Champion Award Winners
The CDC Childhood Immunization Awards, 2015
The CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award, given jointly by the CDC Foundation and CDC, honors individuals who are doing an exemplary job or going above and beyond to promote childhood immunizations in their communities.
2015 Award Winners
These are the 2015 Childhood Immunization Champions recognized during National Infant Immunization Week, April 18-25, 2015.
Click a letter and select a state to see that state’s awardee. (Note that some states did not participate this year.)
Amy Carr, RN, BSN, MSN
Unit Manager, UAB Primary Care Clinic
University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics
Amy Carr has dedicated her life to improving the health and well-being of infants and children, including making sure they are immunized. Since starting her nursing career in 1976, she has been a pediatric nurse, worked as a nurse in special care and intermediate care nurseries, and taught nursing. Ms. Carr is currently the Nurse Manager for University of Alabama at Birmingham Primary Care Clinic, the continuity primary care practice for the pediatric residents in training at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama.
In this role, Ms. Carr and her staff guide the pediatric residents in training to help them acquire the knowledge and competencies essential for the comprehensive care of infants and children who have a wide variety of medical, social, and behavioral problems. Immunization is emphasized as a critical part of this care. In the clinical setting, Ms. Carr also regularly educates the parents of infants about the recommended vaccines.
Ms. Carr and her staff participate in the education process for the 75 pediatric residents. As a team, they work with the residents to provide patient care, including immunization, to over 4,500 children. In addition, Ms. Carr was one of the first to volunteer her clinic to serve as a pilot provider when the State Immunization Registry (ImmPRINT) was being introduced to clinics outside of the local county health departments. Her input was invaluable in helping to make changes and updates to the registry in its beginning stages.
Ms. Carr’s longstanding commitment to the health and well-being of children, including making sure they are immunized, makes her Alabama’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Community Health Aide Practitioner
North Slope Borough Department of Health and Social Services
Adeline Gallen understands first-hand the importance of immunization for remote communities, having suffered from measles as a child. Fortunately, she recovered and is now able to advocate for improving vaccination coverage among Alaska Native Inupiat communities in North Slope Borough that are isolated from medical support.
Ms. Gallen is the medical eyes, ears, voice, and hands for the communities she serves. She delivers immunizations throughout the lifespan by flying in a bush airplane, traveling tremendous distances over tundra and impassable rivers, often in inclement weather. Ms. Gallen works in partnership with community members, public health systems, fellow community health aides, and hospitals to ensure that children have accurate immunization coverage and records.
For 23 years, Ms. Gallen has delivered immunizations in an effective and culturally-accepted manner, adapting as necessary to meet the needs of Inupiat infants and children. She has serviced six remote villages that do not support full-time doctors or mid-level medical providers. She is one of the most visible health spokespersons, trainers, mentors, and educators for these villages. Her work has improved immunization rates and infant mortality in hard-to-reach communities.
Ms. Gallen’s tireless efforts to deliver immunizations and other critical health services to isolated Alaskan Native communities make her Alaska’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Avein Saaty-Tafoya, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
Avein Saaty-Tafoya knows how vaccine-preventable diseases can devastate communities. Before immigrating to the United States from the Middle East in 1977, she saw some of her childhood classmates suffer from diseases like measles and polio, and she witnessed people being quarantined for weeks to limit the spread of these diseases. This experience sparked her commitment to offering children an opportunity for a lifetime of better health through immunization.
Since 1996, Ms. Saaty-Tafoya has worked across the country to advocate for improvements in immunization. Through her work with Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers and The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI), she has been instrumental in policy and practice changes that have increased access to vaccines and state immunization rates. Ms. Saaty-Tafoya is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Adelante Healthcare—a network of seven community clinics in Arizona. In this role, she has established vaccine champions at each clinic to oversee the immunization system. The vaccine champions make sure the clinics stay current on immunization changes and education, and implement best practices with all clinic clinicians. She has also partnered with TAPI and other organizations to test innovations to improve vaccine coverage.
When Ms. Saaty-Tafoya began her work with Adelante Healthcare, many of the clinics had rates as low as 37% coverage levels for their 2-year-old patients. Her implementation of an organization-wide immunization program was successful in increasing coverage in each clinic to over 90% and maintaining these coverage levels for more than 5 years.
Ms. Saaty-Tafoya’s leadership, passion, and commitment to improve childhood immunization make her Arizona’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Reed Grant Mellor, MD
Chief of Pediatrics
The Permanente Medical Group
Dr. Reed Grant Mellor learned early in his career that even in this modern era of vaccination, families are still devastated by vaccine-preventable disease. His first patient as a pediatric resident died of varicella encephalitis, and a year before the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, a child died under his care from extreme dehydration due to rotavirus. These experiences have motivated him to focus his efforts specifically on childhood immunizations.
Practicing in an area of northern California where vaccine delay and refusal are prevalent, Dr. Mellor recognized the need for a different communication approach to effectively communicate with vaccine-hesitant parents. He formed and led a group of Northern California pediatricians that have developed an innovative immunization communication program that uses a persuasion strategy based on simple rhetorical principles.
Pediatricians who have been using this communication program report feeling more comfortable, effective, and confident discussing vaccination with parents who refuse, delay, or are unsure about immunization.
