Sara-Moukarzel

Meet Speakers from Milk | Mood | Moves: Dr. Sara Moukarzel

As part of our countdown to Milk | Mood | Moves conference, we are highlighting a few of our speakers. Next up: Dr. Sara Moukarzel!

After conducting research as bench scientist studying minor fat molecules in human milk, Sara Moukarzel, Ph.D became frustrated with the lack of research findings that were reaching the public and the large amount of health misinformation reaching the public, especially on social media. With her own frustration as the impetuous, she began a new strand of research looking into how scientists can create accurate and effective social media messages so that their findings can reach a larger audience outside of the scientific community. Dr. Moukarzel entered a relatively new and growing field of research that, until recently had few widely available tools and few researchers. While large organizations and commercial enterprises often analyzed user behavior for marketing purposes, few scientists were looking at the spread of scientific health (mis) information.

However, that changed recently as the term “misinformation” entered the public consciousness with the spread of COVID-vaccine misinformation and the increased scrutiny placed on social media companies and their role in propagating misinformation more broadly. With the public awareness about misinformation as well as the creation of widely available analytics tools and the ever-increasing number of users on social media platforms, Dr. Moukarzel’s research has become all the more timely and relevant.

Her primary findings on how to create engaging posts shows that posts that are short, empowering, and simple to understand as well as show diversity and include photos illicit the most engagement. In addition, her work stresses the importance of using trusted sources such as community leaders to share health information. She recommends campaigns partner with already-existing trusted organizations to garner more attention. In many ways, “we are all influencers” for our communities, she said.

However, she does not want to minimize the challenge of educating the public. Information from researchers can be misconstrued or misinterpreted by more public facing media and by individuals. Nuance can be lost.

Learn more about Dr. Moukarzel and her research here and be sure to register for Milk | Mood | Moves, an interdisciplinary conference on September 23-24, 2021 for health professionals, researchers, and advocates to share the latest science and clinical knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, focusing on human milk and lactation, perinatal mood disorders, and physiology and biomechanics of the perinatal period. Dr. Moukarzel will be speaking on how you can be an effective on social media especially in the field of chestfeeding.

Monk

Meet Speakers from Milk | Mood | Moves: Dr. Catherine Monk

As part of our preparation for our upcoming Milk | Mood | Moves conference, we are highlighting a few of our speakers. First up: Dr. Catherine Monk!

Dr. Catherine Monk fell into the psychology field by first studying journalism. She realized that what she loved in the journalism field was hearing people’s stories and it was this first love that led her to become not only a Professor of Medical Psychology in the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Psychiatry at Columbia University but also the founding director of a novel initiative that embeds mental health services into the OB/GYN clinic. Patients of all ages and backgrounds are referred to the integrated and insurance-covered mental health services by their OB/GYN providers and through universal depression screenings. The providing of mental health services is part of an effort to provide “whole person” care by examining the health of the person outside of only the traditionally considered biomedical indicators. While this shift is not new, it is still relatively unique in the OB/GYN field. It is more commonly seen in pediatric clinics, according to Dr. Monk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move to long distance medicine: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health services offered in the OB/GYN clinic have been offered through telemedicine instead of in-person. While there are some cons of this acceleration to care over the internet, according to Dr. Monk, the convenience alone outweighs the cons. Another benefit in addition to convenience for patients, is accessibility of services. She expects more pregnant and postpartum people will receive mental health services after the pandemic. While this may change as state laws are tightening regarding provider licensure after being relaxed during the height of the pandemic, Dr. Monk still thinks more people will still be able to access mental health services with telemedicine. The pandemic has also made a cultural shift towards acceptance of mental health care, said Dr. Monk.

In addition to clinical work, Dr. Monk leads a research lab, Perinatal Pathways, that investigates how influences on the fetus can affect the health of the child throughout development. The lab currently has multiple ongoing projects that have continued throughout the pandemic with the use of videotaping, zoom sessions and other web-based systems with minimal bio data collection. Dr. Monk’s lab is a part of the COVID-19 Mother Baby Outcome (COMBO) initiative, a group of scientists at Columbia that “follows SARS-CoV-2 exposed laboring mothers and their newborns and compare their long- term health outcomes to case-matched dyads without prenatal exposure.” The hypothesis of this study is “that prenatal SARS-CoV-2 exposure affects (1) mother and (2) child brain and behavior, and (3) demonstrate that the socioemotional health of each member of the mother- child dyad is intrinsically related to that of the other.” Monk credits her lab colleagues for their energy and ability to pivot during the pandemic to continue the lab’s ongoing studies and participate in COVID-related investigations.

