Champion Award Winners
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The CDC Childhood Immunization Awards, 2013
The CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award, given jointly by the CDC and the CDC Foundation, honors individuals who are doing an exemplary job or going above and beyond to promote or foster childhood immunizations in their communities.
2013 Award Winners
The 2013 CDC Childhood Immunization Champions were announced during National Infant Immunization Week, April 20-27.
Click a letter and select a state to see that state’s awardee. (Note that some states did not participate this year.)
Albert Z. Holloway, MD
Southside Family Health Center
Dr. Albert Holloway has served the children and families of Alabama for more than 3 decades—both in and out of clinic settings. As an immunization provider, he has worked to maintain vaccination coverage among economically disadvantaged children. During his tenure as president of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Dr. Holloway launched several initiatives to promote childhood immunization that continue to benefit the youngest state residents today.
Dr. Holloway hosted a Vaccine Summit and a Vaccine Immunization Congress for state pediatricians and partners to explore ways to increase childhood immunization rates. He established a Pediatric Council in 2008 to facilitate discussion among insurance providers and payers around coverage of childhood immunizations. This council advocated for increasing Alabama Medicaid’s immunization administration fees by presenting a video that showed just how much work was involved in getting children immunized. Dr. Holloway continues to advocate for protecting children from pertussis by also vaccinating their parents.
The impact of Dr. Holloway’s AAP work still reverberates throughout the state. Many of his initiatives have been sustained at the state level and are providing long-term positive effects for children in Alabama, especially the institutionalization of the Alabama Chapter’s Pediatric Council, which continues to advocate for vaccination coverage for Alabama’s children.
For supporting fellow pediatricians in their efforts to increase vaccination rates, Dr. Holloway is Alabama’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Tania Smallenberg, BSN
Immunization Nurse Coordinator
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Ms. Tania Smallenberg first witnessed the benefits of vaccines in her early work as a rural primary care nurse and has continued to be a strong advocate for childhood immunization access throughout her work. The vast geographic area and great cultural diversity of Alaska can pose difficulties for those working to ensure vaccine coverage of the state’s children, but Ms. Smallenberg has proven that she is up to the challenge.
In a state as large as Alaska, documentation and reporting are critically important for tracking and targeting immunization efforts. Ms. Smallenberg helped facilitate the transition of immunization documentation to a new electronic health record at Alaska Native Medical Center and supports other Native health corporations in electronic immunization documentation. In conjunction with these efforts, she also coordinated access to the state’s electronic immunization information system, VacTrAK, and trained staff across the state on how to use it. Acknowledging the varied perspectives and cultural identities across Alaska, Ms. Smallenberg has built strong relationships with tribal, federal, state, and private sectors, and with both immunization providers and health care policy makers.
Ms. Smallenberg’s efforts to improve electronic documentation have led to more accurate reporting of immunization rates in both urban areas and rural villages and helped to identify areas where targeted efforts are needed to increase immunization. The cross-sector relationships she established have contributed to improved access to vaccination across the entire state.
Ms. Smallenberg’s leadership, collaborative spirit, and passion for prevention make her Alaska’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Andrea Houfek, MD
Medical Director, Pediatrics and Urgent Care
Cigna Medical Group
When Dr. Andrea Houfek was a pediatric resident, she witnessed two things that shaped the direction of her work. The first was a fatal case of pertussis, which left her with a vivid image of this devastating disease. The second was the near-elimination of pediatric diseases caused by Haemophilus influenzae after introduction of the vaccine. These two experiences, along with inspiration from her pediatric mentor, led Dr. Houfek to become a passionate advocate for vaccination.
Dr. Houfek is a champion for immunization both in her work for Cigna and as chair of The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI) Provider Awareness Committee. At Cigna, she ensures that the Arizona clinics use evidence-based practices for immunization delivery. All of the clinics now use the state registry to manage patient records and eliminate missed opportunities for vaccination. These clinics also use CDC’s Comprehensive Clinic Assessment Software Application to measure immunization rates and to look for areas of improvement. Under Dr. Houfek’s leadership, Cigna clinics have maintained 90% coverage rates.
In her work with TAPI, Dr. Houfek has helped build an effective program for educating physicians and support staff. More than 300 clinicians a year attend a statewide training she created on immunization delivery and vaccine education. She has been instrumental in teaching best practices throughout the medical community, and she serves as a trusted resource on vaccine safety.
Dr. Houfek’s leadership and tireless efforts to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases make her Arizona’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Perry Wilbur, MD
Perry L. Wilbur, MD, PA
Mountain Home, AR
A routine review of early childhood vaccination rates for immunization providers in the Arkansas Vaccines For Children Program showed that Dr. Perry Wilbur had dramatically higher rates than any other provider. What was his secret? The answer, it turns out, is that he wasn’t doing anything unusual at all. He was focusing on the basics: his relationship with patients and effective communication.