Dr. Mellor’s leadership in helping to address the challenges of immunization communication make him California’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Sundari Elizabeth Kraft
Vaccinate for Healthy Schools
As a recognized expert on ultra-local organic gardening and homesteading, Sundari Kraft often encounters people who have concerns about vaccines. Citing the science and evidence of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, Ms. Kraft doesn’t hesitate to talk to anyone about the importance of childhood immunization.
Ms. Kraft founded Vaccinate for Healthy Schools, a Colorado advocacy organization that mobilizes parents in support of pro-vaccine legislation. She also serves on the Parent Advisory Board for Voices of Vaccines, a parent-driven organization that provides parents clear, science-based information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Despite lack of funding, Ms. Kraft was a key collaborator to build support to pass Colorado House Bill 1288, which requires parents who elect a personal belief exemption to demonstrate that they understand the benefits and risks of vaccination, both for their child and the community. The bill also allows parents the right to access vaccination rates for all Colorado child care centers and schools. Using social media and other innovative strategies to share information with parents and engage them, she quickly gained support from 300 Facebook followers and was able to assemble strong parent advocates to provide key testimony in favor of the bill. Ms. Kraft also provided testimony and answered questions during several contentious legislative hearings.
For her tireless commitment to mobilize parents in support of vaccination, Ms. Kraft is Colorado’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Iris Vargas, RN
Nurse Supervisor (Retired 2014)
Optimus Health Care
Iris Vargas always wanted to be a nurse. She believes that vaccines are a critical ingredient to having good health and has promoted immunization for her own children, grandchildren, and the many local families she has touched during her long nursing career.
Ms. Vargas served the Bridgeport community for over three decades through her work with its largest community health center organization, Optimus Health Care. As the resident vaccine expert for the pediatric staff across all of Optimus Health Care’s 12 health center and school-based sites, she trained staff on immunization guidelines and initiated proactive practices to take advantage of every opportunity to make sure children were up to date on their vaccinations.
In addition to providing direct patient care and training, Ms. Vargas improved immunization practice across the sites through vaccine registry participation, medical records review, patient reminders, and community outreach. As a result, Optimus Health Care consistently has one of the highest rates of children who are fully immunized by 24 months of age in Bridgeport—and thousands of children have received timely vaccines.
Ms. Vargas’ long-standing commitment and significant contributions to the good health of Bridgeport’s children make her Connecticut’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Vivian Cativo, RN
Site Nurse Manager
Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care
Vivian Cativo became a community health nurse in order to make a difference in underserved immigrant populations. Her passion for improving childhood immunization grew as she noticed the impact that recommendations from medical professionals had on whether parents vaccinated their children.
As the site nurse manager for a busy, federally-qualified heath center, Ms. Cativo manages a multidisciplinary clinic with over 20 full-time and part-time staff. She is also responsible for the clinic’s Vaccines for Children program. She has trained medical assistants and front desk personnel to check the DC immunization registry, and provide a vaccination status report to the medical providers for all patients. These reports help facilitate routine assessment and documentation. She also regularly reviews electronic medical records to identify patients who are due for vaccines and sends out reminders to schedule immunization visits.
Ms. Cativo’s efforts have improved immunization practice and vaccination rates at Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care, which serves a diverse population of DC residents from over 110 countries. A native of El Salvador, Ms. Cativo provides direct patient care and counseling on immunization in both Spanish and English.
Ms. Cativo’s initiative and commitment to improving vaccination rates in the underserved immigrant community make her DC’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Shirley Klein, MD, FAAP
Attending Physician, Pediatric Practice Program
Wilmington Hospital Center, Christiana Care Health System
Over the course of her career, Dr. Shirley Klein has directly seen what a difference vaccines have made in protecting the health of children. For example, the number of cases of children admitted with Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) disease has decreased from at least one child per week during her residency in 1969–1971 (before a Hib vaccine was licensed), to now only very rare cases. She believes vaccines are the biggest scientific advancement of the 20th century and is a strong advocate for immunization.
Dr. Klein strongly recommends all vaccines for her patients, and spends time counseling parents who have questions or who are hesitant about vaccinating their children. She has also spent many years educating medical staff, residents, and community pediatricians about immunization practice, including sharing resources and encouraging them to give vaccines at every possible opportunity.
Dr. Klein’s efforts to educate patients and improve immunization practice in the Wilmington Hospital Center have contributed to vaccination rates higher than the national and state average. As the Immunization Representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Delaware Chapter and the AAP representative on the State of Delaware Vaccine Technical Advisory Committee, she also impacts vaccination policy and practice at the state level.
For her dedication to promoting childhood immunization and improving vaccination rates, Dr. Klein is Delaware’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Greg Howard Savel, MD, FAAP
Myrtle Avenue Pediatrics
Dr. Greg Savel vividly remembers the parents of the three children who died from vaccine-preventable diseases (chickenpox and measles) during his residency at Tampa General Hospital. At that time, he committed to do everything in his power to educate parents on the importance of immunization. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Savel has done just that.
Dr. Savel is an immunization leader in Pinellas County and an expert on addressing vaccine hesitancy among parents of infants and young children. He is the principal pediatrician on immunization within Pinellas County hospitals, speaking with patients and training staff regularly on various vaccine topics. As Chair of the Pinellas Immunization Team for Community Health (PITCH), he has spearheaded collaboration with over 40 community organizations and coalitions and has forged strong community partnerships to support vaccination of children 0-2 years of age.
