Uyen Tran – How Obtaining a Lactation Consultant Certification Changed Her Career Path


Some say that no journey through life is a straight and narrow path. Uyen Tran, UC San Diego Extended Studies alumna of the Lactation and Perinatal Education program, is a prime example of that philosophy.

A dedicated advocate for breastfeeding and maternal and infant health, Tran embarked on a daring journey from a career in finance to earning her Lactation Consultant Certification. She’s now an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a certified infant massage instructor.

Her story of passion, resilience, and a deep commitment to empowering families and communities is a confirmation of the power of education to change lives.

Daring to Discover a New Direction

After more than a decade in finance and accounting, Tran's life took a new direction when she had her two children.

"I have a bachelor's degree in finance and an MBA, Master of Business Administration,” said Tran. "I worked for more than 12 years in finance and accounting. And during those years, I had my two children."

As a new parent, she faced challenges with breastfeeding her infants and realized the need for more support for parents in similar situations.

“I tried to breastfeed…and struggled…," confided Tran. "And during these times, my jobs were a little less than fulfilling for me and so I started searching more deeply what I wanted to do and to be in life."

Her soul searching brought her to an epiphany after she had her second child and was engaged in donating her extra milk. She realized she couldn't give back through milk donation forever—but she could help in other ways.

"I could work in a space that supports parents to do this for their own babies instead,” said Tran, acknowledging that was the moment of discovery and the start of her professional transition.

The spark was lit for her to create a purpose-filled career that would make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

A New Beginning

Tran's journey led her to the UC San Diego Extended Studies Lactation and Perinatal Program, which she found from online research on how to become a lactation consultant.

"This search led me to the school and to the program and got me connected to a program support person, who was really helpful in guiding me through the process of choosing a program pathway and how to meet the requirements," explained Tran.

The comprehensive curriculum and supportive environment at UC San Diego Extended Studies provided her with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue her dream of becoming a lactation consultant.

"The program helped prepare me not only to pass the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant exam but also to become a new lactation consultant," noted Tran. "What I found most valuable about the program was my instructors. They were very experienced, very knowledgeable, and supportive of my learning and becoming a new lactation consultant. And my instructor continued to be a resource for me, even after the program ended."

Making a Difference and Empowering Communities

Today, Tran works full-time as a lactation consultant at the Women Infants & Children (WIC) program at Gardner Health Services, a nutrition-assistance program in Northern California that helps families eat well and stay healthy.

She also runs a private practice called Marigold Lactation, where she offers lactation support and infant massage classes. In addition to her lactation credentials, she's also a La Leche League Leader (LLLL), a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM)--also called Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI)---and an active member of the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) lactation collaborative.

Through her work, she is dedicated to reducing barriers and improving accessibility to support services for all individuals. She gives back to the community in intentional ways.

"I am an AANHPI lactation provider—which stands for Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander—and an active member of the AANHPI Lactation Collaborative, where we work to create systemic change in our communities,” said Tran.

As an AANHPI lactation provider, her goal is to ensure that AANHPI communities are heard, seen, understood, included, and represented in lactation support services. She views her role serving diverse populations from a variety of income levels, ethnicities, and linguistic and cultural backgrounds as a privilege and prioritizes quality of care as her contribution to healthcare equity.

"In my daily interactions with the populations that I support, I'm striving to see and understand everyone's different needs and the barriers that they may be facing," added Tran. “I want to bring not only information, but also emotional support, encouragement, and a light of hope.”

Advice for Prospective Students

Tran credits her educational experience for putting her on the right path and helping bring her mission-driven career dreams to life.

"I would recommend a lactation program to a friend," enthused Tran, "because the knowledge and experience that I gained from the program helped make my career transition possible."

For those who embark on a continuing education path, Tran recommends taking advantage of all available resources, including reading assignments, research papers, and video learning modules.

She emphasizes the importance of building relationships with instructors and peers to enhance the learning experience and recommends making use of both in-person and online clinical environments and networking opportunities.

"Build and maintain relationships with other students and the instructors and the program support people," advised Tran.

Looking Ahead

Completing the UC San Diego Extended Studies Lactation Consultant certification mobilized Tran to continue to learn and grow in her career. She is considering an additional certification at UC San Diego Extended Studies that would enhance her skills and allow her to impact her constituents in other ways.

"I'm looking at Fundraising for Nonprofits as another certificate program that I may be interested in as a way to further my personal goal in supporting my community," she added.

Having experienced the value of certification in navigating a career change, Tran is an exemplar of how reskilling and upskilling can open up new opportunities and make dreams come true.

Conclusion: Purpose Fueled by Education

Uyen Tran's journey is a testament to the transformative power of seeking and following one's passion. Her dedication to empowering communities and supporting families on their breastfeeding journey is an inspiring example of a purpose-filled career fueled by continuing education. As she commits to making a difference through her profession, Tran’s story serves as a reminder of the impact that education can have on so many lives.

Lactation and Perinatal Education

UC San Diego Extended Studies provides a university-based Lactation and Perinatal Education program with courses and certificates to offer clinical training to students interested in working with the mother/baby/breastfeeding dyad. The program offers all levels of clinical lactation education to serve those who are new to the field, working towards IBCLC credential, or who are already IBCLC credentialed and need continuing education credits. LEC, LC and CERP programs and courses provide the education needed to meet every goal.

To learn more, view the Lactation & Perinatal Education page.

Posted: 5/6/2024 8:00:00 AM with 0 comments

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