Dr. Wilbur’s success starts with establishing strong relationships with his patients and their parents. He takes time to discuss vaccines in an open and collegial manner. He invites parents to describe their concerns and listens to them in a nonjudgmental way. He doesn’t pressure parents. Instead, he tells stories. Dr. Wilbur has found that while tables and graphs may convince doctors, illustrating vaccination successes and missed opportunities through personal stories resonates better with many patients. These stories plant a seed that may prompt parents to change their minds—either now or in the future.
Dr. Wilbur’s experience confirms that efforts to engage and bond with patients do pay off. He has earned the trust of the families in his practice, resulting in high completion rates for childhood vaccination series. His colleagues respect him as well, often asking him to represent private practice physicians in estimating the impact of proposed practice changes.
For reminding us of the value of the personal touch, Dr. Wilbur is the Arkansas CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Mayra Barraza, MA
Throughout her career as a medical assistant, Ms. Mayra Barraza has collaborated with other health care professionals to deliver quality care by combining her technical training and sensitivity to patients’ needs. In her current position at Borrego Health, her diligence and professionalism help to ensure that young patients at this practice don’t “fall between the cracks” when it comes to immunization.
Ms. Barraza works with the other health care professionals at Borrego Health to ensure that all patients under 2 years old are immunized according to the recommended schedule. Each month, she uses California Immunization Registry reports to create a recall list of patients who have missed immunizations. She calls the parents or guardian of each patient on the list and makes an appointment for their child’s immunization. If they cannot be reached by phone, she sends a recall postcard to remind them to make an appointment. Ms. Barraza also checks patients’ health care records at every visit to see whether they are up-to-date on immunizations.
Ms. Barraza’s careful tracking of immunization records has helped the Riverside Borrego Health practice obtain very high success rates in scheduling appointments for children who would have otherwise missed recommended vaccinations.
Ms. Barraza’s meticulous efforts to ensure that young children at Borrego Health receive all of their scheduled immunizations make her California’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
James Todd, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Throughout his distinguished career as physician, scholar, and advocate, Dr. James Todd has been dedicated to protecting Colorado children from disease. Passionate about using data to monitor trends and guide improvements, Dr. Todd focuses on creating state policies that increase children’s access to vaccines.
Through his work with the Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program (CCHAP), Dr. Todd supports the “medical home,” a comprehensive primary care approach that coordinates immunization and other preventive care. He helped write two key pieces of state legislation. One requires that children with public health insurance have a medical home; the other mandates regular measurement of children’s health outcomes, including immunizations. Dr. Todd is working on a third piece of legislation that would implement a universal purchase program for vaccines. With an advocate’s spirit, Dr. Todd is willing to speak out publicly for immunization. During a recent pertussis outbreak, he was the local media’s medical authority on the risks of not vaccinating against the disease and the importance of all immunizations.
The policies Dr. Todd has shaped have helped boost the state’s immunization rates. CCHAP now helps more than 600 health care professionals offer a medical home to publicly insured children. Dr. Todd has received much recognition for his work, including the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition’s “Big Shot” award and the University of Colorado’s Jules Amer Chair in Community Pediatrics.
Dr. Todd’s determination to increase immunization access through policy change makes him Colorado’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Joan Christison-Lagay, MAT, MPH
Immunization Public Health Consultant
Community Health Center, Inc.
Educator, innovator, collaborator, advocate—when it comes to promoting childhood immunization, Ms. Joan Christison-Lagay is all these things. Believing every child deserves to live a healthy life, Ms. Christison-Lagay began focusing on immunization after measles outbreaks in the 1980s. Her work over the last 20 years has left an indelible impact on children’s health in Connecticut.
A key achievement in Ms. Christison-Lagay’s career was developing the first immunization registry in New England. Initially designed for the city of Hartford, it later evolved into the Connecticut state registry. Ms. Christison-Lagay engaged the city’s public and private pediatric practices to promote cooperation with reporting, and collaborated with state agencies to mandate reporting via the state registry. She created tools in the city registry that proved to be so effective for collecting accurate childhood immunization records that they are still used today by the state registry.
For Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), Ms. Christison-Lagay currently oversees immunization quality assurance and develops programs to train staff on immunizations and the recommended immunization schedule. Her training programs have been so well received that they are not only required for all new staff at CHC, they have also been adopted by the state health department. In her consulting work for the state, Ms. Christison-Lagay continues to help refine and test registry systems to ensure data are current, accurate, consistent, and available.
Ms. Christison-Lagay’s legacy of innovation for promoting immunization makes her Connecticut’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Michele Logan, RN
Westside Family Healthcare
As a nurse at a nonprofit, community health clinic, Ms. Michele Logan cares for many of Delaware’s uninsured. This experience has made her passionate about finding ways to ensure all children and their families have access to vaccines and vaccine information. In her work for the Immunization Coalition of Delaware (ICD), she puts that passion to use on a broader scale, bringing organizations throughout the state together to promote childhood immunization.
