Executive Director

Jessica Lytle has nearly 20 years of association management experience, with specialties in membership development, recruitment, retention and engagement. Additionally, she brings much experience in marketing and conferences. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration and Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her free time, she loves traveling or hiking the North Carolina mountains with her husband and two sons.


Membership Coordinator

Naja Alvarado has been committed to learning throughout her lifetime. She started traveling internationally at a young age and after earning her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wesleyan University, she spent almost a decade living and working in an assortment of countries. During her time abroad, she served others in a variety of leadership roles in a diverse group of industries, leading to her eclectic certifications as a Massage Therapist, an Emergency Medical Technician, a Master Scuba Diver Trainer, and a Teacher for English as a Second Language. After cultivating her unique perspective abroad, she is excited to serve ILCA.

Joan E. Dodgson, PhD, RN, FAAN, Editor in Chief, Journal of Human Lactation, International Lactation Consultant Association


Editor in Chief, Journal of Human Lactation

Joan E. Dodgson is the incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Human Lactation. She is also the Patricia and James R. Hemak Endowed Professor in Materal Child Health Nursing Research at the School of Nursing, St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA. A practicing International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® for 15 years, Joan has an extensive background in research with a focus in building knowledge about breastfeeding disparities among diverse minority populations in the US and Asia. She has served on the faculties of the University of Hong Kong, China; School of Nursing, Duke University, USA; School of Nursing, University of Hawaii, USA; and Arizona State University, USA, in addition to her role as Director of the Center of the Advancement of Health Disparities Research, University of Hawaii, USA.



Education & Membership Manager

Debra Doepp was born and raised in southern Maine and moved with her family to the Triangle area in 2010. She joined ILCA in 2016 after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in the Leadership in the Public Sector Program at North Carolina State University. Prior to working at ILCA, Debra held various positions in the public and private sectors while juggling her studies and the activities of her three children. She has a passion for public service and making a difference in the lives of others. In her spare time, Debra enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, and appreciates a good cup of coffee. 


Lead Nurse Planner

Sonja Emerson
is a nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. For the past 14 years, she has been committed to promoting public health and providing breastfeeding support. She has experience working in diverse community and hospital settings including the Indian Health Service, public health departments, and hospitals. She was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing where she taught nursing students and coordinated the award-winning Birth Companions Program. Sonja received masters degrees in public health and public health nursing at Johns Hopkins University in 2008, a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2004, and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000. In addition to working for ILCA, Sonja is currently a public health nurse for the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Department in Asheville, NC.


Advocacy Advisor

Michele Griswold has years of experience in grassroots coalition building and advocating for policies that protect the rights of breastfeeding women and children at the state, national and international levels. Her experience in social activism informs her research surrounding unjust social barriers to breastfeeding. Her clinical expertise is centered on the integration of routine preventive lactation care in the pediatric primary care setting. She is the recipient of numerous awards for public service and leadership and recently completed her term as the ILCA President. Michele has an appointment as Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Graduate School of Nursing. 


Operations Manager

Courtney Joyce joined ILCA in 2015 with 10 years of experience in event planning and management. Courtney was raised in a small town in North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from North Carolina State University in Religious Studies, with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic. Before working with ILCA, Courtney worked with the Helps Education Fund to promote literacy among elementary school children. Courtney enjoys playing outside with her husband and daughter whenever possible, and frequenting the museums in downtown Raleigh.




Communications Strategy Manager

Jeanette McCulloch has been combining communications work and women’s health advocacy for more than 20 years. She is a co-founder of BirthSwell, which is improving infant and maternal health - and the way we talk about birth and breastfeeding - through strategic communications and social media. In addition to her work at ILCA, she is a board member of Citizens for Midwifery, and is active in local, statewide, and national birth and breastfeeding advocacy projects.



Conference Program Coordinator 2020

Jacquana Smith
is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant committed to providing families with quality and comprehensive care. Jacquana’s focus on families grew while earning her Bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Cincinnati and has grown while obtaining her Masters in Public Health. Her passions are deeply rooted in research, education, and planning. Jacquana has served in La Leche League as a Leader and on the USA council and numerous committees and is currently the Director of LLL USA Breastfeeding Helpline. She is passionate about lactation and the need for equality and dismantling systemic issues that prevent babies from the access of human-milk. She has a passion for fighting for inclusion and dedication to infant feeding and birth justice. Jacquana and her husband enjoy exploring museums, homeschooling, and trying new foods with their 4 children.


Conference Manager

Kara Stachowiak has been working in various aspects of event management throughout her career. A native of central Illinois, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois while working in Sports Information for the University’s athletic department. She also served in an Athletic Public Relations role at Baylor University before returning to the University of Illinois to earn a Master’s Degree in Sport Management. She went on to plan events at the Kid's Golf Foundation of Illinois before spending eight years managing events around the world for the International Society of Arboriculture. Kara enjoys travelling and spending time with friends and family.