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Campus News, Newsletter, Press

21 Selected for Dillard University’s Inaugural HEAL Professional Program to Transform Healthcare Advocacy for Breastfeeding Families

April 16, 2024

Media Contacts:
Victoria Alexis
(504) 816-4024

Media Contacts:
Dr. Michelle R. Smith
(504) 816-5000

New Orleans – The Minority Health and Health Equity Research Center (MHHERC) at Dillard University proudly announces the cohort of 21 exceptional individuals chosen to participate in the inaugural Certified Health Equity and Advocacy in Lactation (HEAL) Professional Program. This initiative marks a significant milestone in transforming how healthcare providers engage with and advocate for breastfeeding families, particularly within Black communities.

As the announcement coincides with Black Maternal Health Week, dedicated to amplifying efforts to improve maternal health outcomes for Black mothers, the significance of HEAL resonates deeply. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black mothers in the United States are three times more likely than white mothers to die from pregnancy-related complications. Tragically, a majority of these deaths occur post-hospital discharge, highlighting the critical imperative to expand support after delivery.

Recognizing the vital role of breastfeeding in improving maternal health outcomes, Dr. Michelle R. Smith, ‘98, MHHERC Director and Certified Lactation Counselor, underscores the importance of culturally sensitive interventions with a focus on health equity to address Black perinatal health disparities. Dr. Smith emphasizes, “HEAL was created to educate emerging healthcare professionals who will use their training to support Black women beyond the postpartum period, thereby fostering improved health outcomes.”

The program will be taught by instructors who have decades of experience providing lactation support including: Nikki Hunter Greenaway NP-BC, IBCLC, PMH-C; Charlotte S. Hurst, ’75, PhD, MPH, CLC; Nekisha Killings MPH, IBCLC (Curriculum Developer) and Jada Wright Nichols, MS, OTR/L, IBCLC. 

The program will consist of an intensive three-week course along with clinical training from June 3-23, 2024, hosted at Dillard University. Support for students to attend the program at no cost, was provided by the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation and the Southern University Law Center. In addition, a select number of health professionals already providing lactation support in their respective communities, were awarded scholarships by the School of Population and Health Sciences at Dillard University and the Southern Center for Maternal Health Equity. 

2024 H.E.A.L. Participants

  • Andrea Brewer, Healthcare Professional, Colorado
  • Traviyah Burns, Student, Dillard University
  • Briyonna Carter, Student, Dillard University
  • Kennedy Copeland, Student, Dillard University
  • Corhonda Corley, Healthcare Professional, Louisiana 
  • D’Nyla Dean, Student, Dillard University 
  • Jaiden Foster, Student, Southern University and A&M College
  • Jade George, Healthcare Professional, Louisiana
  • Genesis Grinston, Student, Xavier University of Louisiana 
  • Ashley Jones, Student, Xavier University of Louisiana 
  • Armani Lumar, Student, Southern University and A&M College
  • Katelyn Malveaux, Student, Southern University and A&M College
  • A’niyah McThomas, Student, Dillard University
  • Janelle Middleton, Student, Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Ta’Mia Morrissette, Healthcare Professional, Louisiana
  • Tiara Pullen, Healthcare Professional, Louisiana
  • Akia Richards, Student, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  • Lorraine St. Victor, Student, Dillard University
  • Julie Singleton, Healthcare Professional, Louisiana
  • Jamilla Webb, Healthcare Professional, Louisiana 

As mounting evidence suggests that individuals of color achieve improved health outcomes with providers of similar racial backgrounds, increasing diverse representation among lactation professionals holds paramount significance for Black families. The HEAL program emerges as a beacon of hope by being housed in a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and aims to cultivate diverse cohorts of lactation professionals equipped to address the unique needs of Black mothers and promote maternal health equity. 

About Dillard University

Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on the 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting www.dillard.edu.

About the Dillard University Certified Health Equity and Advocacy in Lactation (HEAL) Professional Program

The purpose of Dillard University’s Certified H.E.A.L. Professional™ Program is to equip health professionals to become competent lactation specialists in Louisiana and the nation. The program fills the gap in breastfeeding support for Black women primarily created by historic and systemic inequities. HEAL is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health (NIMHD) Disparities Endowment Program for Increasing Research and Institutional Resources Capacity. Find out more at www.duheal.org