Champion Award Winners
The CDC Childhood Immunization Awards, 2016
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.
2016 Award Winners
These are the 2016 Childhood Immunization Champions recognized during National Infant Immunization Week, April 16-23, 2016.
Click a letter and select a state to see that state's awardee. (Note that some states did not participate this year.)
Cathy Giessel, RN, MSN, APRN
Senator Cathy Giessel has had a variety of experiences that increased her awareness of vaccine-preventable diseases. When she was a young girl in Fairbanks, Alaska, two boys who lived on her street died from polio. In nursing school, she became interested in public health and disease prevention. During her nursing career, Senator Giessel worked in two pediatric clinics and developed expertise in vaccine schedules.
Since winning a seat in the Alaska State Senate in 2010, Senator Giessel has worked with the state’s Division of Public Health and other agencies to strengthen Alaska's immunization programs. She championed the passage of a three-year stopgap funding measure for vaccines. This enabled the state to purchase vaccines for those not covered by insurance or eligible for federal vaccine programs. Until the passage of this measure, Alaska had not provided financial support for vaccines. In addition to her work to ensure financial stability for Alaska’s immunization program, Senator Giessel successfully introduced legislation that allows pharmacists to provide immunizations without the requirement of a collaborative agreement with a physician, making vaccines more accessible.
Senator Giessel has encouraged collaboration between the State's Immunization Program, officials from other states and with the Alaska payer community. This process has helped strengthen the commitment of many individuals and entities as supporters of childhood immunization. The increased focus on childhood immunization has also fostered renewed efforts on the part of public health nurses and other healthcare professionals to address vaccine hesitancy among parents.
Senator Giessel’s commitment to building support for childhood immunization in her state makes her Alaska’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Margaret Robin-Goldberg, RN, PHN
School Nurse and Communicable Disease Nurse
Los Angeles Unified School District
Los Angeles, CA
As the manager of the Free Walk-In Immunization Clinic at the Zelzah school-based wellness clinic, Ms. Margaret Robin-Goldberg serves parents of young children who have recently arrived from Syria and other countries. She has mastered the art of culturally competent counseling, learning words in Arabic and other languages, in order to engage parents and build trust. This has included figuring out how to read immunization records in Arabic and arranging for their translation into English so they can be entered into the California Immunization Registry.
The Zelzah clinic has received a county award for immunization compliance and having no missed opportunities. The clinic has administered more vaccines than any other in Los Angeles county, despite being open only three days a week and only during the school year. Ms. Robin-Goldberg’s efforts to eliminate missed opportunities for vaccination and bring immigrant children up-to-date on their immunizations made the Zelzah clinic’s accomplishment possible. She makes a special effort to address parents’ vaccine concerns by working with them and using motivational interviewing techniques to effectively communicate with parents.
In addition to her work at the clinic, Ms. Robin-Goldberg is a sought after immunization speaker. She travels around the Los Angeles Unified School District giving presentations about the importance of immunizations to school nurses, nursing students, parent groups, educators, and community leaders. After California enacted a new vaccine exemption law, she developed a FAQ and resource guide to help inform parents about the upcoming changes.
Ms. Robin-Goldberg’s commitment to fully immunizing vulnerable children in the Los Angeles Unified School District makes her California’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Matthew Dorighi, MD
Cherry Creek Pediatrics
When he first began practicing as a community pediatrician sixteen years ago, Dr. Matthew Dorighi was challenged by conversations he had with vaccine-hesitant parents who were concerned about autism. This experience motivated him to learn more about how to build trust with parents and have productive vaccine conversations.
Dr. Dorighi now serves as the co-chair of the subcommittee on immunization for the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (CAAP). Over the past several years, he has devoted significant time to participating in a state task force to address vaccine financing and access issues. In his role on the task force, he has led the creation of the Immunization Mentorship Project—a collaborative effort between five major Colorado health organizations. The Immunization Mentorship Project plans to provide educational and hands-on learning opportunities to improve the success of medical homes in vaccinating children according to the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule. Dr. Dorighi’s practice will be the first to participate in the program.
Dr. Dorighi has generously contributed his time to the task force, giving its members a better appreciation of what it takes to be a successful immunization provider. He embodies a collaborative spirit by sharing lessons learned and best practices for immunization delivery.
For his dedication to improving children’s health through increased collaboration and mentoring, Dr. Dorighi is Colorado’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Robert Dudley, MD, MEd, FAAP
Medical Director of School Based Health Services
Community Health Center Inc.
New Britain, CT
The experiences Dr. Robert Dudley had as a medical resident at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the mid-1990s shaped him into a strong champion of immunizations. Dr. Dudley saw infants die of measles, a vaccine-preventable disease. He also saw some of the last “routine” cases of bacterial meningitis, varicella encephalitis, and severe swelling of the epiglottis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (these diseases are now rare thanks to the introduction of Hib, pneumococcal, and varicella vaccines).
Dr. Dudley has spent the past 20 years practicing pediatrics at the Community Health Center in New Britain—a city with a large immigrant population and high poverty levels. He has worked hard to improve immunization rates at the clinic by ensuring that immunization records are reviewed at every visit, implementing a reminder-recall system, and participating in the state immunization registry. When the clinic opened in 1996, only 30% of pediatric patients were up-to-date on the primary vaccine series. Thanks to Dr. Dudley’s efforts, that rate has jumped to 91%.
