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Meet The Board: Robert Crowe, Vice-Chair

Rob_crowe_headshot-0005This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vaccine Ambassador Board Member, Rob Crowe, who also serves as Vice President of Client Services at Supplemental Health Care. Here’s what he had to share!

Hi, Rob. Let’s start with your role on the Board of Directors for Vaccine Ambassadors. How long have you been on the board?

Well, I guess since the beginning! We formalized a fantastic board of individuals in 2015 from people who have mostly been supporting Vaccine Ambassadors in some capacity over the years.  

What got you involved with the organization?

I was initially introduced to Vaccine Ambassadors through the Bull City Forward Fellowship, which Jackie [Kaufman] had participated in back in 2014. I had been supporting Bull City Forward in a variety of ways in partnership with their then Executive Director, Keeva Kase, and had mentioned interest in possibly sponsoring a fellowship. We had actually identified a possible organization when Keeva called me excitedly about a new submission – it turned out to be Vaccine Ambassadors and I knew instantly that this was the organization I wanted to partner with. Their story hit on so many levels and the potential to positively impact the lives of so many through a simple, effective, and transparent model was inescapable. When I took the Vaccine Ambassadors story back to my team at Supplemental Health Care, it was unanimous that we would sponsor the fellowship. (more…)

Vaccines: Still Our Best Shot Against Communicable Diseases

Photo/PAHO

Across the world, one hot news topic is actively shaping health policy and travel guidelines in addition to influencing opinions ranging from the Pope to the 2016 Summer Olympics committee. The focus of such heated international debate is a tiny microorganism — the Zika virus — which made headlines in the past year for its rapid spread across the Americas. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization reported that the Zika virus was strongly suspected to be a cause of microcephaly — the occurrence of unusually small heads and associated developmental issues in infants — but more scientific evidence was required to prove it conclusively. While the evolution and impact of the virus is being tracked, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists a range of guidelines for the public, particularly for travelers and pregnant women to avoid mosquito bites and prevent disease transmission. Most importantly, there is no vaccine for the Zika virus at this time. (more…)

Leading By Example

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Ashley and husband, Remington Brack

Every new year inevitably brings change. For newlywed Ashley Brack, this year’s change will be greater than most. Having married her husband just a few months ago in December 2015, Brack is now set to travel halfway around the world to live with him in Germany. One thing that won’t change, however, is her support for Vaccine Ambassadors.

Brack a senior operations coordinator for Supplemental Health Care, has been donating to Vaccine Ambassadors for about a year now, ever since making the generous choice to schedule fortnightly deductions from her payroll. The cause means a great deal to her.

“It’s completely tragic that lots of children die every year, every day, of diseases that are completely preventable and affordably preventable,” Brack commented. “It’s something that, with very little money, I’m able to have a huge impact on. That was the biggest draw.”

Her employer, Supplemental Health Care, has built a strong partnership with Vaccine Ambassadors and has made some very generous contributions. Commendably, individual employees like Brack have taken advantage of the partnership by initiating regular payroll withholdings through Human Resources. With no pre-existing structure in place for such donations, the employees themselves had to make it happen.

“I always have the best intentions when it comes to donations…but I live a very busy life,” Brack said, regarding her motivation to schedule regular donations. “Having something put in front of me that was easy to obtain…it gave me that little push to make it happen – to really put actions to my good intentions.”

The choice came quite naturally to Brack and once the withholding schedule was established, she could relax in the knowledge that Vaccine Ambassadors would receive her support every few weeks regardless of how busy her schedule was. “It was something that was easy for me,” she said. “Out of sight, out of mind!”

Brack has been an active supporter of Vaccine Ambassadors in other ways, too. Until her recent plans to relocate to Europe, she volunteered with Vaccine Ambassador Champions, a committee dedicated to fundraising and brainstorming new ideas for the organization. She endorses both the mission of Vaccine Ambassadors and how the organization itself is run. “As a company, Vaccine Ambassadors is very transparent,” Brack, said. “[Your donation] all goes to what you’re putting it for.”

