Rema Ramakrishnan earns SPER Student Prize Paper Award

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USF’s College of Public Health epidemiology doctoral candidate Dr. Rema Ramakrishnan is the recipient of the 2016 Student Prize Paper Award from the Society of Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiologic Research.

Ramakrishnan won the award for her manuscript, “Exploratory Factor Analysis of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (2009-2011)” and said that she is honored that her work was chosen.

The manuscript explores the underlying factors of UNICEF and the World Health Organization’s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which outlines exactly what hospitals should do to act as a Baby Friendly facility that encourages breastfeeding.

There are ten steps to the initiative, from making sure all mothers know how to efficiently breastfeed to making sure that infants only receive breast milk unless there is a medical reason not to, and Ramakrishnan’s study explored seven of these factors.

Her research found that hospitals can do more at the organizational level than at the individual staff level to make sure that more mothers are breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is the most natural thing,” Ramakrishnan said. “We are actually the only animals who feed their infants another animal’s milk.”

Rema Ramakrishnan

Dr. Rema Ramakrishnan. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

While it may seem instinctual, from her clinical pediatrics experience in India, Ramakrishnan knows that sometimes mothers don’t know how to breastfeed.

For example, sometimes the position of the baby can make it so painful for mothers that it’s helpful to have someone show you how to do it properly. And because of the long list of health benefits associated with it, like lowered risk of obesity and improved cognitive function, breastfeeding is crucial for the child’s development.

“More important than the health benefits is the bonding between mother and child that comes from it,” Ramakrishnan added.

The SPER award comes with a $500 prize, and Ramakrishnan also got to present her findings at the annual conference in Miami on June 20-21, expenses paid. She said she was excited she got to present at a top conference in her field, where she had the opportunity to speak with MCH experts.

rema and sper award

Carey Drews-Botsch presented Ramakrishnan with her award at the SPER annual conference. (Photo courtesy of SPER’s Facebook)

With next year as her tentative graduation date, Ramakrishnan’s dissertation deals with air pollution and birth defects, and she plans to continue pursuing research that will benefit communities and maybe even teach later on.

While she’s not exactly sure where this award will take her, the SPER Student Prize Paper Award is a step in the right direction.

“This is the happiest thing to happen in the last few years,” she said. “I am so happy that I am a student of USF Health and that they’ll know that someone from USF won it.”

The research is especially pertinent now, as August is national breastfeeding month, according to the United States Breastfeeding Committee.

For more, visit SPER’s website for information on the Student Prize Paper Award and other distinctions.

Story by AnnaMarie Koehler-Shepley, USF College of Public Health