Ms. Logan has led a number of ICD activities aimed at educating families and improving vaccination coverage. As co-chair of ICD, she secured a proclamation from the governor of Delaware for National Infant Immunization Week and publicized the event through the local media. As chair of the Pertussis Committee, she explored new ideas for protecting infants from this disease. She collaborated with community leaders to launch Real Guys Immunize, a campaign to get men vaccinated against pertussis to protect the infants and children around them. She also encouraged local agencies to participate in a vaccine donation program to help uninsured mothers and families get immunized against pertussis.
Ms. Logan’s coalition building has successfully engaged sectors outside of public health. For Real Guys Immunize, several male officials—including the lieutenant governor—were featured in campaign promotional materials. Thanks to her efforts, the Delaware Academy of Medicine recognized the ICD for outstanding work in promoting immunizations in the community.
For rallying the community around immunization to protect the health of its children, Ms. Logan is Delaware’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Nancy Whisenhant, BS
Manager of Infection Control/Immunizations
Florida Health Care Plans
Holly Hill, FL
In 16 years of experience with vaccine and infection control programs, Ms. Nancy Whisenhant has learned firsthand the importance of immunizations. She has developed an extensive knowledge of vaccine management, delivery, surveillance, and assessment. This knowledge has turned into a passion for protecting children from disease through immunization—a passion that has informed Ms. Whisenhant’s work with Florida Health Care Plans since 2004.
Ms. Whisenhant works with approximately 80 physicians who provide immunization services to children enrolled in Florida Health Care Plans. She ensures that the physicians have the vaccines they need and that CDC vaccine recommendations are implemented. She provides physicians with training and reminder recall information, as well as oversees a quarterly review of the immunization history of all children age 14 to 22 months who are enrolled in the HMO. Based on Ms. Whisenhant’s review, physicians are notified of any child who is missing an immunization. Ms. Whisenhant also keeps immunizations on the family radar, mailing information to parents and guardians and first birthday cards to every enrolled child.
Ms. Whisenhant’s attention to detail has helped Florida Health Care Plans improve its quality of care and keep children enrolled in the HMO properly immunized. Through her work, she has also formed relationships with local physicians and become a resource for them.
Ms. Whisenhant’s efforts to collaborate with physicians to ensure children are immunized on schedule make her Florida’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion. Top of Page
Maricel Abad, BSN
Public Health Nurse
Hawaii Public Health Nursing Branch
As a public health nurse, Ms. Maricel Abad is an enthusiastic proponent for childhood immunization. However, her work goes far beyond her regular professional responsibilities. Whether influencing policy, building partnerships, or refining immunization tracking and reporting, Ms. Abad is a strong advocate among her peers and within the larger community.
Acting as a private citizen, Ms. Abad submitted written testimony to Hawaii’s legislature in support of immunization-related bills, drawing on her public health nursing background to provide real-world evidence in favor of immunization. She is active in the Hawaii Immunization Coalition (HIC), a nonprofit agency that supports immunization education and partnerships. She staffs the HIC booth at scientific meetings and serves as a member of planning committees, including the committee that planned the HIC’s September 2012 conference. Ms. Abad also made important contributions to development of the Hawaii Immunization Registry, serving as one of its original pilot testers, performing extensive reviews of the system, and providing valuable feedback. Today, she is an active user of the system, serves on the Registry Administrative Rules Working Group, and encourages her fellow public health nurses and other health care professionals to use the registry to ease their immunization workload.
Ms. Abad’s enthusiasm for her work and thought-provoking insights enrich the variety of immunization-related activities in which she is involved. Her contributions and input are assets to Hawaii’s immunization community.
For having the drive to make advocating for childhood immunization more than a job, Ms. Abad is Hawaii’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Debra Bailey, MD, FAAP
Debra R. Bailey, MD, FAAP, PSC
When Dr. Debra Bailey was a medical student, Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococcal vaccines were not yet available. Images of children dying from these now-vaccine-preventable diseases have stayed with her throughout her career. These experiences led Dr. Bailey to focus on tracking her patients’ vaccine histories to ensure parents have the appropriate vaccine information and resources.
Dr. Bailey reviews her patients’ immunization histories at every visit and has implemented systems in her practice to track vaccine administration. She also makes educating parents about vaccines a priority, paying special attention to those with immunization questions or concerns. In addition to verbal counseling, she uses written and multimedia tools to help parents make informed decisions. Dr. Bailey also stresses to families that anyone in contact with their infant should receive the Tdap vaccine, including new mothers. Dr. Bailey also participates in CDC’s Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines to children at no cost if their parent or guardian cannot afford to pay.
