Gillings School’s breastfeeding training program wins accreditation

January 29, 2016

The Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative, based in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI), has become the first breastfeeding training program to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), upon the recommendation of the Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee.

The residential program is housed in the Gillings School’s Department of Maternal and Child Health (MCH), which is the only stand-alone MCH department in the United States. The initiative is the namesake of the late Mary Rose Tully, MPH, Gillings School alumna, former adjunct associate professor of maternal and child health and director of lactation services at UNC hospitals, and dedicated advocate for breastfeeding mothers, infants and families.

Dr. Miriam Labbok

Dr. Miriam Labbok

Catherine Sullivan

Catherine Sullivan

Launched in 2009 by Tully, Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, IBCLC,*  Professor of the Practice of maternal and child health and CGBI director, and Kathy Alden, MSN, RN, associate professor in the UNC School of Nursing, the program has been directed since 2013 by Catherine Sullivan, MPH, RD, IBCLC.

Fifty-nine students have completed the year-long course of study, which requires more than 300 hours of clinical lactation experience and more than 90 hours of didactic education in breastfeeding and human lactation. Nationally, there is a call to increase opportunities for women of color to join the lactation services field, and the Gillings School program is helping to meet this need. This year’s class of 14, the largest so far, includes about half women of color.

“Ours is a highly competitive and rigorous lactation training program,” Sullivan said. “We are not only focused on clinical competence, we are mentoring our students to think critically, lead public health breastfeeding advocacy efforts and assist families in meeting their breastfeeding goals. Our dedicated and highly skilled didactic and clinical faculty have contributed significantly to the program’s success.”

Labbok said that maternal and child health students at the Gillings School were instrumental in the start-up of the training initiative.

Catherine Sullivan (far left) and Dr. Miriam Labbok (far right) pose with students in the Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative in 2015.

Catherine Sullivan (far left) and Dr. Miriam Labbok (far right) pose with students in the Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative in 2015.

“The original goal of the training program was to offer Master of Public Health students the opportunity to have a clinical skill set relevant to public health and to create future leaders in public health breastfeeding,” Labbok said.

Labbok named several Gillings School alumni whose early contributions were significant, including Brooke Colgan, Rebecca Costello and Hannah Edens, who was elected to membership in UNC’s Order of the Golden Fleece, partly as a result of her work on the training program.

“We are exceptionally proud that the Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative has been named as the first accredited program of its kind, not only in the United States, but globally,” said Carolyn Halpern, PhD, professor and chair of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School. “This important and highly successful training program, which boasts a near-perfect pass rate of its graduates on the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant [IBCLC] exam, sets a high bar for training tomorrow’s public health leaders in the field of breastfeeding.”

CAAHEP is the largest accreditor in the health sciences field. The organization reviews and accredits more than 2,000 educational programs in 28 health sciences occupations.

*The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) establishes worldwide lactation and breastfeeding care standards and certifies individuals who meet those standards.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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