October Mentorship Series Summary

The Trainee Mentorship Series is a monthly session hosted via UberConference designed to share the wisdom of experienced ISRHML members with trainees. Each session is hosted by an ISRHML trainee and presented by a senior ISRHML member on a topic of his or her expertise, which includes lessons related to research and navigating a career in the field of human milk and lactation. Our October 2016 series was presented on October 7th, entitled “Population health research related to human milk and lactation: What trainees need to know,” coordinated by Dr. Sara Moukarzel, current president of TIG, and presented by Dr. Nathan Nickel.

Dr. Nickel is a research scientist at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. He also teaches a course in principles of epidemiology in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Nickel’s expertise focuses on health service research using administrative data and health equality research in the area of maternal and child health. He is particularly interested in causal inference with respect to the evaluation of maternal and child health interventions.

During his webinar, Dr. Nathan Nickel discussed population health research in the field of human milk and lactation. In this hour-long session, Dr. Nickel introduced trainees, who have diverse research backgrounds, to the types of research questions that can be investigated in the field of epidemiology. Specifically, to illustrate the significance of population-based data in answering questions about determinants of breastfeeding rates and duration, Dr. Nickel used the Pathways to Health and Social Equity for Children (PATHS Equity for Children; PATHS) data resource project as an example. The PATHS data resource includes data on 584,255 individuals born between 1984 and 2012 in Manitoba, Canada. Longitudinal data on health, socioeconomic status, education, and the use of social services were collected.  Interestingly, the database allows researchers to link data within families, which helps researchers statistically control for confounding variables that may affect both breastfeeding rates and duration. (If you are interested in learning more about PATHS, you can do so here. If you would like to use the PATHS database in your own research, contact mchp_access@cpe.umanitoba.ca)

Dr. Nickel also shared the study design and preliminary data of his team’s latest project: the development and feasibility of the Manitoba Infant Feeding Database. This database is designed to collect infant feeding information at multiple time points during an infant’s first year of life. The information can then be linked to data from the PATHS database, which produces a dataset that can be broadly used to answer epidemiological questions with respect to breastfeeding.

Dr. Nickel concluded his session by emphasizing the unique opportunities available at the University of Manitoba for trainees interested in population health training in the field of human milk and lactation research. He encouraged trainees to reach out to learn more about research opportunities with his team. The session was very well received by trainees in attendance, primarily because of Dr. Nickel’s interactive teaching approach and his in-depth understanding of the opportunities and challenges in conducting population-based research.

Thank you, Dr. Nickel, for sharing your wisdom with us! If you are interested in epidemiology as it relates to human milk and lactation and would like to talk to Dr. Nickels, you can email him at Nathan_Nickel@cpe.umanitoba.ca.

If you are interested in Dr. Nickel’s research program, you can learn more about it here.

Thank you, Sara, for coordinating this session of the Trainee Mentorship Series! If you have a topic you’d like to see on the schedule or are interested in coordinating a future Trainee Mentorship Series with your academic adviser or other senior researcher in the field of human milk and lactation, e-mail your suggestions to the TIG Governing Committee at tiggovcommittee@gmail.com.

The next Trainee Mentorship Series will take place on November 7th, when Drs. Lars Bode and Meghan Azad will be discussing the new Trainee Expansion Program, a funding opportunity that provides up to $10,000 for ISRHML trainees to learn new skills and concepts outside of their specific laboratory’s focus. You can find more information about this event here.

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