Dr. Savel’s advocacy for childhood immunization has helped yield positive results. The vaccination rate for 2-year-old children in the community has increased from 75% to 81.9%. Within the Pinellas community health department, the vaccination rate for children aged 2 years is 99%, and the vaccination rate for children aged 1 year has just increased from 90% to 97% in large part, because of his efforts.
For his many efforts to increase immunization rates through community partnerships, Dr. Savel is Florida’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Lisa Marie Barker, MD, FAAP
Treasure Valley Pediatrics
Although Dr. Lisa Barker received her medical training during a time when vaccine-preventable diseases were rare, she is concerned about the increasing number of parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children—and what it could mean for the number of immune-compromised children in her practice who cannot safely receive vaccines. This concern has motivated her to be a stronger educator for immunization.
Dr. Barker is seen as the vaccine expert in her practice, serving as a resource on all things related to vaccines and working with staff to improve immunization practice. She also educates healthcare professionals outside her practice by speaking on the importance of immunization for midwives and childcare providers. Dr. Barker is involved in community education activities with the Idaho Immunization Program, Idaho Immunization Coalition, and several other health organizations. She is featured in a YouTube video on the Idaho Immunization Program’s website in which she answers common questions from parents about immunization.
Dr. Barker has made a tremendous impact on the immunization front not only in her local community, but also at the state level. She serves on the Idaho Immunization Coalition Board of Directors and the Idaho Immunization Policy Commission.
Dr. Barker’s leadership and efforts to promote vaccination of children make her Idaho’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Katie Van Tornhout
Every Child by Two
South Bend, IN
The birth of Callie Grace Tornhout was a miracle for her parents, who had tried for 5 years to have a baby. When Callie died from pertussis in 2010, at 38 days of age, her parents were devastated. They did not understand how she had contracted the disease, given that they had rarely left the house since her birth. Determined to save other parents from a similar tragedy, Callie’s mother, Katie Van Tornhout has devoted herself to educating the public about the dangers of pertussis.
As a Parent Advocate for Every Child by Two, Ms. Van Tornhout has promoted Tdap vaccination by giving numerous interviews with major news outlets and programs. She has shared her story on Good Morning America, CNN, CBS News, and ABC News, and with The Huffington Post. Ms. Van Tornhout has also spoken at state and national immunization conferences and partnered with the Sounds of Pertussis and March of Dimes to conduct national satellite media tours.
Ms. Van Tornhout and her husband are reaching other parents directly through Callie Cares, a nonprofit organization they founded in their daughter’s memory. The organization provides bags of toiletries to parents of newborns and sick children during their stays at hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses. Each bag contains a card that shares Callie’s story and reminds parents about the importance of Tdap vaccination.
Ms. Van Tornhout’s tireless efforts to educate other parents about the importance of pertussis vaccination make her Indiana’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Robert Rettie, MD
Kentucky One Health Pediatric Associates
When several healthcare providers’ offices in central Kentucky closed unexpectedly in 2012, many children were left without a medical home. Dr. Robert Rettie, who was opening a new office at the time, wanted to help these children find new medical homes. He tried repeatedly to obtain these children’s records from the closed practices, and when all else failed, he personally drove to another county to retrieve them. He then applied to become a Vaccines for Children (VFC) provider, so that all of his new patients could access vaccines, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay for them.
Dr. Rettie has endeavored to strengthen the immunization knowledge of other Kentucky healthcare providers by hosting an audio podcast called Healthy Strides. He has used this platform to focus on topics such as changes to the recommended immunization schedule and vaccine storage and handling. For several years, Dr. Rettie also coordinated the American Academy of Pediatrics Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) Program, which supports pediatricians who work to ensure that all children in their communities have medical homes and access to other health care services.
Thanks to Dr. Rettie’s efforts, his local community achieved a 95.6% coverage rate for kindergarten entry and a 97.1% rate for sixth grade entry for the 2013-14 school year.
For his efforts to ensure that local children have medical homes and to educate other providers about immunization, Dr. Rettie is Kentucky’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Robert Blereau, MD
Family Practice Physician
Morgan City, LA
When Dr. Robert Blereau started his family practice career more than 50 years ago, many vaccine-preventable diseases were still common. First-hand experience with these diseases motivated Dr. Blereau to ensure that his patients would never miss an opportunity to receive a recommended vaccine.
Since opening his practice in 1982, Dr. Blereau has treated generations of families in a multi-parish area of southeast Louisiana. He verifies that children are up to date on vaccines during well visits, and he either calls or sends reminders to his patients who are due for vaccines. He has worked with Medicare and Medicaid to help find solutions for patients whose vaccinations are not covered by their insurance providers, but who should be immunized. Dr. Blereau proactively counsels parents on the importance of vaccines and has trained his own staff to do the same.
His passion for immunization has been passed down to his family members, many of whom work in his practice. Together, they have achieved immunization rates of over 90% in the practice. Dr. Blereau has also served on the State of Louisiana Commission on Perinatal Care and Prevention of Infant Mortality since 1994, helping to improve the health of newborns across the state.
