Nominations for Position: President Elect

Noura El Habbal (USA)

University of Michigan

Tell us about yourself

I am a registered dietitian and a PhD candidate (2022) interested in maternal and child health. My work has focused on the effects of maternal stress during gestation and maternal obesity during lactation on offspring health and development using mouse models. My clinical work focuses on human breast milk compositional differences by infant sex and examines the association between milk fatty acids and infant adiposity. I am very passionate about continuing to work on lactation and human milk research. As a person dedicated to lactation, I aspire to keep learning and growing in this field. During my free time, I enjoy baking, painting, doing puzzles, and chasing sunsets!

 

How are you qualified for this role?

I have spent my PhD working on early life exposures and how they affect offspring health. I am very passionate about lactation and dedicated to ensuring this field grows and is welcoming of participants internationally. I have attended several meetings at ISRHML and really enjoy chatting with the community and trainees. As someone who is outgoing and enjoys socializing with others in the lactation field, and as someone who is meticulous and has great attention to details and organization, I feel I would be a good candidate to help plan events, develop a strategic plan, and promote the TIG mission.  

 

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

I hope to bridge the gap between all trainees in the lactation field. The field is fairly small, and yet I feel that more efforts can be done to ensure more collegiality between the trainees allowing them to share their expertise and their knowledge and training experiences. I have enjoyed a couple of social events planned by the TIGers and would like to carry out more socializing events that strengthen the community.

Nominations for Position: Secretary

Marion Bendixen (USA)

University of Florida

Tell us about yourself

My name is Marion Bendixen, I am a Post Doc Associate in the College of Nursing at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida USA where I received my PhD in nursing research under the mentorship of Dr. Leslie Parker. My research focus is in clinical/translational research to improve maternal/infant health care outcomes. I am engaged in clinical research exploring interventions and factors that may affect lactation success in mothers of critically ill infants and multidisciplinary basic research exploring the inoculation of pasteurized donor human milk with fresh or frozen mothers’ own milk to restore personalized commensal microbiota. I continue to practice as a nurse/lactation consultant in the hospital as International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). 

 

How are you qualified for this role?

I have been involved in leadership of local organizations including secretary and board member. These experiences of being part of a leadership team and growth of an organization was inspiring and rewarding. I am excited for a volunteer opportunity to engage with other professionals who have a passion for lactation and human milk research through a multi-disciplinary supportive approach.

 

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

My goals as Secretary are to 1) engage with other TIG and ISRHML members to coordinate, record, and disseminate the meeting activities and minutes to foster transparent communication and 2) collaborate to promote education and networking to inspire excellence in research and the field of human milk and lactation.

Kristin Elgersma (USA)

University of Minnesota

Tell us about yourself

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, studying human milk feeding and direct breastfeeding for infants with congenital heart disease (CHD). I have previous masters and doctoral degrees in piano performance and worked in higher education for many years, but was inspired to make a career change after I had a child with CHD. My experience trying (and failing) to directly breastfeed led me to investigate how human milk feeding and direct breastfeeding could be better supported for infants with CHD and their families. Aside from research, I have lived in many places around the United States, from Chicago to Idaho to LA to Honolulu! Somehow, I ended up moving from Hawaii to the frigid winters of Minnesota, where I live with my husband and 4-year-old daughter.  

How are you qualified for this role?

I am extremely organized and work well in collaborative team situations. For example, as a graduate assistant I am a study coordinator for an interdisciplinary, multisite clinical trial. In this role, I successfully manage team and participant communication, create meeting agendas and distribute notes, and organize and oversee documentation of study activities. In my previous career, I successfully developed and founded a university-based community music school, which grew to serve 150 students in only 3 years. I organized and managed every aspect of this venture, and could offer skills in communication, coordination, and administration in the role of TIG Governing Committee Secretary.

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

In this role, I hope to provide organized, efficient, and energetic support to help ensure that the TIG Governing Committee is able to continue providing excellent support for trainees working in research areas related to breastfeeding, human milk, and lactation. I have benefitted from the wonderful lectures and events offered by the TIG, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this essential group.

