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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

UTHealth Student Establishes Donor Milk Depot

When class research revealed a severe shortage in donated human breastmilk, UTHealth School of Public Health student Ms. Lisa Wagner, a neonatal nurse, established a collection site at her hospital to boost supply.

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[Photo: Ms. Lisa Wagner]

She launched the Donor Milk Depot at the Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital last May — one of only a handful of breastmilk collection sites in the Houston area, and the first at a Houston Methodist facility. Donated human breastmilk is an essential source of nutrition for premature babies whose mothers are unable to produce enough milk.

Ms. Wagner says an assignment in her Introduction to Management and Policy Sciences class to craft a proposal for a public health project, gave her the perfect opportunity to support breastmilk donation. It was a cause she had long supported. Ms. Wagner breastfed both of her children, now 10 and 6, and saw the preemies she cared for thrive when fed breastmilk.

The nation’s neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have about a six-million ounce shortage of donated human breastmilk, she says.

“Some breastfeeding mothers actually produce an oversupply of milk, and they can easily donate,” Ms. Wagner adds. “I saw increasing the number of collection sites for donated human milk, and providing convenient, local access for approved breastmilk donors to drop off their milk, as the best way to alleviate this shortage.”

The depot collects donated breastmilk and delivers it to the Austin Mother’s Milk Bank, where it is pasteurized, tested for safety and then distributed to the Methodist San Jacinto NICU and NICUs throughout the United States. Surplus is available for parents to purchase.

Ms. Wagner’s sister-in-law, Ms. Tiffany Evans, was one of the depot’s first donors, donating 3,000 ounces of breastmilk after her two-month old daughter T’Lynn died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“Bereaved donors can donate in memory of their infant. It truly helps with the grieving process,” Ms. Wagner says.

Now Wagner is working with Mrs. United States 2015, Katie Garza, the mother of three children (two of them were born premature, and one born at Houston Methodist San Jacinto). Her platform “Pumping for Preemies” emphasizes the need for donated human milk for premature infants. In March, Garza will be the keynote speaker at an event celebrating the second anniversary of the hospital’s Breastfeeding Friends support group.

For her work on the project, Ms. Wagner was nominated by a Methodist coworker for the “Daisy Award,” which honors extraordinary nurses in the nation. The milk depot has collected nearly 15,000 ounces of human donor milk since it was started.

“Lisa gives us a perfect example of how students can transform what is designed in the classroom setting into a functioning program at the hospital/clinical level. These are tangible results, which impact the health of babies and mothers in our community,” says Wagner’s class instructor, Dr. Rigoberto Delgado, an assistant professor of management, policy and community health at UTHealth School of Public Health. Dr. Paige Padgett Wermuth, an assistant professor of management, policy and community health, also teaches the class. Read the full story here.