From my first day in the Honors College at George Mason, I have been told that research is a critical part of the undergraduate experience. Hours of research classes freshman and sophomore years made me passionate about my major (Global and Community Health, Nutrition concentration) from a research perspective. I joined Dr. Sina Gallo and Dr. Janine Rethy’s research team basically in the middle of the study they were conducting. This study surveyed Loudoun County physicians on their attitudes and practices regarding breastfeeding and infant vitamin D supplementation. We wanted to know if physicians were recommending breastfeeding and infant vitamin D supplementation to new mothers and counseling them appropriately, as is advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM). When I started with URSP in June, Drs. Rethy and Gallo had collected all the results from the survey and fellow URSP grantee Julia Pfeiffer had converted the data into reader-friendly tables and charts.
My first task was to perform statistical analysis to find correlation, if any, between physician demographics and AAP and ABM protocol knowledge based on survey questions and answers. My second task was to write a paper discussing previous studies on our topic (a review of the literature), what our survey results said, and how we can take these results to inform public health interventions in Northern Virginia. We also want to make the survey available online for use in clinics across America. Producing this paper has been a learning experience in writing to “publishable” standards (we plan on submitting the final product to Breastfeeding Medicine) and working with a team of professionals. My last task is to create a research poster about our study, not only for the final URSP presentation but also for presentation at the AAP National Conference in Washington, D.C. in October 2015.
I also attended a Loudoun Breastfeeding Coalition meeting in Dr. Gallo’s place and learned about all the new breastfeeding initiatives being put into motion by passionate physicians, lactation consultants, and local mothers. Even though I have never been a mother or breastfed, I have become interested in the topic because of this research. I intend to follow the progress of breastfeeding advocates, and become one myself if I am a mother in the (very distant J) future. Although I have not decided what my focus will be once I (hopefully) become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I would like to continue to study mothers and/or children, possibly looking at the link between breastfeeding, food insecurity, and child obesity.
I am very grateful for the experiences OSCAR and URSP have offered me. I advise any future freshmen to dive into research at every opportunity and find what you are passionate about by doing.