APhA announces Immunization Champion Award winners

Now, more than ever, with the reappearance of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, it’s all hands on deck and engagement of pharmacists as vital members of the immunization neighborhood is critical. Pharmacists have long been recognized for the vital roles that they play in delivering vaccines and providing education to patients and a wide range of other stakeholders.

To celebrate the achievements of immunizing pharmacists, APhA’s Immunization Champion Awards recognize pharmacists, organizations, members of the pharmacy profession, and their allies, who have made extraordinary contributions to increase vaccination rates in their communities. The 2019 Immunization Champions, honored in March at the APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in Seattle, have implemented immunization and patient care activities that resulted in increased vaccination rates and improvement of public health. Read on to learn more about the efforts and achievements of these distinguished individuals.    

The 2019 APhA Immunization Champion Awards program was supported by Merck and Vaxserve.

Additional information about the program and this year’s award recipients can be found at: https://www.pharmacist.com/apha-immunization-champion-awards

Community Outreach, National Winner

Leslie Hurst, PharmD, BCACP, Walgreens, Goshen, KY

Leslie Hurst, PharmD, BCACP, Healthcare Supervisor for Walgreens in Kentucky and Indiana, was instrumental in implementing an effective response to a Hepatitis A outbreak in 2018. When multiple counties in her states were affected by the outbreak, Hurst sprang into action to control the spread of disease through vaccination.  By coordinating with the Walgreens Support Office, state and local health departments, health systems, providers, employers, payers, and school systems, Hurst and her team were able to obtain and distribute a consistent supply of vaccine throughout the response effort. “It required a team effort with external and internal partners, and our District leaders, Store Managers, and Pharmacy Managers were instrumental resources to meet the community demand,” explains Hurst.

Multiple outreach efforts were coordinated to extend the reach of pharmacists beyond the walls of the pharmacy to ensure vaccine coverage was maximized. These resulted in securing a hepatitis A offsite agreement with an entire school system comprised of 150 locations, providing onsite services in coordination with employer groups, and expanding access through a large state Managed Medicaid plan by successfully advocating for extended coverage through the pharmacy benefit.

Through Hurst’s  leadership, Walgreens pharmacists were among the top providers supporting community immunization efforts to minimize the spread of illness, administering more than 75,000 Hepatitis A vaccines at over 99 locations in 2018.

Community Outreach, Honorable Mention

Elizabeth Skoy, PharmD, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

 As Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Elizabeth Skoy, PharmD, led an initiative to increase adult immunization rates throughout rural communities in North Dakota. Skoy collaborated with the North Dakota Department of Health to identify specific counties and pharmacies that could have the largest impact on adult immunization rates. “Our approach was to use statewide data to pinpoint specific pharmacies in areas of the state with the lowest immunization rates and then target those pharmacists with education to increase vaccinations,” she explains.

Skoy collaborated with the Center for Immunization Research and Education (CIRE) at North Dakota State University to coordinate educational activities in support of this effort. These activities included the creation of continuing education focused on how to talk about vaccines with hesitant patients, immunization schedule updates, and pharmacy workflow and billing considerations, as well as the creation and dissemination of an online toolkit that included bag stuffers, pharmacy billing resources, and information about immunization information systems.

Through Skoy’s collaborative efforts, state immunization rates among adults increased by 13.4% for PCV13, 10.9% for PPSV23, 9.7% for Tdap, and 21% for zoster.

Community Outreach, Honorable Mention

Melvin Baron, PharmD, MPA, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

The health disparities observed among Latinos living in underserved regions indicate a need for innovative and culturally-sensitive health education materials that are capable of changing attitudes and behaviors. To address this need, Melvin Baron, PharmD, MPA, and his colleague, Gregory Molina, producer of fotonovelas and audio-visual novelas, developed and distributed fotonovelas and audio-visual novelas on various health topics, including immunizations in English and Spanish. “We wanted to get creative with our communication strategies for delivering health education messages to underserved and low-health-literacy populations to address health disparities,” explains Baron. These educational tools deliver entertaining and dramatic soap opera stories with characters in situations that the audience can identify with. The characters overcome barriers and learn to practice healthier behaviors, providing an opportunity for social learning. The immunization fotonovela, Infectious Rumors, was designed to increase knowledge about immunizations among low-income Latino families in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Southern California (USC) campuses. These communities were targeted because of their lack of health insurance and poor access to regular health care services as well as low immunization rates for all age groups. This resource was developed through a collaboration with local health centers, community organizations, and pharmacy students at USC, and over 75,000 copies were distributed to the Latino community in the greater Los Angeles area.