For his proactive efforts to achieve high immunization rates within his practice and reduce perinatal deaths across the state, Dr. Blereau is Louisiana’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Cassandra Grantham, MA
Director, Child Health and Raising Readers, Community Health Improvement
As a health communication specialist, Cassandra Grantham spent the early years of her career promoting cardiovascular health and healthy living. Nonetheless, it was the birth of her two children that brought home the importance of immunization. In 2010, Ms. Grantham established MaineHealth’s childhood immunization program, with the goal of increasing Maine’s childhood immunization rates to the highest in New England by 2016.
Under this program, Ms. Grantham has launched several educational initiatives, such as the Vax Maine Kids website and Kohl’s Vax Kids—a program to increase immunization awareness among parents most likely to delay or skip their child’s vaccinations. She also managed a joint initiative between MaineHealth and the State of Maine’s Immunization Program to create an interface between electronic medical records and the state immunization registry.
Ms. Grantham designed and implemented a clinical training and competency program that has trained over 200 MaineHealth clinical support staff on how to reduce vaccine errors and how to counsel families on vaccination. In addition, she helped launch the Improving Health Outcomes for Children (IHOC) First STEPS practice improvement collaborative, which resulted in participating medical practices achieving an 11.1% increase in overall immunization rates for 2, 6, and 13-year-olds. She has also served as co-chair of the Maine Immunization Coalition and chair of the Cumberland District Public Health Council’s Flu Workgroup.
Ms. Grantham’s multifaceted and innovative approaches to increasing immunization rates within her community make her Maine’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
John Crossan O’Donovan, MD, FAAP
As a Navy Medical Officer during the Vietnam War and a pediatric resident in Nairobi, Kenya, in the early 1970s, Dr. John Crossan O’Donovan witnessed the devastation of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles. These early experiences ignited a passion for promoting immunization in Maryland, where he has become one of the state’s highest performing vaccinators.
Dr. O’Donovan is a founding partner of Dundalk Pediatrics in Baltimore, which has a large client base of underserved children. In addition to personally administering thousands of vaccines, he has served as a mentor to both parents and young clinicians, educating them about the importance of vaccines and encouraging them to follow the recommended schedule.
A vocal advocate for immunization policy and technology, Dr. O’Donovan’s early support for Maryland’s immunization registry paved the way for acceptance by other providers. He is currently an active member of the Maryland Statewide Advisory Commission on Immunization and the Chair of the Maryland Childhood Immunization Partnership. He has lent credibility to coalition efforts and served as a valuable source of expertise on topics ranging from school immunization requirements to HPV vaccination.
Dr. O’Donovan’s immunization efforts extend beyond pediatrics. He was recently named the volunteer Medical Director of Maryland’s statewide initiative to reach the Healthy People 2020 goal for influenza immunization. In this role, he is helping to coordinate the involvement of health departments, hospitals, schools, and health insurers.
Dr. O’Donovan’s unwavering commitment to immunization advocacy and promotion make him Maryland’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
William Adams, MD, FAAP
Attending Physician, Boston Medical Center
Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Child Health Informatics, Boston University School of Medicine
As a second-generation practicing pediatrician, Dr. Bill Adams learned first-hand the challenges of tracking the immunization status of children who moved, lost insurance coverage, or had seen multiple providers. When he first came to work at Boston Medical Center in 1996, there were no immunization tracking systems in Massachusetts. Dr. Adams has devoted the past 20 years to developing and evaluating information technology-based solutions for improving the quality of health and healthcare for children.
Dr. Adams has created and evaluated innovative, integrated health information systems that are easily useable and effective in assisting the clinician at the point of care. His electronic health records and many associated tools, including bar-coding, data entry, and retrieval systems, have saved nurses from having to write over 100,000 dates per year and have markedly improved the accuracy of immunization rates at these facilities.
Largely because of his efforts, the Massachusetts Immunization Registry has a state-of-the-art Immunization Forecast Module that can predict due and overdue immunizations for each child. Dr. Adams has also been instrumental in the roll-out of Massachusetts’ new practice information systems and the central registry into 233 provider sites. To date, there are more than 1 million patient records and 4 million vaccination records in the system. With his help, Massachusetts has achieved, and can accurately document, some of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
For his extraordinary and innovative contributions to the development and roll-out of medical informatics, Dr. Adams is Massachusetts’ CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Dorothy Bennett, RN, MBA
Director of Nursing and Clinical Support Services
Western Michigan University, Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine
When Dorothy Bennett became the clinical director of three low-income clinics run by Western Michigan University in 2004, the immunization up-to-date (UTD) rate among children 19-35 months was only about 45%. These low rates inspired Ms. Bennett to seize opportunities for improvement and set new and higher standards for her clinic staff.
As a first step, Ms. Bennett collaborated with the local health department to identify strategies for increasing immunization levels. She subsequently required immunizations to be evaluated at every patient visit to avoid missed opportunities. Staff now proactively remind patients to come for well-child visits and school physicals, and each of her patient’s record is printed from the state immunization registry. Ms. Bennett has issued standing orders for immunizations, hired immunization coordinators for all clinical settings, and implemented a system to provide staff with monthly feedback about their immunization levels. She also hosts annual immunization updates for nurse educators as well as quarterly meetings for Kalamazoo’s immunization registry user group and the adolescent immunization coalition.
