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.



Personal experience with the Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship

Dr Megha Mamulwar (Year 2012 India)

I will never forget 22 June 2012 in my life; as it was the day when I got the news that my name got selected for Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship. It has really helped me quench my thirst for the knowledge of lactation medicine. After getting the IBCLC certification in 2013 I practiced as a Lactation consultant in Pune till Nov 2014.

During this period I have also trained 4 other trainee doctors in lactation medicine and now two of them are preparing to appear for IBCLC exam. I could help one of them establish independently as a lactation consultant in a private maternity hospital. We are in regular contact on telephone and discuss interesting cases. I conduct training sessions for nurses, trainee doctors and other clinic staff where I work periodically so that they can help patients.

I feel on the top of the world when parents or grandparents come to me share their experiences about how they have successfully overcome the hurdles in those few precious days in their life after my consultation with tearful eyes. I will like to thank Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship for helping me gather such beautiful moments in my life. I have one more great news to share with you all.

Now I have got selected in National AIDS Research Institute as a Scientist (epidemiologist). It is National reference center for HIV AIDS research in our country. I am proud to say that I have decided to identify my area of work as breastfeeding in HIV. I also do free voluntary consultation for needy patients on weekends. I will like to thank Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship once again for making me feel so confident about Lactation Medicine.