Our CHEER Champion of the week is Dr. Michelle Owens, MD, MS, Professor, Division Chief and Fellowship Director, Maternal Fetal Medicine, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. In these roles, she provides hospital and clinic care for pregnant women and their babies and is responsible for the education of trainees and physicians. She was nominated not only for being a relentless maternal health and breastfeeding champion, but also for her presentation on the CHAMPS COVID Response Webinar- Changes and Challenges to Newborn Care: COVID and Beyond.
“I love seeing mothers and their families thrive. I love helping people feel valued and experience their best selves, especially in health.” – Dr. Michelle Owens
Dr. Owens became a breastfeeding advocate when she witnessed the natural beauty, social acceptance, community and family bonding around breastfeeding during her foreign medical mission. She has since become a proud exclusive-breastfeeding mom for her three children, donated breast milk to mothers in need, and worked within her hospital to advance BFHI. She also lobbied for appropriate accommodations for breastfeeding mothers in corporate and community areas, encouraged mothers who were afraid or unsure about their ability to breastfeed, and participated in educational projects aimed at increasing awareness for healthcare team members, the general public, and students in the health professions.
In spite of the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Owens and her team have continued to work tirelessly to care for all moms and “protect the sanctity of the maternal-infant dyad”. She expounded on the idea of stigma as an unintended consequence of COVID-19, and how it amplifies the isolation that people feel. “It is as if those who have not tested positive, judge those who have been exposed” she said. “There is so much uncertainty with this virus that people tiptoe around, fearful of those who have tested positive, not knowing what to say or do.” She explained that this affects care because patients often sense the fear and decide not to disclose their diagnosis,- even when it involves their direct treatment and care. Dr. Owens charges everyone, especially those in patient care, to acknowledge the uncertainty, address their fears, and abolish this stigma whenever possible.
When asked about her motivation, Dr. Owens described herself as a champion for justice who is motivated by love; love of people and a strong desire to contribute to something greater than just herself. She enjoys helping women through some of the most exciting and difficult times of their lives and considers her role an honor and a privilege.
In addition to her work in patient care and medical education, Dr. Owens does research in hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and hosts a weekly radio show “Southern Remedy for Women” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting; a talk show focused on women’s health issues.
Congratulations Dr. Michelle Owens, thank you for being such a tireless advocate for maternal child health and breastfeeding!
Our CHEER Champion of the Week is Angela Ferguson-Parker, Certified Lactation Counselor for Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center (SMRMC). Angela has worked on the Labor Delivery and Postpartum (LDRP) unit for 12 years. In her role as CLC, she provides clinical breastfeeding counseling management and support to families who are thinking about breastfeeding, or who need information and support during the course of lactation. She was nominated for being an incredible and unparalleled breastfeeding advocate in her hospital and community.
Angela has been instrumental to the Baby-Friendly Initiative at her hospital. Being the lactation team lead, she provides Baby-Friendly and breastfeeding staff education, daily patient follow up, prenatal and postpartum breastfeeding education, breastfeeding support and assistance before and after discharge, and collects monthly data for her unit and CHAMPS. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she continues to encourage families to support breastfeeding and further inspires mothers to strive for their breastfeeding goals and enjoy the process.
“I am motivated by new families bonding and breastfeeding for the first time, and by the enthusiasm displayed by my nurse manager and Labor and Delivery nurses when they have encouraged a mom to initialize or keep breastfeeding. I am motivated when a mom says “Thank you, we could not have done this without you…”- Angela Ferguson-Parker
m Angela’s journey as a breastfeeding advocate began after the birth of her first born in 1996. Being provided with all the education and essential support prior to delivery and afterwards by hospital staff, WIC, and Le Leche League, ensured her success and ignited her passion for breastfeeding. “When I became a Peer Counselor in Washington County in 1997, under the guidance of 2 amazing trailblazers- Kendall Cox and Cathy Carothers- I began expressing my passion for breastfeeding to others. I am forever inspired by these two amazing individuals and I know “Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work”.
She expressed a great sense of pride in her SMRMC’s Baby-Friendly journey and how they have been maintaining designation. Angela is especially happy about the hospital’s recently announced 2018 MPinc score; SMRMC had a score of 83, a tremendous increase from the total score of 45 in 2015. When they initially started the Baby Friendly journey, the hospital had no affiliated clinics, now SMRMC are affiliated with both OB/Gyn clinics in the area. Angela shared how she works closely with both clinics to assure they have suitable educational material and adequate training, so they can provide their prenatal patients with the necessary information to support them in making well informed choices.
Congratulations Angela, thank you for your leadership and enthusiasm around BFHI and for being such an unrelenting breastfeeding advocate.
