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Selecting a Lactation Scholarship Winner: A Tough Job

Stacks of paper including lactation scholarship winner

By now, you’ve heard about the Felix Biancuzzo Memorial Scholarship which is offered annually to IBCLC-hopefuls. We’ve offered it every year for the past 10 years. Even if you are already an IBCLC® and didn’t need to apply, you might wonder how this process goes. Trust me, selecting a lactation scholarship winner is an exceedingly difficult job. And, I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process.

It takes a lot of people and a lot of time

At least five members of our team are involved in the scholarship committee. We begin by creating the application to identify a lactation scholarship winner months before we launch. Then, we look at ways to make it clearer, more encompassing, and easier to download and submit than the previous year.

We toss any incomplete applications on arrival. Yes, right off the bat, into the trash they go! We then sort them alphabetically and create a log to keep track of the status of each one. Finally, we carefully read responses.

Everyone’s stories are different

We want to see that applicants are involved in providing breastfeeding support in their communities And, let’s face it: if you live in a place like San Diego, you have breastfeeding mothers next door to you, and breastfeeding groups of one sort or another on every block. It’s easy to get involved and be supportive.

Often, that is not the case for people in rural areas. And, it’s even less likely to be the case in some non-US countries. This year, we had one or more applicants from each of these countries:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada (x2)
  • Egypt
  • Guam
  • Ghana
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Mexico

That’s five different continents. To date, this was the most global representation we’ve had. As we rifled through the applications, we knew it would be harder than ever to select the lactation scholarship winner.

Anyone reading the applications can see the profound need for better lactation support in non-US countries. But that is a little tricky. In locales where breastfeeding rates are low (including places here in the US), it may be difficult to identify or approach breastfeeding mothers, and there may not be a breastfeeding support group for miles around.

One applicant planning to qualify through Pathway 3 said there were no IBCLCs in the entire country. Knowing that an IBCLC mentor is required when pursuing Pathway 3, we wondered: Even with a scholarship, how could a candidate find a mentor to fulfill that requirement?

And, we expect that a college graduate will have outstanding writing skills. It’s hard to name a lactation scholarship winner who shows inaccurate or sloppy communication. How can that person be a role model to others, or be effective in interdisciplinary communication?

However, in cases where applicants come from countries where English is not the first language, we cut them some slack.

Everyone shows promise in different ways

At the end of the day, it feels like the lactation scholarship winner should show promise in making an impact on breastfeeding in the city or local neighborhood. But each applicant demonstrates virtues, values, and vision in a different way.

Most times, it comes down to picking the applicant who is most likely to bring breastfeeding excellence to the clients not only now, but a decade from now.

The decision gets harder every year

At one time or another, you’ve surely seen one of those letters saying, “Dear Person, we regret to inform you … it was such a tough decision … you were great, but you didn’t get picked …” You’ve seen those, right?

But, we award only one scholarship. Therefore, with a heavy heart, we are again sending out many of those letters this year.

I hope, though, that you can understand that it’s a highly-involved, time-intensive process to pick a winner. And, we hope you’ll join us in encouraging next year’s candidates to apply. Meanwhile, we encourage those applicants who didn’t win this year to continue their journey, no matter what.

For many, a dream job is right around the corner; it just may take a little longer to complete the journey without the scholarship.

And the winner is …

Please join us in congratulationing Aimee S. of Blackheath, Australia, who is this year’s Felix Biancuzzo Scholarship winner!

Aimee is currently a breastfeeding counsellor and doula, and has a Doctorate of Philosophy.

Did you apply for the Felix Biancuzzo Memorial Scholarship? Tell us about your experience in applying!

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