Dr. Dudley also serves as the Medical Advisor for the New Britain School System, working closely with the School Nursing Supervisor to ensure that children receive vaccines required for school entry. During the 2015-2016 school year, only 1% of students were not up-to-date by the fifth day of school. At the state level, Dr. Dudley serves on the Connecticut Department of Health’s School Based Health Center Advisory Committee. As a committee member, he has presented on the medical home model, which emphasizes care coordination and communication with patients.
For his dedication to school-based health and increasing immunization rates in his community, Dr. Dudley is Connecticut’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Rose Moore, RN
Community Health Nurse
Children’s National Medical Center
When she was five years old, Ms. Rose Moore contracted chickenpox and her mother missed a lot of work in order to care for her. This experience inspired her to help children stay healthy so that they can go to daycare and school, thereby reducing the high costs associated with illness.
Through her affiliation with Children's National Medical Center and the DC Public School System, Ms. Moore facilitates access to immunizations for all children under her care. She is highly effective in distributing both CDC and local health department information to a wide audience of parents. She works directly with families to answer their immunization questions and determine which vaccines they need. Ms. Moore goes above and beyond the call of duty, contacting doctors to schedule appointments and following up with parents to make sure they keep their appointments. With her support, one elementary school has seen its children achieve and maintain 100% immunization coverage rates several years in a row at all grade levels (since 2006).
Not only does Ms. Moore address the immunization status of the children within her school system, she works with parents to identify the immunization status of younger students as well. Many of the children in her school district have younger siblings who follow in their footsteps in terms of whether they are up-to-date with their recommended immunizations. This whole-family approach is one of the reasons Ms. Moore has been able to maintain high immunization coverage rates at schools she supports.
For her commitment to ensuring that young children in her city are up to date on their immunizations, Ms. Moore is the District of Columbia’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Michelle Power, MT
Infection Control Practitioner
Christiana Care Health System
As an infection prevention practitioner, Ms. Michelle Power brings a unique perspective to childhood immunization. It is her job to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria in hospital settings using a wide range of strategies, including hand hygiene and immunizations. Ms. Power spent two decades as a medical technologist in microbiology and immunology laboratories. During that time, she often worked with many of the germs responsible for causing infectious disease.
These experiences led Ms. Power to become a strong advocate for immunization in her work with the Women’s and Children’s Service Line at the Christiana Care Health System. She created triage screening protocols for front-office staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Thanks to her efforts, 100% of NICU nurses are immunized against influenza.
In addition to making sure NICU staff are protected, Ms. Power has helped set up Tdap and influenza immunization stations for parents and other family members. In addition, Ms. Power routinely discusses the importance of childhood vaccines with parents and encourages them to continue protecting their babies through immunization after they leave the hospital.
Ms. Power is a long-standing member of the Immunization Coalition of Delaware and has chaired the coalition since 2013. In this role, she has advocated for universal immunization of children and elimination of non-medical exemptions. She is currently leading exploratory efforts to reduce the impact of non-medical exemptions in Delaware.
For her dedication to ensuring that the smallest babies are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, Ms. Power is Delaware’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Julie Zemaitis DeCesare, MD, FACOG
OB/GYN Residency Director
University of Florida College of Medicine
Dr. Julie Zemaitis DeCesare’s passion for immunization was born out of tragedy. As an intern, one of her first patients encountered a complication during pregnancy and died from cervical cancer. The patient was only 25, the same age as Dr. DeCesare at the time, and was the mother of a two-year-old. This experience fueled Dr. DeCesare’s dedication to promoting immunization.
As an ob/gyn, Dr. DeCesare works with pregnant women to promote immunization of infants, children, adolescents, and adults. She is involved in advocacy, health education and promotional efforts for HPV vaccination. Most recently, Dr. DeCesare was instrumental in developing a toolkit to promote education of girls and young women on HPV vaccination. Her efforts have reached thousands of young individuals, and have empowered a network of ACOG junior fellows across the state of Florida to bring conversations back to their communities. Educational programs have been implemented in five of the major population centers in Florida. Thanks in part to Dr. DeCesare’s efforts, the state of Florida has seen an increase in HPV vaccination rates.
Dr. DeCesare’s commitment to protecting young people’s health through HPV vaccination makes her Florida’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Joy Whaley, MSN, APRN-WHNP (retired)
Whitfield County Health Department
When her Georgia community experienced a measles outbreak in 1990, Ms. Joy Whaley helped make sure all school children received their second dose of MMR vaccine. This outbreak reinforced the importance of immunizations for Ms. Whaley early in her career.
Ms. Whaley spent more than 40 years as a public health nurse in Georgia, working primarily in women’s health and prenatal care. After retirement, she received additional training in immunizations and began volunteering at the Whitfield County Health Department. In this role, Ms. Whaley reviews immunization records and contacts families whose children are behind on their vaccines – and she always goes the extra mile to obtain a correct address or phone number. She speaks with families in a caring manner, and her positive approach helps her educate them about the importance of vaccines.
Ms. Whaley attends immunization updates with staff members to remain abreast of current guidelines and recommendations. Ms. Whaley's attention to medical records has enabled clinic staff to identify children who are due for immunizations and prevent other missed opportunities for vaccination. Thanks to her efforts, the health department’s monthly immunization coverage rates have consistently been 95% or greater, and its annual rate for 2015 was 99%.