Dr. Bailey is also helping to make immunization a priority for the next generation of health care professionals. She accepts both osteopathic medicine students and those from a family nurse practitioner program for rotations in her office so she has the opportunity to mentor them on childhood immunization.
Dr. Bailey’s diligent care and strong emphasis on vaccine education makes her Kentucky’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Former Louisiana Statewide Coordinator
Louisiana Shots for Tots Coalition
In her 15 years as the state coordinator of the Louisiana Shots for Tots Coalition, Ms. Gina Deris worked tirelessly to bridge gaps and connect families with public health immunization programs. Her contributions have been instrumental in helping the state increase its childhood immunization rates and have laid the groundwork for the coalition’s future growth and development.
One example of the impact that Ms. Deris’s work has had on health care professionals is the statewide conference she coordinated each year to provide updated immunization education to health care professionals working in both public and private health care settings. She also developed several critical partnerships, including relationships with representatives from pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and community-based organizations. Last year, she hosted the 2012 National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions, which convened representatives from immunization organizations from around the country.
Ms. Deris also established a number of programs that are designed to reach parents and children directly with information and services related to immunization. One of these is a program she established for Louisiana’s birthing hospitals to provide information packets to all parents of newborns, including the recommended immunization schedule and information about the importance of childhood vaccines. She also established a partnership with the Rotary Clubs to obtain three immunization vans to canvas portions of the state and immunize children.
Ms. Deris’s contributions through Shots for Tots helped raise the state immunization rate of children under the age of 2. She helped lay the foundation for the continued growth of the Coalition and united members to work toward increasing coverage rates even higher.
For bringing people together to promote childhood immunization and leaving a lasting imprint on the community, Ms. Deris is Louisiana’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Oyebukola Grant, MD
Jai Medical Center
Throughout her work in low income areas of Baltimore, Dr. Oyebukola Grant goes above and beyond clinic-based approaches in order to make sure children are immunized on schedule. If children can’t come to her, she often makes house calls to go to them.
In addition to working full time at her pediatric practice, Dr. Grant collaborates with Jai Medical Systems Managed Care Organization, Inc. to identify and track children who are behind schedule on their immunizations. Many of these children live in families that face multiple challenges to receiving preventive care. Often, the family’s living situation makes it difficult for the child to make regular visits to a clinic. In some instances, Dr. Grant has to do additional research to locate children who are not living with the relative listed on their enrollment form. When she identifies a family whose child is behind schedule on immunizations, Dr. Grant contacts them personally, by telephone or personal letter, and works with them to find a way for the child to come in to receive the necessary vaccines. When these methods fail, she takes the time to make a home visit—including in communities where crime is prevalent—to administer vaccines to children who need them.
Dr. Grant’s resourcefulness has increased immunization rates among children in her managed care organization. Some of the children whom she vaccinated at home have even become regular patients at her clinic.
Dr. Grant’s extraordinary dedication to immunizing children from Baltimore’s underserved communities makes her Maryland’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Parikshit Kumar, MD
Caro Family Physicians
“An immunized child is a well child.” That is Dr. Parikshit Kumar’s motto. As a practicing physician for more than 40 years, he understands the threats posed by vaccine-preventable diseases, especially in poorly vaccinated communities. Because of his passion and persistence, he is well-respected in Tuscola County—with a reputation for working with local agencies, medical colleagues, and families to overcome immunization barriers.
Dr. Kumar promotes immunizations in both his practice and the community he serves. He is enrolled in CDC’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, enabling him to provide free vaccinations to children who might go without them because of an inability to pay. Dr. Kumar has been active in the Tuscola County Health Department’s Immunization Coalition for the past 11 years, and has collaborated with the county health department to reduce immunization barriers. He also works with Head Start and Early Head Start programs to promote children’s health. Dr. Kumar carefully reports his patients’ immunization data, stays current with immunization recommendations by attending Michigan’s immunization conferences, and supports vaccine education for his nursing staff.
Because Dr. Kumar is the only pediatrician in Tuscola County who participates in the VFC program, he plays a crucial role in overcoming financial hurdles to immunization for the county’s children. He has achieved high immunization rates among the children in his practice.
Dr. Kumar’s dedication to ensuring that children from low income families have access to vaccines makes him makes him Michigan’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Judy Jerde, MA, RN
Senior Nursing Project Coordinator
When asked why she’s an immunization champion, Ms. Judy Jerde says the answer is simple: it improves the health of the community. Vaccines, she points out, don’t just protect the individual who receives them. They also protect the people around that individual.