All of Dr. Monk’s work, both in the clinic and in the lab, indicates that the transition into parenthood is an important biological and psychological one, like adolescence, and that support is crucial to the success of the parents and the child.

To learn more about Dr. Monk’s work, register for Milk | Mood | Moves, an interdisciplinary conference on September 23-24, 2021 for health professionals, researchers, and advocates to share the latest science and clinical knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, focusing on human milk and lactation, perinatal mood disorders, and physiology and biomechanics of the perinatal period.

Milk Magic Educators: Latoya

This is part of a series we are doing to highlight our inspirational Milk Magic Educators. To learn more about the program including about how to sign up, visit Nurturely.org/milkmagic. Next up: Latoya!

After seeing Nurturely’s Milk Magic Program on social media, lactation advocate, Latoya joined our community of human milk educators. She is a doula who is part of two different collectives and serves a diverse group of parents. Learn more about Latoya in this short video!

 

Milk Magic Educators: Tteka

To describe the communities in which I serve, I would say we are resilient and strong birth warriors, because we must battle iatrogenetic medical apartheid and obstetric violence and continue to be dependent on the system that turns a blind eye to our mistreatment especially with regard to medical care. We suffer the highest statistical rates of three of the top five annual preventable killers here in the U.S. (Heart disease, diabetes & cancer) and we suffer the highest statistics for infant mortality and maternal mortality as well. There are so many disparities that interact in the lives of the families I serve such as, initiation of breast/chestfeeding and duration of continued breast/chestfeeding, poverty/financial burdens, food insecurity, job insecurity, stress, psychological trauma as well as other environmental, economic and social disparities that are highly racialized, but also affect other marginalized communities such as LGBTQIA folks, differently-abled families, non-nuclear families and immigrant & refugee families. The communities that I serve are those that are most affected by discrimination and those least likely to receive the equitable support and care they need and deserve.

Milk Magic Educators: Julia

As a doula, student midwife, and mother, I know how hard it is to get access to lactation support when you are not able to pay for classes or consultants. It is also hard for people like me to afford education to provide these services, so the fact that I could join the program and use the curriculum within the non-profit, extending the support these families could get, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity.

Milk Magic Educators: Sterling

When I had my first child I was 21. I was the first one in my family to breastfeed. Through that I saw that there were many women in similar positions. I became the person all of my friends called asking about breastfeeding. I knew that there were things that needed to be addressed. I often tell my clients I aim to provide them with the support and education I wish I had received as a first time mom.

Milk Magic Educators: Trina

I’m a mama on a mission. I want to support and encourage mamas along their journey. I want to share the information I’ve learned in hopes to encourage breastfeeding mamas to keep going. There’s a lack of support and quality resources and I want to step in a fill that gap. What started off as a kind gesture, a post here and there, has grown and matured into a passion. I think that human milk is amazing and I want mamas to be able to make the BEST and most informed decision when it comes to feeding their children.

Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding

According to Kimberly Seals Allers, expert breastfeeding advocate and author of “The Big Letdown”, the disparity is due to bias and racism. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that hospital maternity wards “are less likely to help black women initiate breastfeeding after giving birth or offer lactation support following delivery” (Santhanam, 2019). Hospital staff offer black babies formula more often than white babies (Santhanam, 2019), which can be one of the most important predictors of breastfeeding duration (McKinney et al., 2016).

Human Milk Sharing – Part II

With the help of a financial gift from Hannah and Zachary Johnson, the UC San Diego Health will create the region’s first breastmilk bank (The San Diego Union-Tribune) led by Dr. Lisa M. Stellwagen, MD. The goals of the bank are “to help mothers breastfeed, to improve breastmilk donation and to ensure that all premature or ill babies in Southern California have access to donor milk” (UC San Diego Health).