For her passion for children and the health of her community, Ms. Whaley is Georgia’s CDC’s Childhood Immunization Champion.
Lanai Community Health Center
Lanai City, HI
When the Lanai Community Health Center scored poorly on its 2013 compliance visit for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, Ms. Chelsea Tadena decided to take action. Given that the clinic is located on a smaller Hawaiian island with limited resources, Ms. Tadena knew any solutions for the compliance issues would need to be cost effective.
Ms. Tadena worked tirelessly to learn all of the VFC program requirements and recommendations. To meet the recommendations for storage, she took the initiative to extensively research units the clinic could afford. After identifying possible units, she worked with the health center’s upper management to acquire new stand-alone vaccine storage units.
Ms. Tadena has proven herself to be a leader in managing the VFC program, making sure the clinic's policies align with the program requirements. Within two years of receiving poor results on the VFC compliance visit, Ms. Tadena has driven significant improvement in all areas, and their last compliance site visit in 2015 was almost perfect. She is a terrific advocate for her patients and the VFC program. She actively collaborates with the Department of Health to ensure she continues to meet requirements and the clinic stays in compliance.
For her commitment to ensuring VFC compliance and providing the best quality of service to her patients, Ms. Tadena is Hawaii’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Gary Rillema, RN, CPM
Health Services Division Director
Eastern Idaho Public Health District
Idaho Falls, ID
Mr. Gary Rillema lived through the polio epidemic of the 1950s and contracted vaccine-preventable diseases as a child. Early in his career, Mr. Rillema used antibiotic prophylaxis to treat 4-year-olds who had been exposed to H. influenzae type b (Hib). These experiences motivated him to become a strong advocate for immunization through his work as the Health Service Division Director at the Eastern Idaho Public Health (EIPH) District.
During the 2009-2010 whooping cough epidemic, Mr. Rillema used radio, TV, and newspaper messaging to educate the community. He and staff in eight counties supplied Tdap vaccines to off-site flu clinics and expanded the health department clinic hours. This resulted in a 250% increase in the number of Tdap doses administered from the prior year. This project was so effective that it was replicated during the 2014 measles outbreak for MMR vaccine, utilizing clinics already in place to increase capacity and awareness.
Mr. Rillema has been very active in promoting immunizations at large community events. Since 2009, he has run an immunization awareness and assessment booth at the Eastern Idaho State Fair, which hosts over 200,000 attendees annually. The booth has a display on vaccine-preventable diseases, education materials, and a working iron lung. An estimated 18,000 records have been checked by authorized staff since the start of this activity. Every year, Mr. Rillema also staffs an Independence Day float promoting immunizations in Idaho Falls. The float always has a strong immunization message and staff wear shirts that read “Immunized and Healthy” and “Save Lives, Immunize” while handing out immunization education information.
For his leadership in educating the community, Mr. Rillema is Idaho’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Jody Murph, MD, MS
Pediatrician and Associate Professor
University of Iowa Children’s Hospital/University of Iowa College of Medicine
Iowa City, IA
When Dr. Jody Murph realized only 22% of infants born in Iowa in 2008 received the Hepatitis B (Hep B) vaccine in their first 24 hours, she resolved to improve these rates and promote vaccination within the first 12 hours after birth. She worked with the Iowa Department of Public Health to design a new educational campaign aimed at healthcare professionals. This campaign encouraged the administration of the Hep B birth dose in the delivery room at the same time the infant receives erythromycin eye ointment and the vitamin K injection. This is now the current protocol in many hospitals around the state, including the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital (UIHC).
Dr. Murph also spearheaded a new program at her hospital to protect newborn infants from pertussis. Through this program, the Tdap vaccine is now offered to every woman who received prenatal care or gives birth at UIHC. The mother’s partner and other adult household members can also be vaccinated.
As an Associate Professor at the University of Iowa, Dr. Murph has lectured on immunization to medical students, nursing students, public health students, and faculty for many years. She is considered a statewide immunization expert and offers guidance to medical and public health groups at the state level. Dr. Murph has also consulted for the Iowa Department of Public Health on immunization related issues.
For her commitment to improving immunization practices within her hospital and across the state, Dr. Murph is Iowa’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Christina Rust, DNP, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM
Education Specialist, Maternal Child Health
St. Elizabeth Healthcare
While pursuing her graduate and doctoral studies in nursing in the early 2000s, Dr. Christina Rust had the opportunity to work on a pertussis outbreak with the Northern Kentucky Health Department. This work is what led Dr. Rust to become a champion of immunization for newborn infants and their families.
Dr. Rust collaborated with the Kentucky Immunization Program to start a Tdap immunization program at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, in order to educate caregivers about the dangers of pertussis and to vaccinate infants’ families before they left the hospital. She was instrumental in getting physicians on board with the new Tdap recommendation for pregnant women and worked with the local health department and the Kentucky Immunization program to secure free vaccines. When the funds ran out, Dr. Rust secured hospital support and met with state legislators to advocate for additional funding. Since the program’s inception, more than 20,000 pregnant women, family members and close contacts have received the vaccine.
Dr. Rust is also an active member of the Let’s Immunize Northern Kentucky (LINK) coalition, participating in Immunization Awareness Nights at the local ballpark and organizing and presenting at the annual Vaccines for Children Spring Review event for healthcare professionals.
