DNP student receives $1.1 million grant for breastfeeding education program

Kimarie Bugg, center, and the staff of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere. Bugg is a student in the Doctor of Nursing practice program.

Kimarie Bugg, center, and the staff of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere. Bugg is a student in the Doctor of Nursing practice program.

Six years ago, Troy University graduate nursing student Kimarie Bugg took a moment of professional setback and turned it into an opportunity for even greater success.

As a nurse in Atlanta, Bugg spent more than 20 years doing groundbreaking work supporting breastfeeding education, including starting the first lactation program in the state at Grady Hospital. However in 2011, when the clinic Bugg was working at “right-sized,” she found herself out of work and unsure what the next step would be.

That uncertainty did not last long.

“One of the things my pastor said to me was ‘you were released for increase,’ and I just took it from there,” Bugg said.

She soon founded Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), an organization dedicated to addressing the breastfeeding disparity among people of color nationwide through education programs, advocacy and other efforts. The organization’s pioneering work was recently rewarded with a more than $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

It was a moment Bugg called “a total shock.”

Kimarie Bugg
Kimarie Bugg

“This grant will allow us to do a national African-American blueprint on breastfeeding and find out what are the challenges … and how can foundations, corporations and the government address those concerns and increase breastfeeding initiation and duration,” Bugg said.

Breastfeeding provides a number of health benefits to both mother and child. Yet, there remains a disparity in the number of women of color who choose to breastfeed.

“The challenge and barrier in most places is that physicians don’t event talk to black women about breast feeding,” Bugg said. “The literature says ‘black women don’t breastfeed,’ so there’s a lack of knowledge among healthcare providers.”

ROSE is working to address those challenge through education and outreach not only to healthcare professionals, but by creating a network of “community transformers,” women who can provide peer-to-peer support for new moms in their community.

Bugg’s passion for breastfeeding education stems from her personal experience. As a new mother in Texas in 1978, she said she struggled to get support from her local hospital and “failed miserably” at breastfeeding.

“Because I failed, I don’t want other women to be as miserable as I was,” she said. “It broke my heart.”

Recently, Bugg made the decision to add a terminal degree to her list of credentials, and she chose Troy University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice.

“It’s been wonderful,” Bugg said of the program. “I was scared to death that I would not be able to do it, but everyone has been so wonderful and welcoming.”

Dr. Amy Spurlock, chair of Bugg’s DNP project committee and DNP program coordinator, said Bugg’s studies in the DNP program will support the work funded by the Kellogg grant.

As a component of the grant, Bugg will implement her TROY DNP Synthesis Project this year in which she will evaluate the effect of a social media campaign on the intent to initiate breastfeeding among African American pregnant women, Spurlock said.

“I am so happy for Kimarie,” Spurlock said. “This is a tremendous accomplishment and a testament to the hard work and dedication to her DNP project and her organization, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere.  DNP students are encouraged to develop sustainable, system-level projects that improve health disparities. Kimarie’s DNP project will greatly impact breastfeeding rates among African-American women in the south.”