Ms. Bennett’s efforts to strive for excellence have paid off—the immunization UTD rate among children 19-35 months of age is now over 92% across the three clinics. Her organization has won numerous awards for these notable and substantial improvements, including the Alliance for Immunizations in Michigan Outstanding Achievement Award.
For improving immunization practices and dramatically increasing immunization completion rates among young children within her clinics, Ms. Bennett is Michigan’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Patrick Zook, MD
Family Practice Physician
St. Cloud Medical Group
St. Cloud, MN
When over 4,400 cases of pertussis were diagnosed in Minnesota in 2012, Dr. Patrick Zook didn’t just encourage his family practice patients to get vaccinated—he brought together competing organizations to tackle the problem. Working together with the Stearns-Benton Medical Society, Dr. Zook created the Central Minnesota Community Immunization Campaign, which has grown to include more than 100 health systems, pharmacies, and medical providers.
Under Dr. Zook’s leadership, the coalition members have been able to look beyond system boundaries and focus on the health of their communities. The coalition implemented a comprehensive campaign to encourage DTaP and Tdap vaccination. This campaign included posters and flyers for medical offices and pharmacies, radio interviews, outreach to local newspapers, and booths at community events such as the Latino health fair, a local music festival, and a senior health exposition. Dr. Zook also obtained the support of local politicians and invited an expert from the Mayo Clinic to train local providers on how to work with vaccine-hesitant parents.
Dr. Zook obtained grant funding from a local healthcare foundation for a voucher program, so that low- income people could receive free pertussis immunizations. Thanks to the efforts of the Central Minnesota Community Immunization Campaign, the number of Tdap vaccines administered by the St. Cloud Veteran’s Administration Health System increased from 5,800 during 2012–2013, to over 8,000 during 2013-2014.
For successfully increasing pertussis vaccination rates in St. Cloud through community partnerships, Dr. Zook is Minnesota’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Doreen Begley, RN
Early Head Start Health Coordinator
University of Nevada, Reno
When the doors of her small but mighty clinic for the indigent closed in 2010, Doreen Begley did not get discouraged—she turned it into an opportunity to establish an infant and young child immunization program within the Early Head Start Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Through this program, Ms. Begley established herself as a Vaccines for Children (VCF) provider and began offering well-child checkups and immunizations to families who fall below the federal poverty guidelines.
Ms. Begley’s 40-year nursing career began at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, where she treated a young woman suffering from meningococcal disease, who ended up having several limbs amputated. This experience transformed her into a passionate advocate for immunizations. Ms. Begley has attended hundreds of community meetings to speak about immunization and made herself available for media interviews. She always makes an effort to be knowledgeable about the latest immunization trends, and her outstanding work has been recognized by numerous organizations.
During the past 20 years, Ms. Begley has been integral to the success of Nevada’s immunization coalition. She most recently served as the chair of Immunize Nevada’s Board of Directors, helping the organization to obtain 501c(3) status. Ms. Begley has also served on the Nevada Nursing Board, the Nevada Statewide Maternal Child Health Coalition Advisory Board, and the Head Start Advisory Committee.
Ms. Begley’s commitment to ensuring widespread access to immunizations for all of the state’s citizens makes her Nevada’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
David Fredenburg, MD, FAAP
Assistant Professor/Medical Director
Masters in Physician Assistant Studies Program
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
As a medical intern, Dr. David Fredenburg was profoundly impacted by the death of a 3-month old premature infant who died from pertussis. This experience sparked his passion for immunization, including the need to educate other clinicians. Dr. Fredenburg has since become a powerful voice in support of vaccine funding legislation, taking an active role in supporting the New Hampshire Immunization Program. For more than a decade, he has been advocating through the community and testifying in state government hearings for funding the state’s universal purchase program and revising the limitations of philosophical vaccine exemptions.
In 2013, Dr. Fredenburg secured an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) grant to assess the attitudes of New Hampshire clinicians regarding barriers to human papillomavirus vaccine administration and to educate them about vaccine recommendations. In 2014, he obtained another AAP grant to educate students in health professions about polio and other global vaccine-preventable diseases. Most recently, he was a presenter for the state’s first clinical webinar on the current national measles outbreak.
Dr. Fredenburg has also served as the AAP Chapter Immunization Representative for the past decade and was recently appointed to the board of the newly created New Hampshire Vaccine Association, which oversees all childhood vaccine funding in the state.
For his efforts to secure vaccine funding and ensure that clinical providers are up to date on vaccine recommendations, Dr. Fredenburg is New Hampshire’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Margaret Fisher, MD, FAAP
The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center
Long Branch, NJ
As a nationally-recognized expert on pediatric infectious diseases, Dr. Margaret Fisher has served on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Committee on Infections Diseases. She has authored dozens of scientific articles and been a featured speaker for numerous continuing medical education (CME) courses. As Co-Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Global Immunization Advocacy Project Advisory Committee, her influence even extends to other countries around the world.
Closer to home, Dr. Fisher has successfully advocated for changes in hospital policies related to the hepatitis B birth dose and for better access to the New Jersey Immunization Information System for providers and pediatric trainees. When the Tdap vaccine was offered to the employees of Monmouth Medical Center, Dr. Fisher was the first one to receive the vaccine, setting an example for other hospital staff.