For her commitment to protecting infants in her community from pertussis, Dr. Rust is Kentucky’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Christa O’Neal, RN
Maternal Child Educator
West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital
Ms. Christa O’Neal’s passion for children’s health and immunization was sparked at an early age. This passion was shaped by two events: hearing her mother’s stories as a pediatric nurse during disease outbreaks, and witnessing a relative’s life-threatening bout with chickenpox. These experiences inspired Ms. O’Neal to pursue a career in nursing and become an advocate for childhood immunization.
As a Maternal Child Educator and coordinator for Louisiana’s “Shots for Tots” program, Ms. O’Neal adapts her strategies to accommodate the needs of the patients that she serves in rural Louisiana. By offering alternative days and times for children to receive their vaccinations, she addresses barriers that prevent children from sticking to the immunization schedule. In addition, Ms. O’Neal understands the importance of education, and the impact that timing can have on health outcomes. By working with expectant mothers, Ms. O’Neal is able to communicate the importance of immunizing according to the recommended schedule. She creates a dialogue with mothers before their child is born.
Ms. O’Neal’s commitment to educating parents and reducing vaccination barriers make her Louisiana’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Losing a loved one can change one’s life forever. In April 2003, Ms. Jeri Greenwell’s son, Jerry, died from meningococcal meningitis. This tragedy had a tremendous impact on Ms. Greenwell. Her personal loss motivated her to become an advocate for childhood immunizations and prevent other mothers from experiencing the same misfortune.
For the past 13 years, Ms. Greenwell has been actively involved in educating nurses, parents, and others about the importance of immunization. She has advocated for improved immunization practices at both the local and state levels. She stresses to families how immunization protects children from deadly diseases, and in doing so, she tells her own story. She works tirelessly with political leaders and others to change policies around childhood immunization. Most notably, Ms. Greenwell played an influential role in the development of Maine’s Universal Childhood Immunization Program, which provides immunization coverage to all children in Maine.
Ms. Greenwell’s devotion to the cause has not gone unnoticed. She has been recognized by local, state, and national organizations for her contributions to the field. In 2012, the National Meningitis Association presented her with the Moms on Meningitis Outstanding Service Award in appreciation of her hard work.
Ms. Greenwell’s unwavering dedication to educating families and improving childhood immunization policies makes her Maine’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Lorraine Quarrick, RN (Retired)
Ellicott City, MD
From healthcare facilities to local and state health departments, a variety of health-related settings have inspired Ms. Lorraine Quarrick to improve immunization rates among those most vulnerable to disease. Her efforts have been recognized both within her community and at the national level.
Ms. Quarrick is seen as the go-to immunization person in her community. She demonstrates her passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to childhood immunization through her willingness to support immunization initiatives. She leads an educational series about immunization guidelines and best practices that reaches more than 450 immunizers annually. Ms. Quarrick is an approachable and accessible resource with a wealth of knowledge on vaccine administration, immunization policy, and vaccine storage and handling. From educating pediatricians on the most up-to-date immunization practices to serving as a board member for state immunization coalitions, she continues to advance Maryland’s practice and compliance with immunization policies and procedures.
One of Ms. Quarrick’s strategies that has been nationally recognized and replicated is her concept of the drive-thru flu clinic. Drive-thru flu clinics have made immunization more accessible and convenient for all audiences, including infants and young children. The model epitomizes Ms. Quarrick’s ingenuity and leadership.
Ms. Quarrick’s commitment to educating immunizers and improving immunization practices make her Maryland’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Ronald Samuels, MD, MPH, FAAP
Associate Director, Primary Care Center
Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Ronald Samuels became dedicated to childhood immunization early on in his medical career. As a medical student, Dr. Samuels worked for the pediatric disease service, and he often saw children infected with vaccine-preventable diseases, such as meningitis and H. influenza type b (Hib) infection. This exposure, along with his experiences as a pediatric resident at a New York hospital during a 1989 measles outbreak, deepened his interest in infectious diseases and pediatric immunization.
Dr. Samuels’ research on data optimization for immunization, and using information to identify underserved and under-immunized populations, has created new conversations around childhood immunization in the medical community. He also mentors many pre-med and medical students throughout Boston and the Greater New England community.
Dr. Samuels serves on the Massachusetts Vaccine Purchasing Advisory Council and is involved in other legislative-based committees. He has educated Massachusetts legislators about the importance of universal immunization, thereby enabling them to make decisions that will positively impact the health of Massachusetts’ children.
Through his leadership, innovative research, and involvement in policy change, Dr. Samuels continues to have a tremendous impact on improving immunization rates and practices in Massachusetts.
Dr. Samuels’ dedication to improving immunization data utilization and policies makes him Massachusetts’ CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Cheryl Szof, RPh
Drug Information Specialist
Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Ms. Cheryl Szof, a veteran pharmacist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM), has used Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) ever since they were released in the 1990s. When the first VIS editions were published, Ms. Szof asked a fellow nurse at CHM for more information. In response, her colleague invited her to join the Alliance of Immunization in Michigan (AIM), and this began Ms. Szof’s long-time interest in childhood immunization.
As a pharmacist at CHM, Ms. Szof has consistently provided information on immunizations to CHM staff. Outside of CHM, she has educated pharmacy students and nurse practitioner students at Wayne State University about pediatric immunizations. In addition, Ms. Szof serves as the immunization resource person for Detroit Medical Center, where she has been instrumental in developing response protocols based on electronic medical records.