In her 15 years at HealthPartners, Ms. Jerde’s primary responsibility has been to make sure clinic teams have the necessary tools and support to ensure that children get the recommended vaccines. Sometimes, this requires special insight into the needs of the community. In 2011, while she was co-leading a project to decrease health disparities, Ms. Jerde and her team noticed that children from East African families were not receiving their immunizations on schedule. Barriers to immunization included parents’ misconceptions about vaccines, limited English proficiency, missed well-child visits, receiving care from different sources, and deferring a scheduled immunization when a child was ill. Ms. Jerde and her team then devised innovative strategies to address these barriers. One of their solutions was a poster that used simple language and cross-cultural images to explain when a child can receive a vaccine.
Thanks in large part to Ms. Jerde’s leadership, attention to detail, and dedication to equitable care, the percentage of children at HealthPartners who are up-to-date on their vaccinations increased in 2012. The poster her team created is now displayed in examination rooms throughout the HealthPartners system.
Ms. Jerde’s efforts to improve the quality of immunization services in a culturally diverse community make her Minnesota’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Heidi Parker, MA
In 2009, when Ms. Heidi Parker’s 7-year-old son contracted H1N1 influenza, she spent 10 days worrying that he might not see his eighth birthday—something, she says, no parent should have to do. From this experience, Ms. Parker developed a deep commitment to promoting immunization for Nevada’s children.
No strategy for improving immunization rates is too modern—or too traditional—for Ms. Parker. Facebook and Twitter are key channels in Immunize Nevada’s vaccination promotion efforts, but so are immunization clinics and outreach to child care centers and immunization providers. She directed the first statewide immunization advertising campaign aimed at parents of children 0 through 2 years old and grew a small two-hospital project into a statewide initiative to distribute immunization information to new parents. Her organization had such success in enrolling new mothers in text4baby—a free text-messaging service that reminds parents when their baby is due for immunizations—that Nevada was chosen to lead a pilot project in which underserved women receive customized text messages to connect them with immunization resources.
The numbers show the impact of Ms. Parker’s work. More than 32,000 information packets were distributed to new parents in 2011 and 6,000 Nevadans have been enrolled in the text-messaging program. In addition, more than 5,600 hours of immunization training have been offered through Immunize Nevada. The advertising campaign won a prestigious Addy Award. Most importantly, Nevada has jumped ten spots in nationwide immunization rankings.
Ms. Parker’s success as immunization educator, collaborator, and innovator makes her Nevada’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Angela Smith, AHA, MA
Associate Practice Director
Core Pediatrics, Core Physicians, LLC
Ms. Angela Smith is not daunted by a challenge. In her career, she has steadily built on each of her experiences to ensure quality of care and smooth clinic operations. When she became director of Core Physicians, a large pediatric practice, she revamped the practice’s annual mass influenza immunization event. Although new to pediatrics, she showed a thorough understanding of the impact of immunization on the health of a community.
Ms. Smith considered the needs of both families and staff when planning the immunization event. For parents’ convenience, she scheduled clinics on Saturdays. For children, she designed a no-waiting system with a snack and a prize for each child. Ever conscientious of the staff, she provided them with breakfast and lunch and scheduled the workflow so no one felt overburdened. She used electronic health records and outreach calls to recruit the youngest and most medically compromised patients first, and she was present at each clinic to keep it running smoothly.
Thanks to Ms. Smith’s planning, more than 1,200 children were immunized against influenza during a 10-hour period—a record for the practice. Parent and staff responses to the redesigned event were extremely positive—so positive, in fact, that Ms. Smith’s process is being reviewed for possible use in other locations. Ms. Smith’s practice also became the first at Core Physicians to offer state-supplied Tdap vaccine to uninsured parents of newborns.
Ms. Smith’s innovative strategies for mass immunization make her New Hampshire’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Arthur Fierman, MD
Director, Division of General Pediatrics
New York University School of Medicine
New York, NY
While working at Bellevue Hospital in the 1980s, Dr. Arthur Fierman was struck by the high rates of unmet medical needs—including delayed immunizations—among homeless children. This experience motivated him to devote his career to promoting immunization for underserved children.
In an effort to help those populations of children who first inspired him, Dr. Fierman has conducted innovative research on immunization in pediatric emergency departments to improve coverage among inner-city children and led quality improvement activities to increase pediatric immunization rates at Bellevue. As chairman of the Immunization Registry Technical Committee of the New York City Childhood Immunization Coalition, Dr. Fierman played a pivotal role in conceiving the Citywide Immunization Registry (CIR). Once the registry was established, he worked within Bellevue to incorporate immunization data into electronic medical records (EMRs) at a time when EMRs were in their infancy. He is also an educator, lecturing and leading immunization seminars at national meetings and at the university.
Dr. Fierman has left his mark in many ways. The CIR has had a lasting impact on immunization delivery in New York City. Under his leadership, Bellevue achieved immunization coverage rates of over 90% for 2-year-olds, an achievement recognized by a 2008 award from the city’s Bureau of Immunization. As his publication record attests, Dr. Fierman has contributed substantially to medical knowledge on immunization delivery. Through his 20 years of service to the immunization coalition, he has helped create partnerships and influenced legislation.