Corporation/Institution, National Winner

Oklahoma City Indian Clinic Pharmacy, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC) Pharmacy’s immunization program has enhanced immunization rates, improved patient satisfaction, and increased access to health care. In 2015, the OKCIC Pharmacy started an immunization program to address the immunization needs of a patient population of almost 20,000 Native Americans. In 2018, OKCIC Pharmacy collaborated with other departments and community partners to further improve vaccination access for patients.

OKCIC Pharmacy’s determination to reduce the disease burden in their patient population has led to a comprehensive approach to effectively identify patients and efficiently deliver care. “To avoid missed vaccination opportunities, pharmacy technicians screen all adult patients at check-in,” explains Jennifer Pham, OKCIC’s Director of Pharmacy. Pham notes that the pharmacy aims to provide immunizations to walk-in patients within 7 minutes without compromising patients’ wait time of 20 minutes for new prescriptions and is able to meet this goal through utilizing student pharmacists. OKCIC Pharmacy has worked with students from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Southwestern Oklahoma State University Colleges of Pharmacy to maintain a high level of service excellence and patient satisfaction.

Corporation/Institution, Honorable Mention

FDA PHS Vaccine Clinic, Silver Spring, MD

Established in 2016, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) FDA Vaccine Program is the first program within the regulatory Agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services that is managed and staffed entirely by PHS officers. Pharmacists make up 60% of the program staff. However, all 11 categories of Commissioned Corps Officers are involved, creating a multidisciplinary team with a singular focus—vaccination and service to FDA employees.

This program serves as a model for promoting population health within one of the largest federal agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services. “The program is an innovative, workplace-hosted immunization clinic that has leveraged strategic partnerships and multidisciplinary team involvement to service the entire DC Metro Region without disrupting the workforce,” explains LCDR Andrew Gentles, pharmacist and Commissioned Corps officer with PHS. The Program, operated in conjunction with FDA’s Occupational Health Services (OHS), includes collaborative practice agreements as well as Agency oversight.

In 2017, the Program expanded its borders to include FDA employees in both Denver and San Diego, and future plans include utilizing this model to offer additional vaccines and expand to other offices across the country. 

Friend of Pharmacy, National Winner

Kyle Pohl, MD and Jay Flynn, MD, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Nome, AK

The Norton Sound Region comprises a very remote region of Alaska where traditional well-child visits and routine immunizations are difficult to accomplish. Approximately 65% of patients served by the Norton Sound Health Corporation pharmacy live in villages that are accessible only by airplane. “The remoteness and isolation of the region requires extensive collaboration, coordination, creativity, and communication to ensure patients receive needed vaccines,” explains Flynn.

To address these challenges, and high rate of overdue vaccinations among the patient population, physicians and pharmacists developed a program to increase immunization rates. The program pilot involved a team including Flynn and a pharmacist who traveled to the remote village of Shishmaref to provide an intense 3-day clinic providing well-child visits and vaccinations for children and their family members. Following this pilot trip, another 16 interdisciplinary teams traveled across the region. Services were provided to more than 750 pediatric patients and thousands of childhood, adolescent, and adult vaccines were administered by pharmacists.

This initiative evolved to become the Norton Sound Region Children's Coalition, which includes Pohl, Flynn, and two pharmacists, Heather Lefebvre, PharmD and R. Kylea Goff, PharmD. “In addition to providing well-child visits and immunizations, the coalition focuses on education for parents and communities about the importance of vaccines and overcoming myths and misperceptions about vaccines,” explains Pohl. These innovative approaches have helped overcome vaccine resistance within the patient population and vaccination rates have increased dramatically. Overall, the number of vaccines administered throughout the region has increased by 1,500 annually. 

