Alumna recognized for immunization efforts

BY BECKI DEGEEST
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For her decades of leadership in getting children vaccinated, an MSUM grad has been named Minnesota’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Childhood Immunization Champion.

Patricia Stinchfield, M.S., RN, CPNP, has been recognized for her extraordinary work in promoting childhood immunization in Minnesota. In 1987, Stinchfield began working as a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Clinics and Hospitals of Minnesota. Since she has been working to educate parents, healthcare providers, community leaders and policy makers on the vital role immunizations play in keeping vaccine preventable diseases out of otherwise healthy communities.

According to the CDC, young children rely on champions like Stinchfield tokeep them safe and healthy. Thus, each year, in connection with National Infant Immunization Week (April 26 – May 3), the award is presented to 31 individuals going above and beyond to promote childhood immunizations in their communities.

Champions are selected if they have sufficiently shown leadership in their community, collaboration with others, innovation in the field of vaccination and advocacy for children’s health.

“We’re delighted to present this award to Patsy,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases for the Minnesota Department of Health. “She is a true immunization champion with a long-time commitment and passion for protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

In 2008, Stinchfield implemented an award-winning program at Children’s Clinics and Hospitals called FluVaxTrax to encourage staff to receive their own flu vaccines in order to better protect their patients. She has developed partnerships with businesses to facilitate school-based vaccination education and clinics. She has also participated in the Minnesota Department of Health’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee.

Stinchfield was the first nurse to become a voting member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and has testified before the Minnesota State Legislature on vaccine issues. Currently the director of infectious diseases, immunology, rheumatology and infections prevention and control at the Children’s Clinics and Hospitals of Minnesota in St. Paul, she is obviously deserving of her new title.

Her passion for ensuring all children receive immunizations began after her experience treating young patients during the national measles epidemic of 1989-90. Witnessing the deaths of two children as a result of measles was unnecessarily devastating, she said, as the disease can be prevented by immunizations.

To find out why some children had not been immunized in an effort to prevent future outbreaks, Stinchfield gathered a group of other nurses to conduct a door-to-door survey in various communities. They found that although a vast majority of families valued immunizations, they were lacking information as to when they were needed. This inspired Stinchfield to begin an effort at children’s clinics and hospitals to ensure all of its health care providers were sufficiently educating families and providing immunizations at the correct time in children’s lives.

She has since become a nationally recognized immunization expert. Stinchfield has served as director of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota’s immunization project and presents regularly for the clinical vaccinology course sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, which has audiences of up to 1,000 healthcare professionals each year.

Her role is a necessary one, as flawed media coverage about risks from immunization, Internet misinformation and frequent changes in recommended vaccination schedules can all hinder communication with families about vaccine safety and immunization needs. She has taken it upon herself to develop trusting relationships with patients and families through informational discussion about the pros and cons of immunization. In turn, Stinchfield has prevented countless families from taking what she’s called “an unnecessary risk.”

“Patsy has a long history at Children’s and in the community of helping to ensure children are protected from infectious diseases,” Children’s Hospitals and Clinics chief medical officer Phil Kibort, M.D. said. “This award is yet another chapter in her storied career and we are so proud to count her as a part of the Children’s family.”

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