Jun 15, 2020

Our CHEER Champion of the Week is Diane L. Spatz, PHD, RN-BC, FAAN, Professor of Perinatal Nursing and Helen M. Shearer professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She is also a nurse scientist in lactation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Founder of the CHOP Mothers’ Milk Bank. She was nominated for her lifelong work as a breastfeeding champion and advocate and her spectacular presentation on the CHAMPS COVID-19 webinar: “The COVID-19 Pandemic: What You Can Do to Protect Human Milk and Breastfeeding.”

Dr. Spatz is an internationally recognized researcher, clinician, and educator who is known for her work on the use of human milk and breastfeeding in vulnerable populations. She has over 25 years of experience working in the breastfeeding field, and has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications and numerous book chapters related to human milk and breastfeeding. In 2004, Dr. Spatz developed her 10 step model for human milk and breastfeeding in vulnerable infants, a model that has since been implemented in NICUs throughout the U.S. and other countries such as Thailand, India, China, Mexico, Japan and most recently Botswana. Her nurse driven models of care are critical in improving human milk & breastfeeding outcomes and thus the health of women and children globally.

As a first-generation college student, Dr. Spatz had mentors at Penn Nursing who saw her potential. After she earned her PhD, she joined Penn Nursing’s faculty, where she mentors students and involves them in all of her research projects. Though she first discovered her passion for pregnant women and babies in college, her first exposure to breastfeeding was her first job as a staff nurse upon graduating from Penn Nursing with her BSN.  While working as a staff nurse at a very busy birth hospital, she was also in school for her MSN in Perinatal Nursing. Through her MSN program, one of her mentors asked her to work on a study about factors affecting milk volume in mothers who had low birth weight infants.  During this research study, mothers expressed their frustrations and heart break about trying to express milk for their sick children and not feeling supported by hospital staff and health care providers. This experience has shaped Dr. Spatz’s entire career to create environments where mothers/families can reach their personal breastfeeding goals. “I always wanted to utilize the evidence, to make sure that every family has equal access to evidence-based lactation support and care, and to make sure the healthcare professionals have the information to make it happen,” she shares. “It is about families but it starts with us as healthcare professionals.”

Despite having to pause some of her domestic and international research projects due to COVID-19, Dr. Spatz continues to provide virtual lactation education, assessment and support to families with infants with complex congenital anomalies through her clinical role. She also continues to teach 4 and 8 hour courses for health care providers and has done over 20 national and international webinars since the pandemic started. She expressed that she is even more worried about all families having equal access to the evidence and being able to make informed feeding decisions now than ever.

“Although all the teaching is now virtual, the education is just as important as ever. I encourage health professionals to focus on the science of human milk and the physiology of lactation, to prioritize the evidence on the short and long term importance of human milk and breastfeeding for mothers, babies, and the society at large.”- Dr. Diane Spatz

Dr. Spatz is the recipient of numerous awards including: the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Research Utilization Award from Sigma Theta Tau International and the Dean’s Award for Exemplary Professional Practice from the University of Pennsylvania, and Nurse of the Year from the Philadelphia Inquirer Influencers of Health Care Awards. Furthermore, she was recently elected to Executive Committee of the International Society for Research in Human Milk & Lactation (ISRHML). When she is not busy saving the world, Dr. Spatz loves to travel. She enjoys the ocean more than anything in the world because she finds it very healing for the soul.

Congratulations Dr. Spatz! Thank you for your immense contributions to the health of families and education of health professionals.

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