enter the lactation profession.

Since becoming an IBCLC I have continued to volunteer as a La Leche League Leader both in the UK and US. I have partnered with those serving Arabic-speaking populations in England to provide lactation support to immigrants. And I currently have a Private Practice, Nursing Nurture Lactation Services, which is based in the US but I provide consults worldwide via Skype and FaceTime.

Working as an IBCLC lactation consultant is such a rewarding and fun field. I feel very blessed to enjoy what I do and I am grateful to Health-e-Learning and the Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship for helping to make this possible.



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