Dr. Fisher serves as the President of the New Jersey Chapter of AAP and Co-Chair of the New Jersey Immunization Network. She has improved collaboration between the state’s Vaccines for Children program and local providers, resulting in a more even flow of vaccine supply and better inventory. Through her seminars and trainings, Dr. Fisher has also increased the knowledge and skills of other providers related to immunization safety, vaccination schedules, and vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Fisher also promotes immunizations by speaking at local schools, parents’ organizations, and childcare organizations.
For her global efforts and tireless commitment to promoting immunization, Dr. Fisher is New Jersey’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Jeffrey Teitelbaum, MD
Ezra Medical Center
Dr. Jeffrey Teitelbaum has witnessed first-hand how vaccines have eradicated disease. He recalls how quickly the meningitis ward at Kings County Hospital disappeared as soon as Hib vaccination administration was started. These early experiences molded his belief that vaccines are a vital way to prevent illness.
As the Medical Director of Ezra Medical Center, Dr. Teitelbaum serves about 21,000 patients in the Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn, New York. This community has had challenges with on-time vaccination of children and has experienced recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Teitelbaum has been integral in helping to bring these outbreaks under control by conducting teleconferences and educating patients to address their concerns about vaccination. During one recent outbreak, these efforts involved distributing over 10,000 letters to promote vaccination to members of the Medical Center’s affiliated Early Childhood Center, Yeled V’Yaldah. As a result, Yeled V’Yaldah achieved more than 90% compliance with immunization requirements for its attendees.
During the outbreak of 58 cases of measles in 2013, Dr. Teitelbaum was critical in gaining support from other providers in his community to successfully implement the recommendation for an early dose of MMR vaccine. He also administered hundreds of doses of immunoglobulin to people living in his community to fight hepatitis A outbreaks in Brooklyn in the early 1990’s.
For his ongoing dedication to preventing and controlling VPD outbreaks in his community, Dr. Teitelbaum is New York’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Christine Macomber, MD, FAAP
Generations Family Practice
As a medical pediatric resident, Dr. Christine Macomber cared for a child with significant complications from varicella. Dr. Macomber felt that the child’s outcome might have been better if she had received the varicella vaccine. This experience inspired Dr. Macomber to dedicate her career to helping reduce unnecessary pain and suffering in children by encouraging parents to vaccinate their children in order to protect against serious, preventable diseases.
In her pediatric practice, Dr. Macomber often engages parents in conversations about vaccination by posting and sharing immunization messages on her social media networks. She provides reading materials for parents and has immunization signage displayed throughout her office. She also takes time to talk with parents about the benefits of vaccination and listen to their concerns, so that she can address them.
Prior to each pediatric office visit, Dr. Macomber thoroughly reviews the child’s vaccine records. She lets parents know if a child’s vaccines are not up to date and either administers them during that office visit or schedules a follow-up appointment. Any needed vaccines are recorded in the child’s medical chart for easy reference by nurses and other doctors. To reduced missed opportunities, Dr. Macomber has developed a tracking system to help monitor pediatric patients who have and have not received their flu vaccinations. During flu season, she uses the electronic medical records system to send reminders to parents about office hours.
For her ongoing dedication to educating parents in her practice about the importance of vaccination, Dr. Macomber is North Carolina’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Annette Groves, RN, PHN, DON
Public Health Nurse
Lake Region District Health Unit
Devils Lake, ND
When a positive pertussis case was diagnosed in Ramsey County, Annette Groves went to extra lengths to keep children safe by encouraging parents to make sure their children were protected with complete and on-time DTaP immunizations. She also strongly urged parents, grandparents, and caregivers to get Tdap vaccine as well. As public health nurse with North Dakota’s Lake Region District Health Unit, Ms. Groves has made it her mission to promote immunizations both within and outside the walls of her clinic.
Ms. Groves has taken many steps to make it easier for busy parents to vaccinate their children, including implementing flexible clinic schedules, accepting walk-ins, and running immunization clinics at preschool screenings and daycare facilities. She has promoted vaccination at car seat checks, during community meetings, and through local the “Coffee Talk” radio program. Ms. Groves discusses and schedules follow-up shots at each visit, making it easier for parents to stay on schedule.
When she challenged her local fire chief to get a flu shot, not only did he accept the challenge—he also invited her to host a flu clinic at the fire station’s open house during Fire Prevention Week. This type of creativity embodies Mrs. Groves’ approach to promoting immunization within her community. Thanks to her efforts, over 90% of infants 19-35 months in the Lake Region District Health Unit are fully immunized.
Ms. Groves’ commitment to promoting immunization in creative ways makes her North Dakota’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Jacob Maciejewski, MD
Pediatric Residency Program
ProMedica Physicians Perrysburg Pediatrics
When Dr. Maciejewski wanted to educate other professionals and parents about immunizations, he decided to develop and present his own conference, titled “Shot to the Arm, and You’re to Blame! Who Gives Vaccines a Bad Name?” The conference, which took place on two different occasions, transformed the dialogue from one of questioning the relevance for immunizing to one that cleared away vaccine myths.
Dr. Maciejewski makes a point of spending adequate time counseling families and alleviating their fears concerning vaccines. This type of two-way conversation results in children being vaccinated 9 out of 10 times, even in cases where they were not vaccinated previously.