Since joining AIM, Ms. Szof has collaborated with public health employees, pharmaceutical manufacturers and other organizations to improve immunization resources. For example, she supported the development of pediatric content for the AIM education toolkit. Her membership in AIM motivated her to become an immunization educator and lead trainings and discussions for nurses and pharmacists.
Ms. Szof’s dedication to educating pharmacists and other healthcare professionals about immunization makes her Michigan’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Mary Thompson, RN
Public Health Nurse
Houston County Public Health Department
Ms. Mary Thompson has witnessed first-hand how serious diseases can be life threatening and how the evolution of vaccines has led to improved health outcomes for infants and children. As a young nurse, Ms. Thompson saw many children die from infectious diseases, including a four-year-old who died from meningitis. These experiences have fueled Ms. Thompson’s passion for childhood immunization.
As a Public Health Nurse, Ms. Thompson strives to improve immunization practices and increase immunization rates in rural Minnesota communities. She has been instrumental in developing new processes that have helped improve accessibility to immunization services for hard-to-reach populations. For example, she established an immunization tracking station at the county fair, where parents could research their child’s immunization records. Ms. Thompson excels at building relationships and strengthening outreach, as demonstrated by her integral role in the development of immunization clinics at both public and private schools.
Ms. Thompson’s efforts have contributed to the increasingly positive health outcomes for infants and children in Minnesota. These outcomes include Houston County’s high immunization coverage rates among children 24 to 35 months old and its status as having the highest immunization rates in Southeast Minnesota.
For her dedication to improving immunization outreach in rural communities, Ms. Thompson is Minnesota’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Maryann Blevins, RN, MS, MSN, FNP
Family Nurse Practitioner
COX Health and Children’s Miracle Network
Ms. Maryann Blevins’ passion for childhood immunization is evident in her work across the state of Missouri. Her interest in working with underserved populations peaked while serving as a nurse practitioner participating in the National Health Service Scholarship program. Over the course of her career, Ms. Blevins has impacted the lives of thousands of children by increasing vaccination coverage in her community.
Through her collaboration with Children’s Miracle Network, Ms. Blevins leads the administration and evaluation of all Vaccines for Children (VFC) immunizations administered in 32 Missouri counties. Thanks to her efforts, nearly 1,500 children per year have received vaccines from the COX C.A.R.E. Mobile Clinic that Ms. Blevins manages. Ms. Blevins is a valuable resource to the nurse practitioner students she mentors and other healthcare professionals she works with inside the medical community. Ms. Blevins also reaches children and families living in rural areas by collaborating with school system administrators in these areas. Together they work on strategies to increase access to vaccines in rural Missouri.
Ms. Blevins’ dedication to making immunizations accessible to underserved children makes her Missouri’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Bobbi Shanks, MS, BSN, RN, NCSN
School Nurse Coordinator
Elko County School District
Noticing a gap in outreach and immunization services available for children in Elko County, Ms. Bobbi Shanks launched a county-wide initiative to fix the problem. The goal was simple: improve immunization coverage rates for children of all ages by increasing access to vaccines. Her strong beliefs in accountability and responsibility inspired her to address significant barriers to immunization in order to achieve her goal.
As the School Nurse Coordinator for Elko County School District, Ms. Shanks works tirelessly with healthcare professionals, community groups, and other entities to promote immunization among children in the community. In addition to her success in fostering community partnerships, Ms. Shanks has improved immunization practices in other ways, like with the procurement of stand-alone vaccine storage units for Elko County. This improvement to storage and handling has enabled Elko County School District to preserve the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and meet Vaccines for Children (VFC) program requirements.
Ms. Shanks’ efforts to strengthen collaboration and outreach have had a positive impact. Thousands of children have benefited from Ms. Shanks’ work; about 4,000 students were vaccinated in the 2014-2015 school year and more than 3,500 students have been vaccinated so far this school year. The number of children excluded from school for not being up-to-date on their vaccines has declined by 80% compared to last year.
For her commitment to ensuring all children in her school district are immunized, Ms. Shanks is Nevada’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Cindy Foley, RN
Spaulding Youth Center
Ms. Cindy Foley has always loved working with children. Before becoming a mentor at the Spaulding Youth Center, Ms. Foley wore many different hats: baby sitter, basketball coach, and swimming instructor, just to name a few. Over the course of her career, she has been particularly drawn to children with special needs and helping them reach their full potential in every possible way.
As the Primary Vaccine Manager at Spaulding Youth Center, Ms. Foley is responsible for having children with special needs vaccinated. By adapting her communication style to fit the unique needs of her audience, she is able to create a warm, calming, and supportive environment for these children. Her approach has allowed her to vaccinate hundreds of children, thereby protecting them against vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, one boy came to Spaulding Youth Center with non-medical vaccination exemptions, but thanks to her communication with his family, he is now up-to-date on his immunizations.
Ms. Foley works with both parents and children to ensure the children are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. Before Ms. Foley administers a vaccine, she performs practice sessions with the child; this helps her understand the child’s fear and desensitize him or her to the actions that cause anxiety. Staying attuned to the child’s facial expressions and body language allows Ms. Foley to recognize where there’s room for improvement.
