Healthy Children faculty member wins lifetime achievement award

DonnaSpeaking of Women’s Health® recently awarded Healthy Children faculty member Donna Walls, RN, BSN, CCE, IBCLC,  ANLC, Master Herbalist and Certified Aromatherapist a lifetime achievement award for her promotion, support and dedication to women’s, children’s and family health.

Speaking of Women’s Health® is a national conference designed to educate women to make informed decisions about their health, well-being and personal safety.

Donna’s extensive accomplishments have contributed to progressing environmental friendly hospital practices, breastfeeding and normal birth outcomes.

I had the privilege of meeting Donna at Healthy Children’s 17th Annual International Breastfeeding Conference in Orlando, Fla. where she presented Journey to Green: Protecting Breastfeeding, Babies and the Environment.

Donna is absolutely hilarious and very outgoing. She sporadically sported an elaborate boobie beanie complete with at least five protruding nipples throughout the conference. (I wish I had one.)

Even after working as a nurse for 40 years, 38 of them in maternity care, Donna exudes friendly energy and ambition.

“If I feel it, I want to do it,” Donna says about answering inspiration.

She does not boast her goodwill.

Neither does she recall feeling highly motivated about her achievements. Instead Donna says “it was just the right thing to do.”

In the mid 90s Donna developed and opened the first Alternative Birth Center within a hospital setting in the state of Ohio. The center was the first to offer water birth to women. She also established the only lactation program at the hospital.

In 2008, Donna served as team leader for Southview Hospital’s successful Baby-Friendly Hospital designation of in Dayton, OH.

“I am really lucky to be able to do the things I really believe in,” she says. “I never had to work a job that was in opposition to my heart and soul.”

While Donna has only worked with Healthy Children for a little less than two years, she says she loves the organization.

“Healthy Children Project is the most welcoming, friendly, nurturing organization I’ve ever worked for,” she says.

Donna also serves on the Montgomery County Breast Cancer task force raising awareness for breast cancer prevention through breastfeeding.

She recently pioneered Miami Valley Hospital’s Green Team which successfully provides safer, chemical-free products for mom and baby.

“Anyone who says healthcare is not about cleaning up the environment is not well ,” she laughs.

The Green Team is working on eliminating disposable diapers, formaldehyde-layden mattresses and unsafe, employee hand soaps.

“Finding healthier products for our patients and ourselves is just the right thing to do- bottom line,” Donna explains.

So far, the Green Team’s efforts have saved Miami Valley Hospital over $12,000 annually.

Donna’s undertakings have not come without challenge.

She says one of the biggest problems lactation care workers face is implementing change within hospital policies, practices and attitudes.

“Hospitals are not designed for early breastfeeding,” she explains. “We perpetuate separation and compartmentalization.”

Instead of creating a continuum of care, Donna says hospitals treat pregnancy, birth, women, babies and breastfeeding all as separate areas.

“Colostrum during pregnancy is the first sign that these are not separate processes,” she observes.

Still, Donna is optimistic about future birth and breastfeeding outcomes now that many influential organizations and individuals including The Joint Commission, Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, and The Centers for Disease Control have recognized the need for breastfeeding support.

Congratulations from everyone at the Center for Breastfeeding, Donna. You are an inspiration!

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