NAPNAP member Beth Luthy was recently appointed by Secretary Sylvia Burwell to the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines of the Health Resources and Services Administration. We are pleased to have a member serve on this high-level commission bringing more attention to the critical role that pediatric nurse practitioners and other pediatric advanced practice nurses play in children’s health care.
When asked how she first became involved in childhood vaccines, Beth responded “I love immunizations!” I became an immunization enthusiast shortly after the birth of my oldest child, Michael, who was diagnosed with biliary atresia and who later received a liver transplant. With the blessing of a transplant, however, came a lifelong commitment to immunosuppressant medications—a commitment which my husband and I gratefully accepted. Because he was on large doses of immunosuppressant medications, my son was also highly susceptible to infectious diseases. As a mother, I desperately wanted to protect my infant by vaccinating him, although all vaccines were medically contraindicated the first few years of his life. Instead of vaccinating Michael directly, I was forced to rely on the herd effect to control the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases in my community. Unfortunately, too few people were vaccinated in my community and, as a result, Michael contracted rotavirus, chickenpox, RSV, and whooping cough, all of which directly threatened his survival and resulted in months of in-patient interventions in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. My first-hand experiences with the devastation of vaccine-preventable diseases deeply influenced my career, a career that has since been dedicated to improving immunization rates in communities.
Being appointed to a national commission is highly competitive. We asked Beth about her work that may have helped in the nomination and appointment process. For the past eight years I have been involved with vaccine-related research, focusing my efforts on understanding issues with vaccination compliance. Most recently I have researched healthcare worker vaccination rates in out-patient clinics in my state. I also recently finished a county-wide initiative to vaccinate adult employees while in the workplace where we administered over 4,000 vaccines.
Beth offers this advice for NAPNAP members who would like to put their expertise to work for a government agency at the national, state or local level. My greatest piece of advice is to BE PASSIONATE. I truly believe in NAPNAP’s mission which is “to empower pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs)…to enhance child and family health through practice, leadership, advocacy, education and research.” There is no question that NAPNAP members make a difference in the lives of children every single day. Imagine, then, the power of sharing your passion with others who all collectively work towards the same purpose. The possibilities are virtually limitless.