Ms. Foley’s exceptional approach to vaccinating children with special needs makes her New Hampshire’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Colleen Mattimore, MD
Western New York Pediatrics Associates
Orchard Park, NY
Alarmed by high rates of vaccine refusal in her practice, Dr. Colleen Mattimore decided to find a solution to the problem. Drawing on her medical expertise, leadership skills, teaching abilities, and health promotion talents, she established the Vaccine Safety Coalition, a group of stakeholders in her community who are passionate about childhood immunization.
The coalition implemented a local public health campaign to promote vaccine safety through a variety of local channels, such as radio announcements, bumper stickers, and advertisements at movie theaters. The campaign has led to improving rates of vaccine coverage, both within her practice and throughout Western New York.
In addition to her work with the coalition, Dr. Mattimore serves as an immunization resource for medical and nursing students, patients, and healthcare professionals. Her work in immunization has been recognized by the New York State Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Western New York Pediatric, Adolescent and Adult Immunization Coalition, and the Erie County Department of Health.
Dr. Mattimore’s commitment to building coalitions and improving community attitudes towards vaccines make her New York’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Graham Barden, MD, FAAP
Coastal Children’s Clinic
New Bern, NC
Growing up as the son of a pediatrician, Dr. Graham Barden learned about the role vaccinations play in protecting children’s lives early on in life. His passion for childhood immunization began during his time at Duke University Medical School, where he witnessed children die from terrible, vaccine-preventable diseases, like meningitis. This experience motivated Dr. Barden to continue his father’s fight to protect children from preventable diseases.
Dr. Barden’s research on vaccine storage, along with his strategies to preserve the life and effectiveness of vaccines, is valued and utilized by hundreds of pediatricians, nurses, and other medical professionals nationwide. His research has demonstrated the importance of using vaccine refrigerators instead of domestic refrigerators to store vaccines. Dr. Barden has tirelessly worked to educate healthcare professionals about the storage and handling of vaccines and to help solve vaccine payment difficulties. He helped to create an American Academy of Pediatrics online course on vaccine storage, and has taught other pediatricians how to upgrade their refrigeration and monitoring systems.
Under his leadership, Dr. Barden’s practice has begun serving Medicaid patients, and has added two satellite locations in communities where there were previously no pediatricians. Additionally, Dr. Barden serves as co-chair of the Pediatric Council of the North Carolina Chapter of AAP. He has helped lead efforts with the state Medicaid office; these efforts have resulted in benefits to practices that encourage them to vaccinate more patients.
Dr. Barden’s academic research on vaccine storage and his commitment to vaccinating underserved populations make him North Carolina’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Joseph Quackenbush, LPN
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
After spending 20 years in the United States Army as a combat medic, during which he earned the coveted Expert Field Medical Badge, Mr. Joseph Quackenbush brought his skills and passion to the clinical setting.
As the Vaccine Coordinator for 14 primary care centers and two mobile units for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, one of the largest Vaccines for Children (VFC) programs in the state of Ohio, Mr. Quackenbush leads his team in many ways. Mr. Quackenbush has been instrumental in ensuring the implementation of quality improvement strategies to improve coverage rates. In 2015, three practices that he coordinates achieved the AFIX Project for Ohio Excellence Award, a recognition program of Ohio’s Department of Health.
In addition to his VFC work, Mr. Quackenbush oversees other vaccine activities for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. These include, managing vaccine storage and handling, maintaining inventory, placing vaccine orders, and ensuring compliance and quality improvement. He is seen as a vaccine subject matter expert for all Nationwide Children’s Hospital sites in the state of Ohio and is the head vaccine education trainer for all clinical staff.
For his dedication to immunization quality improvement and vaccine education, Mr. Quackenbush is Ohio’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Don Wilber, MD
Oklahoma City Clinic
Midwest City, OK
Early in his life, Dr. Don Wilber witnessed up-close the serious consequences of a vaccine-preventable disease. Dr. Wilber was hospitalized at one point in his childhood and during that time, he rested next to a boy in an iron lung. The boy had polio, and young Dr. Wilber watched as his disease progressed from beginning to end. This painful experience had an effect on Dr. Wilber and his future career in pediatric medicine.
As a pediatrician at Oklahoma City Clinic, Dr. Wilber goes above and beyond to support childhood immunization. For over 20 years, Dr. Wilber served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Immunization Advisory Committee (OIAC). In this role, he supported the statewide immunization registry and changes to vaccine requirements. Dr. Wilber’s leadership was important as he was one of the first physicians in Oklahoma to use the statewide immunization registry. As a member of the advisory committee, he also made significant contributions to planning strategies and vaccination campaigns. All together, these efforts resulted in higher immunization rates in the state of Oklahoma.
Dr. Wilber’s deep understanding of factors that affect childhood immunization has enabled him to work with parents, physicians, and state and local health departments on changing the conversation around immunization. In addition, Dr. Wilber has acted as a preceptor for University of Oklahoma medical students and has been an invaluable resource to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (DOH). While at the DOH, he led discussions and trainings about effective communication strategies when interacting with vaccine hesitant parents.
Dr. Wilber’s commitment to improving childhood immunization rates through a multifaceted approach makes him Oklahoma’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Christine Wysock, RN, ADN
Corporate Infection Preventionist
Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinics
Ms. Christine Wysock knows first-hand what it’s like to be infected by diseases that are now preventable through immunization. Growing up, Ms. Wysock had several vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio. Her passion for immunizations stems from her own childhood experiences and her strong belief that no child should ever have to face the serious health complications of a preventable disease.
