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Virginia (Ginna) Wall, RN, IBCLC, MN, was hired in 1981 at UW Medical Center — Montlake as the assistant nurse manager for the newborn nursery, and later became the first lactation program coordinator for one of the first formal lactation programs in the nation. Now, 40 years later, Wall is retiring after revolutionizing the program and expanding education resources and services so that every person who chest or breastfeeds at our hospitals can receive specialized care.

Growing the program

In 1985, Nancy Lyons, MN, recognized the need for more and better lactation services and wrote a proposal to UW Medical Center to start a lactation program. Wall was appointed in 1986 to help launch the pilot program, which included a breastfeeding hotline, classes for parents and staff education.

The breastfeeding hotline started out receiving around 20 calls per month and, by the mid-90s, was receiving over 280 calls per month. Under Wall’s efforts, the program grew exponentially during its first decade.

Wall helped the University of Washington sponsor several breastfeeding conferences with nationally renowned presenters. She also created workshops for continuing lactation training for staff.

A career of firsts

Wall was integral in helping UW Medical Center earn the first “Baby Friendly” hospital status in Seattle, awarded by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund in 2009. Recertification was granted in 2019.

She started the first Seattle-area monthly lactation journal club and helped make UW Medical Center the first NICU in the Seattle area to use donor breast milk as the standard for at-risk infants.

Creating accessible resources

With her ultimate focus on supporting diverse and often high-risk breastfeeding parents, Wall dedicated her career to making sure that people who are feeding their babies receive evidence-based care, resources and support. By increasing inpatient and outpatient access to a lactation specialist, ensuring that staff nurses are prepared to provide high-level breastfeeding care, and creating and implementing continuing education resources for staff, Wall has significantly contributed to compassionate and specialized care for all.

Recognizing her efforts

Wall is the recipient of many awards for her contributions to nursing and lactation programs, including the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year award in 2005, a Golden Eddy award for an education booklet in 2017 and more for teaching and patient care.

Her decades-long passion for teaching and learning combined with her drive for improving patient care has helped grow the lactation program at UW Medical Center from a proposal to a regional referral center and model for excellence in healthcare.

Photo caption: Ginna Wall receiving a DAISY award in 2019 (photo taken before COVID-19 mask mandates).