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Shannon Richardson, RN CLC, Obstetrics Nurse Manager and BFHI lead at Wayne General Hospital. Shannon manages the obstetrics department and is responsible for the data collection, monthly audits, staff education, policy development, and all things related to the progression of Baby-Friendly. She was nominated for her positivity and leadership in keeping her team on track with Baby-Friendly work, despite the hospital being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shannon is passionate about BFHI because she has seen firsthand the difference that it makes in women’s birthing experiences. As a mother of two daughters, aged 19 and 14, Shannon shares that her hospital experiences were very different from what she witnesses today. She states that she was unable to breastfeed her first daughter due to a lack of skin-to-skin care, breastfeeding education, or support. By the time she delivered her second child, she had finished nursing school and was determined to do so. “As a nurse delivering my second child, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I did not know a lot about it. It was still difficult because I did not have anyone to talk to other than family that had breastfed. I see the experiences that women get now and I wish I would have gotten the same.”
When describing her experience as BFHI lead, Shannon described that she found the charge a bit overwhelming when she first took over in 2019. She naturally had concerns about being able to keep up and to ensure the success of her team. However, she reports that with continued guidance from CHAMPS’ Becky Knapp, she has become more comfortable and at ease about helping to accomplish the goal of BFHI for her hospital.
“I don’t want any mother that deliver with us to ever say they didn’t have the opportunity or resources to effectively breastfeed. I want all of our mothers to accomplish their breastfeeding goals” – Shannon Richardson
Shannon really enjoys seeing the mother and families’ reaction when they see and hold their newborn for the first time. “Even now as manager I want to be present for the deliveries. Not only to help out if needed, but also because seeing the looks on their faces gives me a feeling of accomplishment and makes the difficulties faced in the development of the process worthwhile,” she shared. Though, COVID has necessitated that she focuses on staying updated with the constantly changing recommendations, writing policy, and educating staff on the evolving policies, Shannon still works hard to prioritize her BFHI work.
Outside of work, Shannon stays busy with her two daughters, whom she is very proud of. The older one is starting her sophomore year of college on a volleyball scholarship, while the other will be starting her freshman year at high school as a Varsity volleyball team player.
Congratulations Shannon, thank you for always being so positive in your role even during a pandemic!
Congratulations to CHEER Champion of the Week, Theresa Landau, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC. Theresa is the Senior Associate Director of Morrisania/Gotham Health and WIC Director of the Morrisania WIC Program. She was nominated for her amazing leadership of Morrisania, especially during the recent COVID-19 outbreak in NYC, and her wonderful presentation on the CHAMPS COVID-19 Webinar: Community Support (Re)Structures during COVID-19, From New York and Boston .
Theresa joined the Morrisania WIC program over 41 years ago and she has served as the Director for 39 of those years. She joined the WIC program as the Chief Nutritionist after earning her Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition from Columbia. “I practically grew up in WIC!” Theresa expressed. “The WIC Program has had such a positive impact on families, society and the health and well-being of our nation. It is such an easy program to latch on to.”
During the massive COVID-19 outbreak in New York, Theresa reports having to be extremely adaptable, innovative, and responsible in leading her team through the tragedy. Having received many conflicting directives from various agencies, Theresa made the decision to close all sites besides the one at the health center by the end of March and immediately implemented Tele-WIC. They also improved their virtual WIC presence to ensure accessibility to clients. “One of the blessings that arose from having to be innovative was the creation of our Virtual Baby Cafes in both English and Spanish and our daily Virtual Breastfeeding Chats,” she shares.
“We learned from the NY COVID-19 pandemic that communication is fundamental to success. It is important to listen empathetically, never expect more from your staff than you’re willing to give, and place emphasis on quality improvement while designing systems. I am inspired by my staff and the families we serve every day, I am a better person because of them.”- Theresa Landau
Theresa considers breastfeeding to be an important part of her work. She has spearheaded many fun activities to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding in NYC, including the Annual Breastfeeding Night at Yankee Stadium, which usually involves about 60 actively breastfeeding moms, wearing hot pink “The Bronx Breastfeeds” shirts among the more than 300 breastfeeding professionals, advocates and supporters attending the Yankee game together.
In the early 1980s, Theresa was the co-founder and Chair of the NYC WIC Association and chaired The WIC Association of NYS, Inc for 12 years. Having been involved with the National WIC Association since its inception, she was honored to be elected as NWA Chair.
Baby-Friendly USA holds a special place in her heart. As the current Chair, she is extremely proud not only of the organizational achievements, but of all the hospitals and birthing facilities who have worked indefatigably and collaboratively to earn the distinguished Baby-Friendly designation.
Through her WIC, community, and national advocacy work, she has been named “NY Daily News Hero of the Month”, “Godmother of Babies” and received the National WIC Association Leadership Award and the Sloan Public Service Award, which is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Public Service”.
Theresa loves hiking and being present in nature. She also enjoys the sunrises and sunsets by the ocean in Long Island and spending time with family.
Congratulations Theresa, thank you for being such an amazing champion for breastfeeding and maternal child health!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the support they have provided for CHEER, CHAMPS, or the general public.