As a Corporate Infection Preventionist at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Ms. Wysock leads and mentors her staff and peers. She uses training and support to spearhead the growth of immunization programs and coalitions. During her first year, Ms. Wysock dedicated her time to developing the ALERT registry – a registry used to identify clinic patients who are past due for their vaccinations.
In her capacity as a nurse overseeing vaccinations in three of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinics, Ms. Wysock’s efforts to establish and maintain registries for infants and children have proven to be among the most successful in Marion County. Yakima Valley Farm Workers consistently rank among the highest in the county in AFIX reports on immunization coverage. Thanks in part to Ms. Wysock’s efforts to educate her community and advocate for improved immunization practices, vaccination rates have risen in Woodburn from low 70th percentile to the 90th percentile within the county. Ms. Wysock has presented results at national conferences and shared her expertise with pediatricians and other stakeholders in her community.
Ms. Wysock’s commitment to increasing immunization rates in her community through education and improved practices makes her Oregon’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Thomas Puleo, MD
Thomas David Puleo, LLC
Dr. Thomas Puleo’s interest in vaccines surfaced early in life. As a young child, he found vaccines fascinating and would ask questions about them every time he saw his pediatrician.
Dr. Puleo takes a patient-centered approach when interacting with his patients and their families. His patients’ comfort is important to him and this shows in the amount of time he dedicates to each patient’s visit. Dr. Puleo earned his medical degree from Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara; his experiences in Mexico have helped him understand the socio-cultural barriers faced by his Hispanics patients. By personalizing his outreach and education efforts, Dr. Puleo is able to effectively communicate the importance and benefits of vaccination. He has championed the idea of meeting people where they are by using their native language and recognizing their unique customs. For example, he has educational materials translated for his Spanish-speaking patients. Dr. Puleo is also learning two languages, Tamil and Telugu, in order to communicate with the Indian families he serves. His open-minded communication strategy has contributed to the high childhood vaccination coverage rates within his practice.
Learning new languages is only one way Dr. Puleo connects with his community. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Puleo serves as a mentor to physician assistant students at universities throughout New England. He also prepares future healthcare professionals by offering a 5-week rotation program at his practice in Cranston.
Dr. Puleo’s unique patient-centered and culturally-appropriate approach to providing childhood immunizations makes him Rhode Island’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Tracy Bieber, RN, BSN
Immunization Strategy Manager
Sanford Health System
Sioux Falls, SD
Ms. Tracy Bieber has always had a passion for pediatric nursing. During her career, she switched from the children’s hospital setting to the clinic setting, where her real affinity for immunization developed.
As the Immunization Strategy Manager for Sanford Health System, Ms. Bieber is an important authority figure on vaccine-related issues for hundreds of facilities nationwide. She launched Sanford’s Immunization Program, improving immunization practices and rates across Sanford Health affiliated facilities nationwide. Several of the Sanford Health System clinics that Ms. Bieber oversees have risen to the forefront in HPV coverage. She continues to strive for excellence in immunization by setting vaccine storage and handling guidelines that are consistent across facilities and adhere to federal and Vaccines for Children (VFC) guidelines. She has also improved reminder-recall systems.
Ms. Bieber serves as the Chairperson of the Sioux Falls Area Immunization Coalition. In this role, she has led efforts to increase awareness of adolescent immunizations for school-age children. Currently, Ms. Bieber is working on organizing the first-ever South Dakota Immunization Conference. With this conference, Ms. Bieber hopes to bring several groups together, including the state health department and other health networks.
Ms. Bieber’s dedication to improving immunization practices and rates within her health system and community make her South Dakota’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Sheri Burnett, RN
Ms. Sheri Burnett’s love for children, along with her talent for problem-solving, have inspired her to tackle immunization challenges in her practice.
As the Clinical Supervisor for Plateau Pediatrics, Ms. Burnett has vastly improved the vaccine organization and administration system for her practice. By revamping organizational practices and paying close attention to details, she has maximized Plateau Pediatrics’ efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of childhood immunization. Ms. Burnett provides her colleagues with immunization training and resources that allow them to excel at serving their patients. By creating and managing a highly-efficient environment, as well as being upfront and honest with the patients and families of Plateau Pediatrics, Ms. Burnett has played an integral role in improving immunization coverage of children younger than two years old. She took the initiative to improve patient education in the practice by displaying free-standing copies of handouts on all vaccines recommended for children.
Ms. Burnett’s expertise in childhood immunization has not gone unnoticed. Pediatricians, other healthcare professionals, and community resource networks all turn to her for insight on how to improve immunization practices and services in their own offices in areas such as vaccine administration, and vaccine storage and handling.
Ms. Burnett’s ongoing efforts to improve immunization practices within her own practice and her community make her Tennessee’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Karlen (Beth) Luthy, DNP, FNP
Brigham Young University
Professor Beth Luthy’s son, Michael, had several vaccine-preventable diseases as a child due to a birth defect that affected his immune system. The experience of caring for her son fueled Professor Luthy’s determination to improve immunization coverage and increase community immunity.
Professor Luthy has conducted research on vaccine refusal and hesitancy and produced an educational video on the value and benefits of childhood immunization, Reasons to Immunize. Her research has been recognized by organizations, such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), who asked Professor Luthy to model evidence-based responses to common parental immunization concerns for one of their educational videos.
