LiquidGoldConcept, Inc. was founded by NS alumna and Innovation in Action teammates
Profile photo credit: T.J. Ushing and UC Davis
The Nutritional Sciences (NS) Department prides itself in teaching and mentoring students to be unique, out of the box thinkers. No one embodies that better than Anna Sadovnikova, MPH, MA (SPH, CREEES '15). After completing her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley with a dual major in Comparative Literature and Molecular Biology, she was primed to go to medical school. However, after spending her senior year studying abroad in Chile, she began to rethink that decision. What changed her mind? Well, among many things, she was introduced to the field of breastfeeding and how mothers' milk is affected by her nutrition. This was the beginning of a passionate interest in public health nutrition and breastfeeding physiology, policy, and intervention.
She discovered that she had an entrepreneurial side when she joined the 2013-2014 Innovation in Action competition with team members from the School of Public Health and Engineering. They won for their design of a breast pump that combines suction and massage. LiquidGoldConcept was born out of this competition.
LiquidGoldConcept, Inc. was founded by Anna (CEO) and Innovation in Action teammates, Ileisha Sanders (SPH '15, HBHE), Samantha Koehler (SPH ' 15, HBHE, SW '15, MSW), and Jeff Plott, (MechE '17, Phd). Over the last three years, they have employed, contracted with, and mentored over 40 graduate student consultants, undergraduate student interns, and faculty collaborators from 9 universities in the US, Canada, and Ethiopia. While their initial concept was a breast pump, a few months after the company was formed, the team pivoted to focus more on creating breastfeeding education and empowerment products for health providers and mothers. This transition happened during Anna's public health internship in Brazil (summer 2014), where she studied human donor milk banking under Dr. Lisa Hammer (NS Adjunct Faculty). After returning from Brazil, Anna and the team focused on understanding the status quo of breastfeeding education in the United States. They quickly realized that in order to increase the breastfeeding initiation and maintenance rates in the US—currently, 80% of mothers start breastfeeding in the hospital but only 20% make it to the recommended 6 months—they would need to create education technologies not only for parents, but also for health providers.
Many parents and health providers do not know that common breastfeeding problems, like pain, low milk production, plugged ducts, and engorgement, can be resolved or prevented with techniques like massage, hand expression, and correct latch. MomKit is a "one-stop-shop" mobile health app that uses health behavior theory and Pixar-style animation to teach mothers breastfeeding techniques. Through the Breastfeeding Dictionary, a component of the app, mothers are empowered to learn about their biology and physiology through definitions and tutorials. This product is currently between the "idea" and "proof of concept" phase and will be undergoing more research and testing this summer. Interns (two current NS students included) will launch a website to validate the Breastfeeding Dictionary content with mothers; the input from mothers will be used to further develop content for MomKit.
In the US and around the world, physicians and nurses do not receive adequate training in breastfeeding management, thus, they rely on lactation consultants, even though there are fewer than 4/1000 newborns in the US. Simulation is used in over 80% of medical and nursing schools in the United States and is becoming a global teaching tool for health provider and student confidence-building and acquisition of assessment, diagnosis, and management skills. A Lactation Simulation Model---imagine a CPR dummy, but for breastfeeding technique training--was developed by the LiquidGoldConcept team to give medical professionals hands-on practice with management of breastfeeding problems prior to working with patients. The LiquidGoldConcept Lactation Simulation Model is the only simulator that allows for expression of simulated milk by hand and by electric or manual pump, that can be manually switched between engorged and non-engorged states, that has plugged ducts, a cracked/bleeding nipple, and can be worn, for example, by a pregnant mother during a prenatal class, by a standardized patient for a medical student exam, or by the lactation consultant during a post-partum visit. While still undergoing some final tweaks, it is ready for sale.
When Anna isn't busy running LiquidGoldConcept she is a MD/PhD student and IBCLC (lactation consultant) trainee at UC Davis. She has just finished up her first two years of medical school and will transition to her PhD studies in Nutritional Biology in June. She plans to study mammary gland physiology.