For his long-standing work to bring vaccine services to New York City’s most vulnerable children, Dr. Fierman is New York’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Linda Iskra, MD
Helping Hands Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine
South Bloomfield, OH
Many people have not personally witnessed the devastating impact that vaccine-preventable diseases can have on a family or a community. Dr. Linda Iskra, however, has been personally touched by many of these diseases. Her sister is deaf as a result of rubella, contracted by her mother during her pregnancy, and she also witnessed the lifelong impact that polio had on a family friend. As a pediatric resident, Dr. Iskra saw the effect of vaccine-preventable diseases such as meningococcal disease, varicella, and tetanus. These experiences have led her to make immunizations a high priority in her pediatric practice.
Dr. Iskra diligently checks the immunization status of every patient at every visit, including sick visits. To guarantee the stability of vaccine temperatures, she bought commercial laboratory quality refrigerators for her office. She also serves the broader community outside her practice. Dr. Iskra was the pediatrician in the county health department’s well-baby clinic for 11 years, and she participated in H1N1 immunization clinics. Recently, she agreed to speak to expectant military mothers about the importance of immunizing their children according to the recommended schedule.
Through her many efforts, Dr. Iskra’s promotion of immunization benefits both the 6,000 patients in her practice and the families of Pickaway County. In addition, Dr. Iskra is helping to foster the next generation of immunization champions by acting as a preceptor to medical students and teaching them about best practices for vaccine delivery.
Dr. Iskra’s commitment to her patients, her community, and her future colleagues makes her Ohio’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Diego Chaves-Gnecco, MD, MPH, FAAP
Founder and Program Director
Salud Para Niños (Health for Children)
Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco’s work with immunizations stems from a time when he met an unvaccinated seven-month old Latino infant in a Pennsylvania clinic. A bad experience with doctors who did not speak their language had left the family wary of trusting the healthcare system. Dr. Chaves-Gnecco had seen the consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases while studying medicine in Colombia. His empathy for the family’s situation and ability to provide clear information convinced them to get their baby immunized. After learning that many other U.S. Latino children—particularly in Southwestern Pennsylvania—were in similar situations, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco founded Salud Para Niños in 2002.
Salud Para Niños at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a free, bilingual, culturally competent clinic that aims to increase childhood immunization rates in the local Hispanic/Latino community. Using resources such as the Vaccines for Children program to obtain vaccines, and the Pennsylvania Statewide Immunization Information System to monitor immunization records, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco helps keep children in this historically underserved community up-to-date on life-saving vaccinations. He is also a tireless advocate, visiting churches and using Spanish-language media to encourage immunization, and teaching medical students and residents how to reach vulnerable communities.
Dr. Chaves-Gnecco has enrolled more than 950 children at Salud Para Niños. Their immunization rates are now similar to other children in the region, and better than rates in many other Hispanic/Latino communities. His successful influenza and pertussis immunization campaigns have increased vaccination rates against both diseases.
For improving the health of Hispanic/Latino children and families, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco is Pennsylvania’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Yvette Piovanetti, MD
Hato Rey, PR
During her 30 years as a pediatrician, Dr. Yvette Piovanetti has made immunization a high priority despite the unique challenges of providing vaccination services to privately insured patients in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, only about 7% of pediatricians who serve the insured population provide immunization services, due to a variety of policy and financial local conditions. However, through her clinical work and legislative advocacy, Dr. Piovanetti has been a pioneer in addressing barriers to vaccination on the island.
In 2007, as president of the Puerto Rico Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Piovanetti convened a meeting to address local challenges to providing immunizations. The meeting brought together a variety of immunization stakeholders for the first time, including insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, government representatives, and pediatricians. Out of this meeting, a Pediatric Council was created to foster ongoing dialogue. The Pediatric Council has influenced pending legislation to address barriers to vaccinating privately insured children. The Council’s work has also led to creation of a vaccination coalition in Puerto Rico. Dr. Piovanetti continues to play a key role in the Chapter’s immunization advocacy work as a member of both the Pediatric Council and the executive board.
As one of the earliest supporters of the Puerto Rico Immunization Registry, Dr. Piovanetti continues to be a strong supporter of its use.
Dr. Piovanetti is also recognized as a spokesperson for immunization on the island. She makes regular television appearances to discuss evidence-based information about vaccines and to promote the importance of vaccinating children according the recommended schedule. Dr. Piovanetti works to build the next generation of immunization health care professionals by mentoring residents at the University of Puerto Rico Pediatric Hospital.