Individual Practitioner, National Winner

Kimberly McKeirnan, PharmD, BCACP, Washington State University, Spokane, WA

Kimberly McKeirnan, PharmD, BCACP and her team are increasing patient access to vaccines by helping train pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations. In March 2017, Idaho was the first state to pass legislation allowing pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations if they have completed a training program. In response, McKeirnan and resident Kyle Frazier designed an immunization training program to meet the specific educational needs of pharmacy technicians.

“The focus of the Washington State University (WSU) Pharmacy Technician Immunization Training Program is on optimizing the use of the skill sets of both pharmacists and technicians to improve immunization rates,” McKeirnan explains. In this model, the pharmacist retains responsibility for identifying and prescribing the vaccinations under protocol and patient counseling, and the technician is responsible for preparing and administering the vaccine.  The pilot program included 25 technicians from Albertsons, and as of November 2018, has expanded to more than 400 technicians thanks to the work of the WSU team, reports McKeirnan.

Individual Practitioner, Honorable Mention

Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore, MD

Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, has demonstrated a sustained commitment as an immunization expert with many years of service as an educator and advocate. Layson-Wolf provided a powerful voice in support of expanding the scope of practice for immunizing pharmacists in Maryland beyond influenza vaccines, and was instrumental in supporting the passage of legislation that allows an expanded scope of immunizations.

Layson-Wolf has spearheaded numerous other activities in support of expanding immunization services, including collaboration with the Baltimore County Department of Health to train pharmacists to be immunizers and the creation of an influenza immunization protocol for NeighborCare Professional Pharmacies. Layson-Wolf also collaborated with pharmacist colleagues and student pharmacists to design the Vote and Vax initiative in Prince Georges County to improve access and convenience. “Through this program, voters were given the opportunity to receive their influenza immunization at no charge at a facility adjacent to the election polling site,” Layson-Wolf explains.

Layson-Wolf has trained over 1,000 student pharmacists and over 1,000 pharmacists to be immunizers using APhA’s Immunization Certificate Training Program, and for nearly 15 years, has provided immunization training at state, regional, and national-level meetings to various health care professionals.

Individual Practitioner, Honorable Mention

Sarah Mahdy, PharmD, Walgreens, Tulsa, OK

Immunization “PHACTS” (Phone calls, Help from front end, Asking the right questions, Consulting on recommendations, Targeting populations at risk, Signage), is a program created by Sarah Mahdy, PharmD, in collaboration with a pharmacist colleague to engage pharmacists in a strategic approach to identify, educate, and triage patients for immunizations. “Through the tools that we created with this program, we were able to dramatically improve immunization rates in the Eastern Oklahoma region, particularly in rural communities where physicians are less likely to stock a range of vaccines,” says Mahdy.

The program includes a "non-flu" immunization guide that includes an overview of the need for pharmacists to provide immunizations; a "Power 5" of vaccines, consisting of information about providing pneumococcal,  TDaP, zoster, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B vaccines; and a roles/responsibilities section. To expand the reach of the program to other pharmacy sites, Mahdy facilitated a peer education program for pharmacy managers in the region. A 60-team “tournament,” called the Ultimate Pharmacy Challenge, was created to challenge each practice site to increase its immunization rates. 

As a result of these innovative activities, the number of patients in the region receiving non-influenza vaccines almost doubled to nearly 20,000 patients within one year, and the number of patients receiving influenza vaccine also increased throughout the Eastern Oklahoma region.

Pharmacy Team Member, National Winner

Casey Haycock, CPhT, Albertsons Companies, Boise, ID

Casey Haycock, CPhT, was trained to administer immunizations as part of Albertson’s initial pilot program for pharmacy technicians. He is currently the store’s leading immunizer and has administered more than 1,500 vaccinations within 2 years. Additionally, Haycock has taken an active role in implementing clinics for administering influenza vaccine at which he has personally administered hundreds of influenza vaccinations. He also informs community primary care providers and other partners about the immunization services offered at the pharmacy.

