Mar 02, 2016

How Can We #BeLikeDebbie?

Dr. Benjamin Franklin was born 310 years ago but his civic involvement and his inventions have contributed to an improved quality of life for many throughout the centuries. Each year, his legacy lives on with the Franklin Founders Award, presented to an individual who exhibits significant accomplishments in a field of Franklin’s interest. This year, the chosen field of interest was public health and the honored recipient was Dr. Paul A. Offit, one of my personal heroes. In recognition of Dr. Offit’s award, we were encouraged to #BeLikeBen by a number of organizations. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve thought about this often, asking myself the question: What am I doing to #BeLikeBen? What legacy am I leaving?

Then we heard the tragic news - beloved State Senator Debbie Smith had lost her battle with brain cancer. The subsequent outpouring of love and respect for Debbie centered on her passion for making our communities a better place not just for her children and grandchildren; but for all of us. She believed every Nevadan had a right to be educated, safe and healthy, no matter who you were or your zip code. I didn’t have the opportunity to work as closely with her as I have other legislators, but I always knew she was there as a resource and a supportive vote when needed because healthy students are students ready to learn.

The gym at Sparks High School was packed for her memorial service – hundreds of family, friends, politicians, and community leaders that crossed generational, geographical and partisan lines. Stories were shared of her accomplishments, her mentoring, her tenacity and her love for her family and community. But there was a clear message: Debbie still had work to do. Those of us who have inherited her spirit must commit to not only finishing that work, but to keeping her passion alive.


Like Benjamin Franklin, Senator Smith left Nevada a legacy. It lives on in each child’s life saved because schools now have epi-pens; every victim who may find justice under Brianna’s Law; each person that calls Nevada 2-1-1 looking for resources; each student being bullied; and every school that needs repairs. So, the question is, what will you do to #BeLikeDebbie? What legacy will you leave? I hope the public service of both Benjamin Franklin and Debbie Smith inspire you to answer this.

As a mom and as the Executive Director of Immunize Nevada, I work to ensure that every Nevadan has access to getting vaccinated; every student starts school on time because they’re up to date on their vaccines; families needing a primary care healthcare provider find one; and our children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. I’ll continue to strive to #BeLikeBen and #BeLikeDebbie, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

What can you do to #BeLikeDebbie? You can speak up about issues and legislation you care about; join the PTA/PTO at your child’s school; make sure your family members are protected against diseases like flu and measles; and most of all, exercise your right to vote. 




Heidi Parker, MA

As executive director of Immunize Nevada, Heidi Parker, MA leads and engages a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, member organizations and funders so they are passionate about vaccines and access to preventive health care across Nevada’s rural, urban and frontier communities. Bringing over two decades of experience in nonprofit program management, fundraising and marketing, she has dedicated her career to being able to affect her community in a positive way, whether working with Head Start families, victims of violence, college students or Nevadans needing immunizations.

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