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A young participant at a community engagement session

Pharmacy graduate student to study medications in breast milk

May 4, 2020 — 

College of Pharmacy graduate student Uma Yakandawala wants to dig deeper into patient values and preferences when it comes to medications and breast milk.

Uma Yakandawala

Last fall, Yakandawala joined the College of Pharmacy master’s program to begin her research studying medications in breast milk and has recently received the 2020 Canada Graduate Scholarships – Masters (CGS M) award which will support her in her studies. The value of the award is $17,500 for 12 months.

“Through communicating with people at community engagement events, I’ve found that there’s a limited amount of knowledge that they have on making a decision whether or not to take a medication and how much medication to take,” says Yakandawala.

She will be working at the Manitoba Interdisciplinary Lactation Centre (MILC), led by Dr. Meghan Azad, Dr. Nathan Nickel, and Dr. Lauren Kelly. All three are assistant professors in the departments of pediatrics and child health and community health sciences and research scientists at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. Nickel is an associate director at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.

She will be supervised by Kelly and Dr. Christine Leong, assistant professor, College of Pharmacy.

MILC is a research centre building a novel biorepository to study breast milk linked to administrative data.

“Manitoba has a unique opportunity to lead medication in breast milk research in Canada with the development of MILC,” says Yakandawala.

There are two components to Yakandawala’s project. The first part will be a systematic review to understand the collection methods and analytical techniques used to study medications in breast milk. This will help to inform the development of analytical techniques in order to quantify levels of medications excreted in breast milk.

The second part is a scoping review and a questionnaire. This will help researchers to understand the preference factors of mothers that contribute to their decisions to take medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Yakandawala started down this research path last summer while doing an undergraduate research award project with Leong. She decided to continue studying the topic.

“I’m especially interested in the knowledge translation piece, how we’re able to translate the research we do in the lab to the community,” she says.

The community engagement aspect is something Yakandawala enjoys most about the project, which allows her to go out and speak with people about the subject face-to-face.

“We hold a lot of community engagement events to understand what people know about medication in breast milk and how they want to be involved in the research. There’s a holistic approach to our research which I really love,” she says.

Yakandawala hopes her study will one day help people who are pregnant and breastfeeding make more informed decisions about medications.

“There’s isn’t a lot of existing research in the literature,” she says. “It’s important to ensure that future research will study patient outcomes and what’s important to mothers and pregnant people when it comes to medications and breast milk. This study will hopefully lead to the development of a decision aid that may be used in clinical practice.”

Yakandawala says she was excited to find out the news that she received the Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s (CGS M) award, which aims to help develop research skills and assist in the training of highly qualified personnel by supporting students who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in early graduate studies.

“I was honoured and appreciative to be one of the students at UM that got chosen to receive this scholarship,” she says.

The CGS M program provides financial support for to up to 3,000 graduate students annually in all disciplines. It is administered jointly by Canada’s three federal agencies: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. More info:

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