Furthermore, Brack remarked, “The partnership with Supplemental Health Care and other companies hopefully will give them that visibility nationwide. [Hopefully] they can impact as many lives as possible and save as many lives as possible.”

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Bret Boyle and daughter Lucy

Fellow employee Brent Boyle followed suit when he learned about the partnership between Supplemental Health Care and Vaccine Ambassadors. For about half a year now, Boyle – a husband and father – has opted to have similarly reoccurring payroll deductions sent to Vaccine Ambassadors. He credits his daughter as his main source of motivation.

“I have a 2 year old daughter,” Boyle said. “I see stories [about diseases in the news] that bother me a lot more than before I became a parent. I used to be able to shrug the stories off – they didn’t bother me – but now that I have a baby, I think about stuff like that a lot more. I always try to think, what if that were happening to me, to my baby.”

Though Boyle ensures that his daughter receives all her vaccines, he worries about the children who will go unvaccinated. He hopes his donations to Vaccine Ambassadors will help provide necessarily vaccinations to some of those children worldwide: “I would like for anybody that can’t afford it, or doesn’t have the means to be vaccinated – I think that’s something they should have access to.” (more…)

The #BestHolidayEver

Watch this beautiful video from our friends at Supplemental Health Care announcing their gift of 20,000 vaccines this holiday season.

A New Conversation: Vaccines Change the World

JK_2U_NIAM_01-05After reading the first draft of my blog to be featured during National Immunization Month, I polled the group around the room for their response. There were the obligatory nods of the head and favorable comments, but it was obvious that this piece had not wowed them. Okay, I get that. We all agreed that it was factual, informative, and a bit preachy, but lacked a certain draw. Finally in an effort to be sympathetic to the writer (me), our newest intern sheepishly mumbled, “It’s just kind of a dry subject.”

This seemingly innocuous comment struck me. Now it was my turn to shake my head. How does a technology responsible for saving millions of lives become dry? However unsettling her words were, there was truth in what she spoke and sadly I knew she was not alone in this thought. I could chalk up some of her views to age. She was not old enough to remember the terror that many parents and children felt as the summer months approached, and with them, the fear of crippling polio. I know that age was only one factor. I myself was a generation removed from the epidemic and therefore had no real appreciation of what that must have been like to live with the dread that every body ache might be a sign of something worse.

True, the absence of disease in our society has made us complacent. Without a direct memory of these events it is difficult to put this medical marvel into context. What many of us fail to realize is that our experience is the exception and not the rule. In many areas of the world where vaccinations have not become “routine,” parents and children continue to fear the very diseases we have forgotten. In 2013, it was estimated that 145,000 people (mostly children younger than 5) died from measles, a disease that has been preventable for over a half a century.

To be honest, it is difficult to find something fresh that hasn’t been said over and over again, whether it is a rehash of vaccine safety (myths versus facts), Andrew Wakefield’s debunked paper, conspiracy theories, or the motivation of big pharma. It occurred to me that we are continually taking the field in a defensive position, pushing back the false claims rather than creating our own narrative. We need to do better in conveying the amazing impact that vaccines have had and continue to have on our world. Parents, health care providers, and the media (no, there are not two sides) should resound with a common voice. Let’s move beyond the tired old arguments and focus on our messaging. The facts are the facts, but the question is how do we convey them so that they are meaningful and effective?

I do not think it is hyperbole to say that vaccines are a scientific wonder. One only needs to look at the number of lives saved since the introduction of vaccines to have an awe-inspired appreciation for how this science has changed our world. Vaccine Ambassadors is committed to ensuring that every person everywhere has the same access to this phenomenal achievement in public health.

Still a little preachy? Perhaps. A little less dry? I hope so.

This post was originally featured on MHA@GW blog celebrating National Immunization Awareness Month

In the interest of promoting more robust discourse around the importance of regular vaccinations for serious but preventable contagious conditions, MHA@GW is hosting a guest post series in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). Throughout the month of August, we’re featuring pieces from thought leaders and advocates in the field who were asked to write about the importance of immunization in 2015. Read more about the project in our introduction post.

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