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Thank You, Cathy Carothers!

As the 2012 ILCA Conference has come to a close, one of the things that was expressed time and time again was the gratitude towards our leadership for bringing the advocacy fo breastfeeding and especially the IBCLC profession into this exciting era of breastfeeding promotion. Cathy Carothers has served as our president during this time and, as she passes the gavel to Liz Brooks, we want to take a moment to express our thanks to Cathy for her term as President of ILCA.

We caught up with Cathy during the conference and here’s what she had to say about her service:

1. How did you first get involved with ILCA in a volunteer capacity? What jobs have you held before becoming president?

That’s an interesting story!  My professional background is in the field of marketing/public relations, and I got excited about the lactation “profession” when a WIC nutritionist asked me to consider becoming a peer counselor when I was pregnant with my 5th child.  I had loved breastfeeding and believed in it passionately, and once I became a peer counselor helping mothers and babies, I was convinced, in my naiveté, that I wanted to someday save the world for breastfeeding families.  I set my sights on becoming an IBCLC and immediately joined ILCA back in the early 1990’s.  But it wasn’t until someone on the ILCA Board asked me to consider running for a board position (the new position of Director of Marketing in 2003) that I realized I had gifts that could contribute to my professional association, as well.  And what an incredible ride it has been!  If only I had known how rewarding service to ILCA could be, I would have gotten involved much sooner!

2. What has been your most fulfilling accomplishment as president? Your most challenging?

Without question, my most fulfilling accomplishment as President of ILCA was watching ILCA’s  most comprehensive and bold strategic plan ever unfold (Editor’s Note: Look for an upcoming blog post about this exciting plan!).  But it wasn’t MY accomplishment at all…it was based on the constructive suggestions of over a thousand ILCA members and global stakeholders who took the time to tell us what matters most to them, and a group of smart, passionate board members who weren’t afraid to say YES to our most important calling: to promote the IBCLC credential.  The challenges over the years have been so minimal they’re hardly worth mentioning…keeping monthly calls to an hour when everyone is so excited about the incredible momentum building, keeping time zones straight when working with an international board, and remembering to bring chocolate for meetings.

Cathy and her husband, Davis.

When I look into my ILCA crystal ball, I see an incredible vision of IBCLCs in every hospital and birthing facility, valued and respected for the expertise they provide.  I see universities with quality lactation programs integrated into their curricula, and global policy makers relying on IBCLCs in  international forums.  I see IBCLCs who are connected and confident as skilled professionals, and mentoring the next generation of IBCLCs.  I see an explosion of lactation research that not only forms our foundation of evidence-based practice, but is accessible and USED by all health professionals and policy makers.  I see professional education available in languages that people speak and accessible to the far corners of the world.  And I see that EVERY ILCA member is a part of that vision.  Can I just say it?  ILCA truly IS YOU!

Cathy, we thank you and appreciate the leadership you have provided!

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Get to Know Liz Brooks, Incoming ILCA President

Saturday’s ILCA General Meeting at the 2012 Conference welcomed Liz Brooks to her term as the ILCA President.  We caught up with Liz to get a glimpse into her history with ILCA and what motivates her to serve in this capacity.

How did you first get involved with ILCA in a volunteer capacity?  What jobs have you held before becoming president? 

I was asked.  As simple as that.

I was studying to sit the IBLCE exam in 1997 after many years as a mother-to-mother counselor with Nursing Mothers Advisory Council (NMAC). At Kay Hoover’s suggestion, I joined both ILCA, and my local affiliate Pennsylvania Resource Organization for Lactation Consultants (PRO-LC), to start networking and to acquire some of the needed hours of pre-test education.

In my early years as an IBCLC, I devoted volunteer time in leadership positions to PRO-LC (I was the newsletter editor for years, and later the board secretary).  It was a wonderful way to get to know my colleagues, get up to speed on lactation issues, and to mix-and-mingle with the greats (Kay Hoover!  Chris Mulford!  Debi Page Ferrarello!).

I presented/taught on breastfeeding, legal and ethical matters starting in 1998 … but I knew I had “hit the bigs” when my proposal to present at ILCA  2002 in Boca Raton, Florida (on conflict of interest) was accepted.  I used an overhead projector to show my “slides,” and I still have folks tell me they remember how I piled a bunch of hats on my head to open the session.

When the ILCA Board was searching for qualified candidates for the position of Secretary, I was called by the Nominations Committee Chair/Past President Maureen Fjeld to ask if I was interested in running.  Heck yeah! Secretary?  Taking minutes and tending the policy manual?  For a governance wonk like me?  I’m in!  The rest, as they say, is history.  I ran unopposed for the post, was elected in 2005, and concluded my second term (and sixth year on the ILCA Board) in July 2011.

2.  What is your highest priority for your term as president?

Marketing the credential of IBCLC.  Get to the point where any mother or healthcare institution or government official knows what that credential means, and understands it’s worth.  Individual IBCLCs, their professional association (ILCA), and the certifying organization (IBLCE), *all* have separate and distinct — but highly compatible — motives for assuring that the public knows what those five special letters “I-B-C-L-C” entail.

There is a part for everyone to play in educating mothers, healthcare professionals, public health/education officials, employers, community organizations, and policy makers about the role and impact of the IBCLC.

ILCA certainly must be a leader in the effort at the macro level: we are an international, member-based organization with 6000+ members in 85 countries around the world! ILCA can also help by developing educational and professional development tools that our individual members can use in their own work settings — at the micro level.  The truth of the matter is that there are more IBCLCs than there are ILCA members.  While ILCA exists to serve its members’ needs, an enhanced appreciation for the IBCLC profession, as a whole, is the next critical phase in its development.

3.  Why should IBCLCs get involved in ILCA?

It is the fast track for individual professional growth and development!  ILCA depends on volunteers to run *all* of the policy-related aspects of our organization, from the Board through to the Committee and Task Force structure.  Our staff  and contracted positions are paid, of course.   But members who “pull an oar” for ILCA reap personal professional development, “in the loop” access to the newest policies and research, and the satisfaction of helping shape the future of their chosen profession. Sounds like a win-win to me!

And, for just a wee bit of fun…
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG93-kOfHBY]

Liz, we look forward to your time of service to ILCA!

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