Riordan's work honored with distinguished professorship

12:03:08 PM CDT - Thursday, July 19, 2007

On her own Web site, WSU School of Nursing professor Jan Riordan describes herself first as a mother of six children and grandmother of 12 before mentioning her academic credentials and world recognition as a leading expert in breastfeeding and lactation.

The large family prompted a personal interest that Riordan took into her professional research path, one that led to a recent $1.6 million donation to the WSU Foundation from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The gift establishes and funds the Janice M. Riordan Distinguished Professorship in Maternal Child Health in the College of Health Professions.

The professorship, with its emphasis on breastfeeding and human lactation, is believed to be the first of its kind in a school of nursing.

“This distinguished professorship highlights our vision of ‘innovation and excellence in education to promote a healthy society’ by focusing on an area not being heavily researched,” said Peter Cohen, WSU professor and dean, College of Health Professions.

It’s the 14th professorship or chair created in the three years of the “We are Wichita State” campaign. The gift qualifies for the Kansas Board of Regents Faculty of Distinction program, which will supplement the payout of the fund, extending the impact of the contribution.

“We are thrilled to have this substantial gift and want to thank the anonymous donor for making this professorship possible,” said Riordan. “We will be able to advance graduate online education on lactation to health professionals in parts of the world where it is badly needed, especially where infant mortality is high.

“Another program enhancement will be clinical research,” Riordan said. “There is a lot of knowledge on the health benefits, but not how we can help mothers clinically. For example, we need to know more about breastfeeding premature babies.”

Riordan is a noted author, lecturer, researcher and consultant on breastfeeding and lactation management. She teaches in the graduate nursing program, including the three-credit-hour online course on lactation taken by health professionals all over the world.

Her book “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation” is now in its third edition and winner of a 2004 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year award. It is hailed as the premier textbook in the field of lactation and is used by health professionals worldwide.

Riordan has served on the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, the Health Advisory Council of La Leche League International and is the founder of Kansas La Leche League. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Nursing and chaired the research committee for the International Lactation Consultant Association.

With more than 100 presentations and workshops, Riordan has authored six books, more than 30 articles and several book chapters on lactation.

“She is one of my personal heroes in the field of lactation,” said Jane Tuttle, chairman of La Leche League International’s board of directors. “Jan Riordan's place in the history of human lactation is legendary. Her research on the cost of not breastfeeding and her documentation on the effect of epidurals on breastfeeding are seminal works in the field of lactation. As a founding member of the Professional Liaison department at La Leche League International (LLLI), Jan understood early on that LLLI had much to offer health care providers. She guided LLLI to the table, teaching others how to share the art of breastfeeding with the science of lactation. For her dedication to bringing breastfeeding to as many mothers as possible, Jan Riordan will remain a legend in the annals of the fight to preserve and strengthen breastfeeding.”

The funds also can be used for a graduate research assistant and will fully fund the professor’s salary and benefits.

“For more than 25 years, Jan has been a tireless and passionate advocate for maternal child health through her education and research in breastfeeding and lactation,” said Juanita Tate, WSU associate dean of the College of Health Professions and chair of the School of Nursing. “This professorship is precedent setting. I am unaware of any such professorship with this focus in a school of nursing in the United States.”

An international search will be conducted to fill the position by fall 2008.

-- Contributing writers: Shannon Littlejohn and Belinda Venters

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