Professor Luthy wrote a children’s book, Michael’s Superheroes, that explains the importance of vaccines. The book sparked an initiative at Primary Children’s Hospital, where nurses and medical assistants wore superhero capes when administering vaccines to pediatric patients. She also implemented a two-year community campaign, Immun-wize, which promoted childhood immunization in the community through school newsletters, and ads on buses, bus benches, and in movie theatres.
Professor Luthy’s commitment for promoting immunization through research and community education makes her Utah’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
MaryHelen Bayerle, RN
Triage and Immunization Nurse
University of Vermont Medical Center-Family Medicine
Ms. MaryHelen Bayerle has “seen it all” over the course of her long nursing career. After spending many years as a nurse in emergency rooms, nursing homes, and general surgery, Ms. Bayerle realized she wanted more access to her patients. For her, that meant focusing on primary care and childhood immunization.
As a nurse working in both triage and immunization divisions at University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMC) in Berlin, Ms. Bayerle uses her expertise to improve service delivery, operations, and other processes involved in the administering of immunizations. She trains and mentors her colleagues and keeps them up-to-date on the latest CDC/ACIP recommendations. Ms. Bayerle has developed innovative strategies to improve immunization coverage rates within her practice, such as a streamlined process for scheduling vaccine series.
Ms. Bayerle’s work has allowed Berlin Family Health to establish a clear baseline from which to improve vaccination rates by, identifying areas of weakness in the vaccination process, and develop strategies for improvement. Her contributions to the implementation of CDC’s AFIX quality improvement certification helped improve coverage rates among 24 to 36 month-olds for all immunizations. Thanks to her efforts, DTaP, Polio, MMR, HepB, and varicella coverage rates have increased from 92.3% to 100% at UVMC-Berlin.
Ms. Bayerle’s commitment to the improvement of vaccine service delivery makes her Vermont’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Delicia Claure, RN
Arlington Pediatric Center
Ms. Delicia Claure is not daunted by challenge and change. Growing up in Bolivia, she moved to the U.S. at the age of 25, without any former medical knowledge and virtually no English skills. This experience inspired her to support other immigrant families.
Once she became a nurse, Ms. Claure’s own experience gave her the ability to put herself in the shoes of other parents, making it easier to provide them with comfort and assurance. In her current role as the Clinic Director for Arlington Pediatric Center (APC), Ms. Claure works with many families whose children are not up-to-date on their immunizations. As recent immigrants from Central America, South America, China, Mongolia, and Morocco, these children face many socio-economic barriers to immunization. Thanks to her immunization knowledge, skills, and desire to provide assistance to underserved populations, Ms. Claure has been able to improve immunization coverage rates in her practice. 97% of children 24 to 35 months old are up-to-date on ACIP-recommended vaccines.
Ms. Claure’s commitment to ensuring that immigrant children in her community are fully vaccinated makes her Virginia’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
John Dunn, MD
Group Health Cooperative
Dr. John Dunn strongly supports immunization in his pediatric practice and in the state of Washington. He promotes universal immunization to his state’s political leaders, and he strengthens his community through positive messaging about childhood immunizations.
Whether it’s appearing on local news segments, answering colleagues’ questions about vaccines, providing care to patients and their families, or serving on numerous local boards that make decisions about vaccines in the state of Washington, Dr. Dunn steps up to support vaccines. He serves on the Washington Vaccine Association, the Vaccine Advisory Committee, and the Vax Northwest Oversight Committee. He also chairs the Immunization Program at Group Health. In these positions, he ensures that policies and practices are in place to keep state immunization levels high.
Dr. Dunn has devised strategies that encourage people to think differently about immunization conversations, specifically through empathy and trust-building. Through his research work at Vax Northwest, Dr. Dunn continues to learn about vaccine hesitancy and apply his findings to his everyday interactions with children and their families.
Dr. Dunn’s efforts to keep immunization rates high by changing conversations around childhood immunization make him Washington’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Aurora Health Care
Ms. Joyce Oscieczanek realized the need for improved education and training around immunization when her son did not receive his hepatitis B vaccination on time because her son’s doctor was not aware of the recommendation. Soon after, she learned it was not just her son’s pediatrician who was unaware of the recommended immunization schedule—other pediatricians in Sheboygan County were not aware of the recommendation either.
Being directly involved in the medical community, Ms. Oscieczanek felt a duty to educate pediatricians, nurses, and other medical professionals in her geographic area on the importance of adhering to the recommended schedule. Ms. Oscieczanek is not only a medical assistant for Aurora Health Care, she is also the practice’s first Immunization Coordinator. She has developed and implemented policies and guidelines that have allowed Aurora Health Care to be more efficient and effective in all areas of immunization service.
Ms. Oscieczanek’s dedication to improving immunization practices and rates has led to a protocol that is followed across all eight affiliated Aurora Health Care facilities. By putting these practices and policies into place, immunization coverage rates have increased tremendously at all eight facilities.
Outside of the clinic setting, Ms. Oscieczanek has led improvements in childhood immunization at the community and state levels. She helped establish the Sheboygan County Immunization Coalition. The coalition is made up of 25 members who represent schools, pharmacies, hospitals, neighborhood businesses, and the local Headstart program.
For her dedication to improving immunization rates at both the practice and community levels, Ms. Oscieczanek is Wisconsin’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion.
Learn about all of the Champion Award Winners.
- Page last reviewed: April 12, 2016
- Page last updated: December 28, 2016
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