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.
Nguyen 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 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.