May 09, 2014

Reflections on Courage

Have you seen the new Oprah cup sleeves at Starbucks? Monday morning was the first day I saw them; I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes – and the sleeve on my green tea looked like this:

“The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want.” Smiles! Yes! I was attending the California Immunization Coalition (CIC) Summit and it was my 40(ish) birthday – most people wouldn’t choose to sit indoors listening to speakers all day, especially when their birthday coincides with Cinco de Mayo – but I did. I could have sent another member of our team, but I didn’t. Like the quote, I was living the life I want – passionately working to help my community and I had the privilege of spending my birthday with others who share this passion. My immunization colleagues are truly a second family.

Unlike a multitude of other occupations, my job as the executive director for Immunize Nevada doesn’t end when I walk out the door at the end of the day. It continues:

·         when my Facebook friends share the newest vaccine article, meme or tragic story on my page “did you see this…probably…but still awesome” “thought of you with this one, LOL” “this article made me think of you...heartbreaking story...”

·         when a new baby arrives in our family and I remind everyone they need Tdap and flu shots.

·         when we have resurgence of diseases like measles and I urge everyone to make sure their shots are up-to-date.

·         when I’m buying groceries and the clerk asks me what I do.

Most of all, when as a parent, I stand up and say that I vaccinate my child.

But being vocal about vaccines takes courage.

This was a recurring theme at #CICSummit2014. Our communities and families aren’t fully protected unless all of us, collectively, are standing up for vaccines. Why? It’s simple, they save lives. They are the greatest achievement of public health. We heard amazing stories throughout the summit of students, nurses, lawyers, parents, physicians and more whose voices are being heard:

·         The high school students and their adult mentors that took a stand and produced The Invisible Threat.

·         The pediatrician from Marin County that decided to protect his most vulnerable patients by implementing a practice policy for MMR vaccination.

·         The California health officers that have mandated county wide flu vaccination for health care workers.

·         The founder of the Asian Liver Center who has dedicated his career to creating awareness of Hepatitis B infection and the resulting health disparities within the Asian population.

So, whether your courage is inspired by Oprah, by a family’s story of loss or by a physician that reminds you vaccines are safe – make your voice heard. Share on Facebook, support your local coalition’s efforts and tell your family & friends. Our communities need it, but our littlest babies and our most vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors need it the most.

If you need a little nudge in evoking that courage – give me a call or drop me a message. I’d love to tell you my story so you can tell yours.

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.