Dr. Piovanetti’s dedication to reducing barriers to immunization makes her Puerto Rico’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Penelope Dennehy, MD
Director, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases
Hasbro Children’s Hospital
When Dr. Penelope Dennehy was a young mother, her 7-month-old daughter developed Haemophilus influenzae type b disease. At that time, children could not be protected against this illness through vaccination. Although her daughter recovered without adverse effects, the experience influenced Dr. Dennehy’s steadfast commitment to immunization.
Dr. Dennehy has been at the forefront of immunization issues in Rhode Island for 30 years. As the director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the state’s only children’s hospital, she commands great respect, making her a particularly effective advocate for childhood immunization. Much of the research she conducts as a professor of pediatrics at Brown University focuses on infectious disease prevention and vaccine testing. Because Dr. Dennehy understands the importance of data collection for improving immunization rates, she has strongly supported Rhode Island’s immunization registry KIDSNET, even guiding its adoption in the hospital setting. She speaks often at statewide meetings and conferences, has served as a trusted advisor to several state directors of health on immunization issues, and belongs to vaccine-related boards and organizations throughout the state.
Through her advocacy for KIDSNET, Dr. Dennehy has helped Rhode Island build a robust immunization information system. Through her research, she has created new knowledge about the prevention of infectious diseases. Through her extensive service, commitment, and expertise, she has been a leading childhood immunization champion in Rhode Island throughout her career.
For leading the way as an immunization provider, researcher, educator, and advocate, Dr. Dennehy is Rhode Island’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Wendell Hoffman, MD
Sioux Falls, SD
Dr. Wendell Hoffman has seen the harm that diseases like measles, mumps, and Haemophilus influenzae type b can cause. When he began practicing, these diseases were common threats to children. Since becoming the state’s second board certified infectious disease physician in 1986 and as the patient safety officer for Sanford Health, Dr. Hoffman has been an advocate for childhood immunization in South Dakota. When South Dakota’s immunization laws were challenged by bills in the state legislature to expand exemptions, Dr. Hoffman sprang to action.
In early 2012, Dr. Hoffman rallied legislators, healthcare providers, and families to support existing immunization laws. As the South Dakota State Medical Association spokesperson, he appeared in a number of high-profile media outlets and traveled 225 miles (one way) to provide scientific testimony to state representatives. Citing data from states with similar exemptions, Dr. Hoffman’s message was clear: South Dakota could see life-threatening diseases return if the state became lax about immunization. The bills were defeated, but Dr. Hoffman recognized the need to make a case for vaccines. He organized and edited a special edition South Dakota Medicine, which allowed an ad hoc coalition of experts to tell “the story of immunization.”
Dr. Hoffman’s years of advocacy and leadership have made him an authority on childhood vaccination throughout the state; His region now has vaccine coverage rates higher than state and national rates.
For speaking up when South Dakota needed a strong voice for immunization, Dr. Wendell Hoffman is the state’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Michelle Singleton, RN
Northern Utah Immunization Coalition
For the past 30 years, Ms. Michelle Singleton has been passionate about promoting childhood immunization. In her community, she is known for making it part of almost any discussion. As chair of the Northern Utah Immunization Coalition, she now plays a leadership role as a regional immunization champion.
The Northern Utah Immunization Coalition focuses on improving coverage for children under the age of two and sponsors an annual immunization conference for health care professionals. As coalition chair, Ms. Singleton leads both of these efforts. She is also the local expert on childhood immunizations and the Utah school immunization requirements. She provides information and resources to physicians’ offices, schools, and organizations such as Head Start, and she collaborates with school districts, businesses, and community groups to improve immunization for all ages. Ms. Singleton also teaches nurses how to communicate with parents who request immunization exemptions and teaches local hospital prenatal staff about the importance of cocooning newborns against pertussis and influenza by having the adults who care for them immunized.
Ms. Singleton’s educational efforts are credited as a key factor in decreasing missed opportunities for infant immunization and improving local rates. In 2012, she was the Utah Public Health Association’s Public Health Hero. In addition, the coalition she heads is providing opportunities for health professionals in northern Utah to learn about effective immunization strategies such as cocooning and herd immunity.
Ms. Singleton’s devotion to educating her community about childhood immunization makes her Utah’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Kristin Gilbert, RN
During her years as a pediatric nurse, Ms. Kristin Gilbert has often seen the consequences of children not receiving vaccines. The experience of caring for patients with vaccine-preventable diseases has motivated her to make every effort to help children receive all recommended immunizations.
Ms. Gilbert is ready to take on any task to ensure that patients at Barre Pediatrics are up-to-date on their immunizations. She checks appointment schedules and flags patients who are due for immunizations. She provides recalls to families who have missed vaccination appointments or have children who are overdue for immunizations. As a long-term employee of Barre Pediatrics, she knows her patients and their parents well, so she is able to provide personalized outreach to families in the practice. She keeps her staff informed about the most current vaccine information, and she oversees proper handling and storage of all vaccines used in the practice.
