Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Gardening is a cherished spring hobby for many — planting the garden, mixing the soil and watching for growth can be a labor of love with great reward. One of my favorite talks on equity and dismantling systems of racism is the “Gardener’s Tale” shared by the brilliant Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones. I have been honored to experience this talk and learn from Dr. Jones on more than one occasion. When I need some grounding, I revisit her work via YouTube. I invite you to do the same. This spring, our team has been focused on how to nourish the seeds we have planted through our past work. This edition of the BFE will provide updates on several areas of growth.
Many of our readers know that, for several years, CGBI has co-sponsored the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference (BFfem) along with conference founder Dr. Paige Hall Smith, professor of public health education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Paige and the late Dr. Miriam Labbok were visionaries who brought the intersection of breastfeeding and feminism into clear view.
Over the years, the conference has expanded and adapted, becoming a premier event (while also experiencing growing pains along the way). It is now evident that, while the conference enhances the community of learning for scholars, clinicians and activists involved in breastfeeding work, its current structure and lack of governance does not allow for the type of growth that needs to occur to embrace the needs of an inclusive and diverse lactation community.
Soil needs to be replenished, replaced often and nourished to make sure seeds thrive. Sometimes, it is the original gardeners who need to self-reflect and step back to give space, rich soil and opportunity to newly inspired and diverse gardeners. In the case of BFfem, it is time for UNC-G and CGBI to step back and make room for new leaders who will move the intersection forward. To that end, so comes the end of this phase of BFfem. We wish to thank all who have celebrated and participated in this conference over the years.
Moving forward, CGBI will re-focus our efforts on new opportunities to honor our founder, Dr. Labbok. Before her passing, she planted a potent seed by creating an Acceleration Fund for young researchers who are conducting programmatic work in breastfeeding. Over the coming months, we will engage a diverse group of stakeholders to assist our team in the development of a pilot award process for this fund. We are planning for this to be an annual award that will catalyze and lift up young researchers who celebrate the ideals that Miriam embraced toward the end of her career.
Over the years, we have cultivated our ongoing work centering hospital communities within a greater socioecological framework for change in breastfeeding. In 2017, The Duke Endowment (TDE) provided funding for CGBI to move forward with our ENRICH Carolinas project, currently serving 19 N.C. communities. We are pleased to announce that this project, now including the full CGBI Baby Bundle, will be expanded to cover all of North and South Carolina over the next five years. Our main article in this issue offers more details, and you may read the UNC press release here.
I would like to finish this letter with a few congratulatory notes to celebrate success, seeds and fertile ground. CGBI postdoctoral researcher Dr. Katie Wouk and her family welcomed the newest member of the CGBI team, Stella Loba Wouk, who was born April 13. Big sister, Juno, is pictured here having fun with newborn Stella. We also must celebrate our learners: As we graduated the latest Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative class, the 2017-18 MRT-TI cohort had a 100% pass rate on the IBCLC exam! Lastly, congratulations are due to one of our RISE partner schools, Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, N.C., for successfully completing the accreditation process through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). JCSU will be accepting their first cohort of students this fall! Rachel Davis, MPH, RD, LDN, IBCLC, MRT-TI alumna, will serve as program director along with collaborator and program manager Lugenia Grider.
Please enjoy the rest of this edition of our newsletter and reflect on the seeds of growth and change in your own work/life!