Chang Gao (Mainland China)

Guangzhou Women and Children's Medical Center

Tell us about yourself

My name is Chang, a postdoctoral researcher of the Born In Guangzhou Cohort study, based at Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical center. I received a Ph.D in Nutritional Science from the University of Adelaide/South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Australia in 2021, my area of focuse was closely related to ISHRML as I had been researching in developing new tools in analysing milk fat components and its application in clinical uses. I am currently working on several projects, mainly related to early infant feeding practices and relevant health outcomes in childhood.

 

How are you qualified for this role?

I have had some experience (and still actively involved) in event planning and management, that equipped me with communication and time management skills required for this position. I am currently a member of the webinar organizing committee for the International Society of Study on Fatty acids and Lipids (ISSFAL), have been coordinating and moderating the webinar series since late 2020. During my time as a Ph.D student, I had also been actively involved in student committee (though as a general member only) for events and workshop organizing.

 

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

I hope to assist the TIG committee to host more events in favor of young researchers or students (new ways/platform to showcase their work) and to bridge them with future work potentials/collaborations, and to promote ISHRML to east asian region, especially in China.

Nominations for Position: Professional Development Coordinator

Sara Shama (Canada)

University of Toronto

Tell us about yourself

My name is Sara Shama and I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto in Canada. Under the supervision of Dr. Deborah O’Connor, my doctoral work focuses on understanding the impact of the mother’s milk microbiota and oligosaccharides on the microbial colonization of preterm infants. Prior to my PhD work, I completed my dietetic training at The Hospital for Sick Children, where I learned to manage the nutritional needs of a diverse and clinically complex pediatric population. I have been a trainee member of ISRHML and TIG since 2018 and have loved connecting with other budding human milk researchers from around the world. Participating in previous TIG webinars has complemented my research training and has motivated me to run for the Trainee Professional Development Coordinator position. I have loved being a part of the ISRHML society and I hope that by joining the TIG committee I can create new opportunities for trainees and early professionals involved in human milk research.

 

How are you qualified for this role?

I have previously facilitated and led training sessions for dietetic students at The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada and have mentored students in our own lab. I also possess strong communication and organizational skills that will allow me to successfully run the trainee webinar series.

 

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

As the Trainee Professional Development Coordinator, I hope to (1) organize several skill development webinars that will enable trainees to enrich their professional profiles and help prepare them for a variety of fulfilling careers, and (2) provide networking opportunities for trainees to connect with one another and with senior ISRHML members using virtual platforms.

Miranda Loutet (Canada)

University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children

Tell us about yourself

I am a PhD student in Epidemiology at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and affiliated with The Hospital for Sick Children’s Centre for Global Child Health. My doctoral research aims to generate new evidence regarding the quantification and classification of breastfeeding patterns to improve methods of ascertainment of breastfeeding practices in large-scale surveys, and studies of factors that influence breastfeeding practices and the effects on infant health outcomes. More specifically, my PhD thesis is nested within a prospective cohort study, Synbiotics for the Early Prevention of Severe Infections in Infants (SEPSiS), which is currently on-going in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I have been involved in international-, national- and community-level research in the fields of maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and infectious diseases over the past 10 years. I am also pursuing a specialization in global health as a Doctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Center for Global Health with the long-term goal of conducting interdisciplinary research with global policy impact.

 

How are you qualified for this role?

I have been working with Sarah Turner, who is currently in the Trainee Mentorship Series Coordinator, to organize and facilitate the ISRHML TIG Webinar Series. Since July 2020 we have organized and facilitated 7 webinars together. When I joined ISRHML as trainee in January 2020 I sought out ways to be involved and was very fortunate for this opportunity to support Sarah in this role. In this role I researched ideas for webinars and speakers, reached out to and liaised with speakers, created communication materials, and facilitated webinars including introducing speakers and moderating Q&A periods and panel discussions. Together, we curated webinars on both hard skills such as creating infographics and soft skills such as ethical considerations in human milk research.  

