An Open Letter to my Alma Mater

This is a letter that I sent to Dr. Stanley F. Battle, Interim President of Southern Connecticut State University. 

Dr. Battle,

I graduated from SCSU in 2003 with a degree in Biology and Secondary Education, and then obtained my Masters in Science Education with a concentration in Biology in 2007.  Since then, I have been working towards a second Masters in Environmental Education.  I have taught science at the high school level for the past seven years.  Recently, I have discovered that my education in Biology was incomplete, and I’m writing to voice my concerns and ask you to make adjustments to the curriculum.

When my son was born, I realized that I knew nothing of the biology of breastfeeding, a basic biological function of mammals.  Why was mammary gland structure or milk’s chemical composition not studied in Vertebrate Zoology or Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy? Why did we not look at mammary tissue under the microscope in Histology? Why didn’t we learn about hormones as related to milk production in Animal Physiology? Why were genes and biological pathways for milk production not explored in Genetics? Why did we study breast cancer genes and environmental factors in Human Medical Genetics, but ignore the data that suggests breastfeeding helps to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer?

As a breastfeeding mother, I would have enjoyed knowing more about my body’s own biological function.  As an SCSU alumnus, I feel that my education was incomplete and I should have learned more about this most fundamental of functions for our species’ survival.  As a breastfeeding advocate, I’m disappointed that the classes I took, which were the same classes as the Pre-Med students, did not cover breastfeeding.  If future doctors learn nothing of breastfeeding as related to anatomy, physiology, biochemistry or genetics, it’s no wonder that only 14% of American mothers continue to breastfeed their children exclusively to six months of age, as recommended by the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics.

All students need to learn about the health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies, either in the required Health course or in general Biology.  Students pursuing degrees in Biology, Nursing, or Pre-Med need to learn about breastfeeding from a biological perspective.  Breastfeeding is an evolutionary adaptation that belongs in a Biology curriculum.  Leaving breastfeeding out of the curriculum is a disservice to all SCSU students.

Thank You For Your Time,



Filed under parenting, Sustainable Living

14 responses to “An Open Letter to my Alma Mater

  1. FANTASTIC! I love the way you worded this letter! If you do not mind, may I share this letter with my readers?

    Thank you
    and well done!

    • Thank you! I tried to go from a “science curriculum” perspective rather than a “nursing mommy” perspective, since that’s what I’m trying to get changed. Feel free to share, just please link back here 🙂

  2. Excellent! I love the points you made about medical students being in the same classes!!

    (followed a link here from The Leaky Boob)

  3. After you mentioned this, I went back through all my notes from the same/similar classes and the best discussion I found was a cross section of human breast tissue in my Histology atlas and it was a crummy picture. So then, I went through all my psychology notes and out of the three classes there was nothing on postpartum hormones, familial relationships or the psychological aspects/benefits of nursing. Nothing. I guess they’re getting a letter as well!

  4. I had no idea the % was as low as 14%. Good job on the letter!

  5. You rock, Abbie! Well said, indeed. I hope that he takes your words to heart.

  6. Rob

    What is scsu? South Carolina State University?

  7. As an uninvolved passerby, for now at least, I was almost as fascinated when I encountered an advocate of the “fraternal bed” – about the sleeptime bonding between mother and child, when they sleep (most securely, it turns out) near each other.

    I don’t know how you feel about the new movie, “Grownups” with the four-year-old by still nursing (and the inane weaning for mother and son) – but I understand that nursing to age three to four isn’t uncommon historically, and among some other cultures.

  8. Aunt Sara

    i hope you actually sent the letter to SCSU. You make really good points, and they should take notice.

    Aunt Sara

  9. darwinsdog

    I received my BS in Zoology, with emphasis on cellular & subcellular zoology, and minors in Chemistry & Psychology, in 1981. Lactation wasn’t covered very well in my curriculum, either, but I did quite a bit of supplementary reading on top of my coursework. I read Physiology of Lactation (’71) by Cowie and Science of Providing Milk for Man by Campbell & Marshall (’78), for instance. Also read things like Reproductive Physiology of Mammals and Birds by Nalbandov (’76) and Comparative Morphology of the Mammalian Ovary by Mossman & Duke (’76) & other works of the kind. We did cover passive lactogenic immunity in an immunology class & studied the roles of prolactin & oxytocin in a grad level endocrinology course I took as a senior. I taught biology on various levels for many years, before finally returning to grad school in an Ecology & Evolution program. The info is out there altho one may have to look for it, and specific courses are offered in Animal Science programs in Aggie programs.

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