For his proactive work to educate professionals and families in his community and his practice, Dr. Maciejewski is Ohio’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Philip Siu, MD, FAAP
Pediatrician and Clinical Director
Chinatown Medical Services, Greater Philadelphia Health Action, Inc.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Philip Siu has seen the ravages of endemic disease, especially hepatitis B. These experiences motivated him to promote hepatitis B vaccination, and recently, he has started to work with hepatitis A patients as well.
Dr. Siu has prevented hundreds of infants from developing chronic hepatitis B disease through his role as the primary vaccinator for exposed neonates in Philadelphia. He is considered an authority on immunization not only within the Asian community, but also among the entire community of pediatricians in Philadelphia. Since 2010, he has chaired the Philadelphia Immunization Coalition and been involved with the city’s Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program. Dr. Siu also serves as the liaison between the six Greater Philadelphia Health Action, Inc. sites and the Philadelphia Immunization Program, which focuses on outreach to immunization-delayed infants.
Dr. Siu’s expertise and willingness to collaborate with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health on a wide range of childhood vaccine-preventable disease initiatives has made him one of the most valued and respected advisors to the health department. He has organized influenza and hepatitis A and B vaccination clinics at churches and recreation centers within his community and has championed catch-up vaccinations for children who recently immigrated to the United States.
For his tireless efforts to collaborate and forge relationships among immunization stakeholders, Dr. Siu is Pennsylvania’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Rick Manuel Quiles, MD
Primary Care Pediatrics Physician
When Dr. Rick Quiles was a resident on Long Island, he encountered a young African boy with symptoms that were consistent with smallpox. Although the child was ultimately diagnosed with varicella, he was in serious condition and needed to be treated in the intensive care unit. The experience was a powerful reminder to Dr. Quiles of the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases, and it inspired him to do more to promote immunization.
As a pediatrician and trusted advisor to the parents of hundreds of patients over the course of his career, Dr. Quiles has become known as an incredibly innovative and dynamic communicator. A native Spanish-speaker, he is able to overcome many cultural and communications barriers with the parents of his patients. For example, he created his own rap video to promote immunization in English and Spanish that was shared widely on social media. This approach allowed him to connect with younger parents, who mostly rely on the internet and social media for health information.
In his practice, Dr. Quiles displays great patience in listening to the concerns of the parents of his patients. The trust and respect that he has gained from his patients because of his communication skills have resulted in very high immunization rates, even among vaccine-hesitant parents. He is a consistent leader on immunization issues and sets an example for his colleagues every day.
For his innovative efforts to support childhood immunization through culturally-competent education and communication, Dr. Quiles is Rhode Island’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Kerri Lutjens, RN
Avera St. Benedict
As the visiting nurse for seven Hutterite colonies in Parkston, South Dakota, Kerri Lutjens has the challenging job of promoting immunization in a community with low vaccination rates. She has taken the time to learn about the Hutterite lifestyle and customs by developing trusting relationships with colony members. Twice a month, Ms. Lutjens visits the colonies to provide physical exams, treat illness, and administer vaccines.
Ms. Lutjens has hosted several educational events to inform Hutterite parents about the risk of not vaccinating children and the dangers of disease outbreaks in a communal setting. Prior to her visits, 87% of the children had never been vaccinated or were not up to date on their vaccinations. Ms. Lutjens has managed to get all of the children aged 0 months to 18 years up to date by personally administering over 600 vaccinations. Her efforts helped to prevent a devastating outbreak when a case of whooping cough was recently diagnosed at one of the colonies.
Ms. Lutjens reinforces vaccination messages by sending monthly reminders to parents to let them know when their kids are due for their vaccinations. She recently designed a back-to-school event that involved evaluating various aspects of health, including immunization status. Before Ms. Lutjens started reaching out to the colonies, the importance and value of immunizations was not widely known or understood. Families now initiate the communication and often reach out to her to make sure their children are up to date.
For her work promoting childhood immunization through culturally-sensitive educational efforts, Ms. Lutjens is South Dakota’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Jason Hoagland, MD
Dr. Jason Hoagland became a passionate advocate for immunizations while working as physician at a diabetes camp from 1999–2000. He has traveled to serve children in other countries and is always working to make the lives of children better.
Dr. Hoagland has become known throughout his community for his unique ability to convince vaccine-hesitant parents to get their children immunized. While he was Chair of Pediatrics at Davis Hospital, he launched a community awareness campaign to inform local parents about the benefits of vaccination. The campaign featured an educational video that aired on local news stations, reaching over a million people.
Dr. Hoagland also reaches parents on a more personal level. In conjunction with other physicians, Dr. Hoagland offers classes on immunization at Davis Hospital. He regularly meets with parents who oppose vaccinating their children, often persuading them to get their children immunized. He has also authored or co-authored dozens of articles highlighting the effectiveness and necessity of immunizations.
As a Boy Scout leader, he encourages other scout leaders to make sure their scouts are immunized. He is frequently contacted by the local media to speak about immunizations. Recently, a newcomer to the community posted an inquiry on social media and asked for pediatrician recommendations. Of the 28 responders, 22 recommended Dr. Hoagland.