Since joining ISRHML as a trainee, I have been involved in many ways and have interacted with many different members. I started as a co-chair at a ISRHML sponsored session at the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Conference in 2019, I attended the ISRHML conference virtually in 2020 and 2021, I judged infographics for the ISRHML conference in 2020, and guest edited the ISRHML Milk Minutes in October 2020. These experiences make me qualified for this role as I understand and greatly appreciate the role of ISRHML in human milk and lactation research, have connections with many members, and have first-hand experience of the multidisciplinary role the TIG plays in developing skills for trainees, which I will use to develop a impactful program as the professional development coordinator. 

Outside of ISRHML I have experience sitting on committees and participating in programs that focus on professional development, which allows me to bring a diverse perspective to this role. I have been on the Innovation and Education Committee at the Centre for Global Child Health at SickKids Hospital for over three years during which time I have led the facilitation and review of the Catalyst Grant program where we award a small grant to at least one junior researcher to jump-start their research ideas and program. I am also a member of the Advocacy Committee at the Centre for Global Child Health, for which I am involved in supporting targeted professional development within an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) framework. For both the Innovation and Education Committee and the Advocacy Committee I have organized specialized seminars on such topics as qualitative research skills and gender equity in global health research. 

As a PhD student I have also participated in programs to enhance my own professional development, which provides me with the critical perspective of successes and challenges with various programs and will allow me to grow a diverse and impactful program within this role. In the past year I was a mentee in the Canadian Global Health Mentornet program, where I was partnered with a senior mentor in global health. I sought out this program as a chance to build my network and gain a mentor in my field who could bridge the gap of strictly professional and personal, with a focus on our mutual mental health and well-being during the pandemic. From this program I now have a friend and mentor who has guided me through many professional development conversations. I was also involved in two programs at the University of Toronto where I learned skills to contribute to my own professional development through an artificial intelligence data challenge and implementation science trainee program. By participating in these two programs I experienced how different people learned new skills and picked-up on aspects of these programs that people liked and did not like, which I will consider if selected for this role as Trainee Professional Development Coordinator. 

In addition to my diverse experiences, I also have excellent communication skills that have allowed me to develop and grow international collaborations. I have honed my communication skills through numerous conference presentations to audiences in Hong Kong, South Africa, Brazil, Europe, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, as a Global Health Sim facilitator for junior global health professionals, and as a teaching assistant to undergraduate students at the University of Toronto. These experiences have taught me how to communicate and engage with different audiences from different perspectives and with a variety of professional development goals. Through these experiences and my own global health research across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, I have fostered close working relationships with international collaborators, which is a key attribute that I will bring to the role of Trainee Professional Development Coordinator.

 

What do you hope to accomplish in this role?

In the Trainee Professional Development Coordinator role I will continue to organize webinars that span disciplines from laboratory to statistics to anthropology in order to encourage multidisciplinary collaborations between trainees. It is also my goal to increase international representation of webinar speakers‚ both senior researchers and trainees‚ and instill a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion when choosing speakers and topics for the webinars. As Sarah and I did when organizing the webinars over the past year, I will continue to organize a combination of skill- and content-focussed webinars with the goal of exposing trainees to subject-matter they may not be in their university’s lab. I will be dedicated to ensuring webinars are an opportunity for open-dialogue between ISRHML members and organize webinars that are interactive or have time for discussion at the end. 

As the role has now expanded from mentorship series coordinator to professional development coordinator I will seek other opportunities to engage trainees and build an impactful program that will set trainees up for success. I would propose starting by conducting a survey asking ISRHML trainees what type of professional development experiences they are looking for. I have conducted similar surveys in the context of mental health and well-being at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and in the context of equity, diversity and inclusion at the Centre for Global Child Health, SickKids Hospital. Both of these surveys produced outputs that supported my colleagues professional development. New activities would be informed by the survey, but in general I would like to lead the development of a program that provides opportunities for networking between trainees and with senior members such as starting a mentorship program. I would also like to provide opportunities for trainees to share their work (presentations and papers) in a more informal way than conferences and on a more regular basis through seminars and other communication avenues. One idea that had been previously discussed was starting a ISRHML TIG journal club, which could provide trainees with opportunities to share their own work or experience critiquing and learning from other published work.

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