Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, MA, IBCLC

Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute
Faculty Fellow
Carolina Population Center
Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative


Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, MA, IBCLC, is an assistant professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and an affiliate of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI). She is a medical anthropologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. 

Dr. Palmquist’s research addresses the intersectionality of perinatal maternal, newborn and young child health disparities globally and in the U.S., with an emphasis on breastfeeding. Dr. Palmquist’s interdisciplinary work bridges medical anthropology and global public health. She conducts community-based participatory research and uses both ethnographic methods and mixed-methods approaches. Her scholarship and practice are informed by human rights-based approaches and a reproductive justice lens.

Dr. Palmquist is the lead for the CGBI Lactation and Infant Feeding in Emergencies (L.I.F.E.™) Initiative. She serves as a CGBI representative on the WHO/UNICEF Global Breastfeeding Collective, the Emergency Nutrition Network IFE Core Group, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee as Co-Steward of the COVID-19 Infant and Young Child Feeding Constellation. Dr. Palmquist has previously served as an International Lactation Consultants Association liaison to the United Nations. 

Dr. Palmquist teaches MHCH 780: Cultural Humility (Global Health Concentration) and Decolonizing Maternal and Child Health Research: Theory and Qualitative Methods (MCH students). She also lectures in the CGBI Mary Rose Tully Lactation Training Initiative for aspiring lactation consultants. She has presented her research at national and international academic conferences, and speaks to audiences of health care professionals and lay birth and breastfeeding supporters across the world.

Aunchalee Palmquist in the Gillings News

Honors and Awards

Faculty Award for Excellence in Health Equity Research
2021, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Delta Omega, Theta Chapter, Faculty Inductee
2021, Gillings School Global Public Health

National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities Loan Repayment Award
2019-2020, National Institutes of Health

Teaching Innovation Award
2020, Gillings School of Global Public Health

William Lloyd Garrison Ally Award
2019, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE)

IBM Junior Faculty Development Award

Representative Courses

MHCH 780: Cultural Humility (Global Health Concentration)

MHCH 785: Decolonizing Maternal and Child Health Research: Theory and Qualitative Methods

Research Activities

Bioethics, incarceration, and maternal-newborn separation

Ethical, legal, and social implications of human milk science

Racism and human milk exchange

Improving lactation services for perinatally incarcerated women with opioid use disorder

Breastfeeding Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices due to COVID-19 in Kenya 

Perinatal mental health and breastfeeding among internally displaced Yazidi women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (completed)

Becoming a mother after Ebola: A qualitative study of Liberian Ebola survivors' pregnancy and postpartum experiences (completed)

Human milk sharing practices in the United States (completed)

Service Activities

2021-2022: NICHD, Breastfeeding Ecology: Genesis of Infant Nutrition (BEGIN) Project, Translation Working Group

2020- present: HMBANA Donor Milk Health Equity Task Force

2019 – present: Health Connect One, Research Advisory Board

2020: MCH Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workgroup.

2020 – present: Co-Steward, COVID-19 Infant and Young Child Feeding Constellation, United States Breastfeeding Committee.

2020 North Carolina Pregnancy & Continuity of Care During COVID-19 Taskforce.

2018 – present: Disaster Response Advisory Group.

2018 – present: Emergency Nutrition Network Infant Feeding in Emergencies (IFE) Core Group, Steering Committee.

2018 – present: WHO/UNICEF Global Breastfeeding Collective.

Practice Activities

Co-Lead, Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative

Gillings on the Ground, Disaster Response Training Program

Infant Feeding in Child Care Study (CGBI) North Carolina DCDEE

Breastfeeding Hospital Based Quality Improvement Initiative (CGBI), EMPower Best Practices

Maternal Telehealth Access Project: Collaboration and Innovation for Equity and Healthy Families Community Assessment and Qualitative Research Lead.

Joint Statement on Infant and Young Child Feeding in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States. United States Breastfeeding Committee, COVID-19 Infant and Young Child Feeding Constellation. Available http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/d/do/3679.

North Carolina Pregnancy & Continuity of Care During COVID-19 Task Force Recommendations. Released July 2, 2020. Available https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.momsrising.org/images/North_Carolina_Pregnancy__Continuity_of_Care_During_COVID-19_Task_Force_Recommendations.pdf.

Lactation and Infant Feeding in Emergencies (L.I.F.E.™) Initiative, COVID-19 Resources. [Online resources] March 2020 - ongoing. Available https://sph.unc.edu/cgbi/covid-19-resources/.

AMOS Health and Hope Nicaragua. Crianza con Amor (Parenting with Love) Project: Working to improve maternal and child feeding and caring practices in difficult socio-political contexts. A community-based participatory research project. April 2019 – December 2020.

Project Scientist, ENRICH Carolinas Expansion (CGBI)

Equity Specialist and Training Specialist Reclaiming, Improving, and Sustaining Equity (CGBI)

Key Publications

Assessment of perinatal depression risk among internally displaced Yazidi women in Iraq: A descriptive cross-sectional study. . Seidi PA-M, Qudrat Abas N, Jaff D, Dunstan R, Soltan L, Brumwell A, Wilson MW, Nicholson T, and Palmquist AEL. (2022). BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Making space for lactation in the anthropology of reproduction. Tomori C, Quinn EA, and Palmquist AEL (2021). The Routledge Handbook of Anthropology and Reproduction, 1.

Achieving breastfeeding equity and justice in Black communities: Past, present, and future. Asiodu IV, Bugg K, and Palmquist AEL‡. (2021). Breastfeeding Medicine, 16(6).
View publication

Ready, Set, BABY Live: Virtual prenatal breastfeeding education for COVID-19. Palmquist AEL, Parry KC, Wouk K, Lawless GC, Smith JL, Smetana AR, Bourg JF, Hendricks MJ, and Sullivan CS. (2020). Journal of Human Lactation.
View publication

The COVID-19 liquid gold rush: Critical perspectives on human milk and SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Palmquist AEL, Asiodu IV, and Quinn EA.  (2020). American Journal of Human Biology.
View publication

“It was all taken away”: Lactation, embodiment, and resistance among mothers caring for their very-low-birth-weight preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Palmquist, AEL, Holdren S, and Fair C.  (2020). Social Science & Medicine.
View publication

Cooperative lactation and the mother-infant nexus. In: Halcrow S and Gowland R, editors. The Mother-Infant Nexus in Anthropology: Small Beginnings, Significant Outcomes. Palmquist AEL.  (2019). Springer.

Breastfeeding: New Anthropological Approaches. Tomori C, Palmquist AEL, and Quinn EA, Editors.  (2018). Routledge.


  • Board Cert, Clinical Lactation (IBCLC), UNC-CH, 2018
  • Trainee, MRTTI-Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 2013
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Global Health, Yale University, 2011
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Social Network Methods, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, 2009
  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Hawaii, Manoa, 2006
  • MA, Anthropology, University of Hawaii, Manoa, 1997
  • BA, Anthropology, University of Louisville, Louisville KY, 1994