For his outstanding efforts to educate parents about the benefits of childhood immunization, Dr. Hoagland is Utah’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Jill Read, RN, MN, PNP
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Castleton Family Health Center
North Bomoseen, VT
At Castleton Family Health Center, Jill Read is known for being patient and persistent when educating about vaccines. The trusting relationships she has built with her clients have allowed her to positively influence their decision on immunizations. She refers her clients to reputable sources, such as the “It’s OK to Ask Vermont” website, and she routinely schedules follow-up appointments with families to only discuss immunizations. She attributes these fruitful interactions with her patients to a psychosocial approach that she first learned about in college.
Ms. Read’s contagious enthusiasm and conviction about the efficacy and safety of vaccines have earned the respect of her peers. Her colleagues have often commented on her expertise on vaccinations and her ability to positively influence parents. Ms. Read has worked in collaboration with her practice and the Vermont Department of Health to implement a quality-improvement project that aims to increase the percentage of children vaccinated at her practice. Thanks to her leadership, her practice now promotes a vaccination approach that follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.
The impact of Ms. Read’s hard work is demonstrated by her practice’s high vaccination rates for children less than 2 years old. In an immunization evaluation conducted at the Community Centers of Rutland Region during 2014, 84.21% of her clients had completed the 4:3:1:4:3:1:4 series by 2 years of age, exceeding the state and national average.
For being a trusted health care provider and an effective health communicator of immunization practices, Ms. Read is Vermont’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Lynn Cao, MD
Children’s Health, P.C.
Before going to medical school, Dr. Lynn Cao worked as a molecular scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. This foundation in science provided her with a unique perspective for understanding vaccines and explaining them to parents. As a private pediatric practitioner, Dr. Cao strives to ensure the physical and emotional health of her patients by providing quality, comprehensive, and appropriate medical care and support to each child and their family.
Every parent of a newborn seen by Dr. Cao is provided with a “Newborn Packet.” Dr. Cao takes the time to review the packet with parents, and emphasizes the importance of receiving vaccines according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ schedule. A parent herself, Dr. Cao understands how helpless parents can feel when their children are sick. By reviewing and explaining the immunization schedule to parents and patients, Dr. Cao is successful in decreasing fears and positively influencing parents’ decisions to follow the recommended schedule.
The Children’s Health, P.C. had a 100% immunization coverage rate for the 4:3:1:3:3:1:4 series when it was assessed in February 2014. These excellent rates can be attributed to Dr. Cao and her staff’s dedication to checking immunization records at each visit, creating alerts for missing immunizations in patients’ electronic medical records, and taking time to educate patients and parents about the benefits of immunizations.
For her commitment to ensuring that all of her young pediatric patients are vaccinated, Dr. Cao is Virginia’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Kathy Hennessey, M.Ed.
As a self-professed “crunchy mom” of two elementary school-aged girls, Kathy Hennessey is passionate about healthy living and organic food. She’s also a vocal advocate for immunization and has dedicated herself to promoting the idea that vaccines and healthy living go hand-in-hand.
When WithinReach and Vax Nortwest launched the Immunity Community in 2011, Ms. Hennessey successfully advocated to bring the program to Bellingham. As former school teacher, she also petitioned the Bellingham School District to pilot the program in elementary schools. The Immunity Community now has eight pilot sites and seven parent advocates. Ms. Hennessey has continued to expand her community outreach by working with the Parent Teacher Associations to write articles about human papilloma virus (HPV) and influenza, and by organizing an immunization film festival at the local library.
Ms. Hennessey has successfully pitched local media to obtain coverage of the Immunity Community, resulting in interviews with the Seattle Times, the Bellingham Herald, and a local radio station. She also founded a Facebook group “Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children,” which has over 1,700 followers. She set up a meeting with the Whatcom County Health Officer to discuss how parents and the Health Department can help local providers have better conversations with vaccine-hesitant parents. Ms. Hennessey also testified before the state legislature this past February in favor of House Bill 2009, which would eliminate personal belief exemptions.
For her tireless efforts to keep Bellingham protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, Ms. Hennessey is Washington’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Rebecca King, MSN, MEd, NCSN, RN
School Health Services and 504 Coordinator
West Virginia Department of Education
Shortly after becoming West Virginia’s Department of Education’s School Health Services Coordinator in 2003, Rebecca King made an interesting observation: although the state had strong immunization laws for school entry that ensured children were well-immunized by 5 or 6 years of age, there were low rates of immunization among infants and toddlers. This observation inspired her to seek to close the gap in immunization rates between these two age groups.
Ms. King has since served as a founding member or leader of several partnerships that seek to improve immunization rates, including the statewide immunization coalition, the Coordinated School-Public Health Partnership, the West Virginia Early Childhood Advisory Board, the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership, and the West Virginia School Based Health Assembly. She has also incorporated an immunization summit into a major, statewide annual conference for school nurses, health and physical education faculty members, and administrators.
Ms. King conceived and facilitated a partnership among various children’s healthcare providers to combine resources to support a “single sign-on” application for the West Virginia Immunization Registry. This application enables school nurses with appropriate credentialing and permissions to utilize the registry to fill in gaps in students’ immunization histories. Ms. King also plans and facilitates webinars for school nurses several times year, and she recently authored an immunization article for the Journal of the National Association of School Nurses.
For her efforts to increase infant and young child immunization rates through community partnerships with school nurses, Ms. King is West Virginia’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Learn about all of the Champion Award Winners.
- Page last reviewed: April 17, 2015
- Page last updated: December 28, 2016
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