In addition to ensuring that children at Barre Pediatrics receive all vaccines on schedule, Ms. Gilbert is committed to seeing that parents—particularly those who have questions about vaccinating—receive accurate information to make informed decisions. To this end, Ms. Gilbert has volunteered to assume an active role in the state’s new vaccine education campaign for parents, It’s Ok to Ask. This campaign provides information and support to address parents’ questions about vaccines.
For ensuring that children receive their immunizations on schedule and helping parents make sound decisions about immunization, Ms. Gilbert is Vermont’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
W. Austin Spruill, PharmD, MD
Physicians to Children, Inc.
Throughout his more than 20 years as a pediatrician, Dr. W. Austin Spruill has been an advocate for childhood immunization and a leader in vaccine education. In 2011, he rose to prominence in Roanoke by leading an effort to improve the vaccination rates of children in his group practice through policy change and patient education.
While leading a series of meetings to update Physicians to Children’s vaccine policy, Dr. Spruill emphasized to his colleagues—as he has to parents and patients throughout his career—that immunization may be the single most important health-promoting intervention pediatricians perform. He encouraged the group to set a clear policy for all patients that follows the immunization schedule recommended by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The final policy the group adopted also includes a concerted effort to educate parents and caregivers with sound medical advice about the safety, efficacy, and importance of vaccines.
To help explain and promote the new policy to the larger community Dr. Spruill published an editorial in the Roanoke Times.
The response from parents, the medical community, and the general public has been positive. At Physicians to Children, the new policy has resulted in a net growth of patients receiving full vaccination coverage. Dr. Spruill was invited to speak at a public forum about childhood vaccines hosted by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. The event attracted an audience of approximately 200 people.
Dr. Spruill’s leadership in promoting evidence-based immunization practices makes him Virginia’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Edgar Marcuse, MD, MPH
Medical Director for Quality Improvement
Seattle Children’s Hospital
Throughout his 30-year career as a pediatrician, Dr. Edgar Marcuse has been bringing people together to promote childhood immunization. He works with families, communities, public agencies, and private organizations to promote the importance of immunizing children according to the recommended schedule.
Dr. Marcuse has conducted extensive research on immunization and vaccine-preventable diseases and is recognized as a national expert on these topics. He cooperates with key immunization stakeholders by listening to them, sharing his knowledge and experience, and working toward solutions together. By engaging these stakeholders and bringing in a social marketing expert to help plan immunization initiatives, Dr. Marcuse has jump-started efforts to address vaccine concerns. He is a member of the steering committee of Vax Northwest, a new state alliance to help parents find answers to their vaccination questions. Under Dr. Marcuse’s leadership, Group Health Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have come aboard to support the alliance’s immunization promotion efforts. Dr. Marcuse has also collaborated with policymakers, insurers, and other stakeholders on a plan to maintain Washington’s policy for universal purchase of vaccines despite state budget constraints.
Building on Dr. Marcuse’s work, Washington State is developing new approaches to immunization education, access, and promotion. His collaborative efforts are helping to establish a new group of immunization leaders in the state. In addition, Dr. Marcuse’s numerous publications and presentations establish him as an authority on immunization and vaccine-preventable disease.
Dr. Marcuse’s many years of dedication to promoting immunization make him Washington’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Kimberly Estep, MS, MBA
Director of Marketing
Robert C. Byrd Clinic
As the mother of a child who is allergic to a vaccine component, Ms. Kimberly Estep appreciates the need for high vaccine coverage to protect children in the community who cannot be immunized. In 2008, Ms. Estep joined the West Virginia Immunization Network (WIN), a coalition focused on improving state immunization rates. She met individuals who were personally affected by vaccine-preventable diseases and learned how critical it is for parents to have accurate information about vaccines when making health care decisions for their families. A marketer by training, Ms. Estep draws inspiration from these experiences when promoting immunizations in West Virginia.
While serving as WIN co-chair in 2009-2010, Ms. Estep guided the direction of its education and advocacy work and helped to strengthen and grow the coalition. As Chair of WIN’s Advocacy Committee, she frequently meets with legislators to discuss policy issues, such as keeping West Virginia’s school-entry immunization law strong and ensuring that all children have access to immunizations. Her passion for educating families is evident in her current and previous marketing and outreach work. At Robert C. Byrd Clinic, she has helped to initiate recall procedures for patients who are due for vaccinations, uses social media to spread the word, and provides health professionals with up-to-date vaccine information.
Thanks to Ms. Estep’s passion and hard work, West Virginia parents, health care professionals, and policy makers have a greater understanding of the importance of immunization.
For being a motivated leader, advocate, and communicator, Ms. Estep is West Virginia’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
- Page last reviewed: April 19, 2013 (archived document)
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