Addressing neonatal care from the mother's perspective; mood disorders and lactation as fields of research for the 2018 Howell - USD Nursing Scholars

Addressing neonatal care from the mother's perspective; mood disorders and lactation as fields of research for the 2018 Howell - USD Nursing Scholars

The doctor diagnoses and treats an illness.  Yet, the bottom line is that nurses are the ones who actually take care of our loved ones.  This year, the Cheryl Wilson Scholarships were awarded to Ph.D Candidates Ellen Fleishman and Michelle Lee, who are addressing neonatal care in their research.

The Cheryl A. Wilson Scholarship was established 6 years ago to honor her for all her work at the Doris Howell Foundation.  A nurse herself, Cheryl is the Chief Executive Officer of St. Paul’s Senior Homes & Services in San Diego.  Proposals for the scholarships are assessed for their impact on women’s health, research design, scholar qualifications and feasibility of accomplishing study goals.  Each student must have a qualified research mentor to direct and guide them.

Ellen Fleishman, mentored by Cynthia Connely, Ph.D, will be researching mood and anxiety disorders in perinatal women.  In her application, she states that “the purpose of this research study is to examine the relationships between the stigma of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), depressive symptoms, social support, and the decision to seek neonatal care treatment in postpartum women. An  exploratory  aim is to  evaluate  the concordance between mental health risk identified through the admission screening process and risk identified through the study instruments. The literature lacks consistency of findings related to the relationship between PMAD, stigma, and social support. This study will help clarify these relationships and how they impact treatment-seeking in a diverse sample of postpartum women. This study proposes that stigma can be a barrier to women coming forward and seeking treatment for PMAD. Strong social support may help to mitigate the stigma of mental illness and support treatment-seeking.

“In June 2016, I watched the documentary ‘Dark Side of the Full Moon’ at the annual meeting of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). This documentary, which sheds light on the impact of PMAD on women and families, inspired this research. Immediately after returning from the conference, a colleague and I began working on the evidence-based practice project, which sparked interest throughout the hospital. I have presented on this topic at conferences and plan to continue to conduct research in this area”, comments Ph.D Nursing Candidate and 2018 Howell Scholar Fleishman.  She is the Director of Maternal Infant Services and Support Program at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital

Ph.D Nursing Candidate Michelle Lee, mentored by Howell CEI recipient, Dr. Mary Barger, will be conducting her research on the effects of galactagogues on lactation.  A galactagogue is a substance that is proposed to promote lactation in humans and other animals. They may be synthetic, plant-derived, or endogenous, and may be used to treat lactation failure.

In her application, Michelle stresses the benefits of breastfeeding in neonatal care, which include decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. “Research has shown 30-80% of mothers perceive their breast milk production as insufficient, which is the most common reason for early cessation of breastfeeding. Therapeutic usage of galactagogues has long been believed to help mothers increase breast milk production despite a lack of supporting evidence.  Its use may be having a placebo effect.”  This important research project is designed to settle the question of whether galactagogues truly promote breast milk production.

Michelle shared a little on her vision: “As a practicing lactation consultant [at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego], I strive to become a nursing researcher with a focus on promoting and advancing breastfeeding and human breast milk knowledge. From this proposed project, I hope to investigate the effects of galactagogues on breastfeeding self-efficacy and planned breastfeeding duration. In a subsequent follow-up study, I plan to document actual breastfeeding durations during neonatal care. Little has been published about breastfeeding self-efficacy in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse population, let alone a study of its association with galactagogues. Eventually, I hope to investigate the composition of breast milk after galactagogue consumption and the potential epigenetic changes in infants’ guts and immune systems.”


Our care is in great hands!

Dr. Patricia Roth“Dr. Doris Howell has been an ardent supporter for nursing research for many, many years” comments Dr. Patricia Roth, Director of the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Program & Professor as USD. “She has become such a force in the community and across the country, if not internationally, for support of patients with life threatening illness. Her spirit, her values and her philosophy continue with diverse students, particularly in support of women’s health issues.

You will be glad to know that our graduates now serve as nursing scientists and neuroscientists at the Naval Regional Medical Center here and at the Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  They also serve as Directors of Research locally here at the VA, and as Chief Nurse and Chief Executive Officers in our local hospital system.  They have accomplished a great deal in being the directors of schools of nursing throughout the state and throughout the country.  The Howell-Nursing Scholars have made a large impact in the health community and we are really grateful for the Doris Howell Foundation supporting them.”


About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

For over 20 years, The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research has been dedicated to keeping to women we love healthy by making a long-term, positive impact on women’s health.  To date, it is the premier organization advancing women’s health.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community; bringing women’s health research to a full cycle.

Event summary prepared by Carolyn Northrup and revised by Carole Banka, Ph.D., with information provided by the keynote speakers.

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