Haycock has familiarized himself with the adult immunization schedule so that he is prepared to identify patients who are candidates for immunizations and start conversations with them about it. “As a technician, I am often the first and last person patients talk to at the pharmacy and so I use this contact as an opportunity to increase patient awareness about immunizations,” he explains. Haycock’s proactive approach to discussing vaccines with patients has doubled the number of pneumococcal immunizations administered at the pharmacy. He has become the pharmacy’s most proactive team member in screening patient profiles to make sure their immunizations are up to date and approaching patients with recommendations. His patience and sincerity when interacting with patients is admirable and his caring demeanor and skill have produced effective, trusting relationships. 

Travel Health, National Winner

Crockett Tidwell, RPh, CDE, United Supermarkets, Lubbock, TX

Ever since he completed his immunization certificate training program in 1998, Crockett Tidwell has been a pioneering leader for promoting immunizations at United Supermarkets in Texas.

Tidwell, RPh, CDE, has long been an advocate for expanding pharmacists’ immunization roles and training pharmacists as immunization providers. One of his recent initiatives is the implementation of a travel health program at the pharmacy. He was inspired to develop such a program after his own experiences obtaining travel health services. “When I was preparing to travel out of the country, visits needed to be scheduled months in advance, out-of-pocket costs were high, and comprehensive information was lacking,” he reports. Based on the needs he identified, Tidwell collaborated with the senior leadership at United Supermarkets to pilot a travel health service at one pharmacy.

The travel health program that Tidwell now offers at United Supermarkets is comprehensive. “During our travel consultations, we not only provide travel immunizations but also conduct thorough travel health evaluations and provide a wide range of recommendations and tools for the patient to stay healthy,” notes Tidwell. He generally administers all recommended vaccines during travel consults, including those that are not typically considered “travel” vaccines.

Outstanding Career Achievement, Jeffery (Jeff) Goad, PharmD, FAPhA, FCPhA, and FCSHP

Professor and Chair, Chapman University School of Pharmacy, Irvine, CA

Jeff Goad, PharmD, FAPhA, FCPhA, and FCSHP, has devoted his career to helping pharmacists take an active role in immunizations and travel medicine. For almost 2 decades, Goad has worked to increase awareness of roles for pharmacists in providing travel health services. He has actively engaged with public health entities, as well as pharmacy and medical professional organizations, to provide education about the role of pharmacists as well-trained, accessible providers who are able to enhance immunization rates and the health and safety of travelers.

In 1999, Goad started a community pharmacy residency program with the goal of creating innovative community-based services. One of the first services developed by this program was a Travel Clinic. Over the 15 years that he directed the program, Goad trained 35 residents in Travel Medicine and has personally counseled and vaccinated more than 10,000 patients. In 2013, Goad chaired the APhA group that created the first ever national Advanced Competency Training in Pharmacy-based Travel Health Services. This program has trained over 10,000 pharmacists and students to date.

Internationally, Goad co-founded the Pharmacists Professional Group within the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) and is the only pharmacist Fellow in that society in the Western Hemisphere. He has published more than 50 articles and book chapters on immunizations and travel medicine, has presented more than 100 times at conferences and seminars, and has received numerous awards and distinctions. Notable awards include Faculty of the Year from the NACDS Foundation in 2012, Distinguished Achievement Award – Clinical/Therapeutic Practice from APhA in 2011, and the Leadership Award from the National Community Pharmacists Association in 2009 for his work in travel medicine and immunization practice. In 2012, he was elected as the first pharmacist president of the California Immunization Coalition.

Goad helped write regulations for a California law that gives pharmacists independent full prescriptive authority for travel-related prescription medicine. Currently, Goad is the only pharmacist board member of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. He is also chair of ISTM’s Travel Medicine’s Continuous Professional Development Committee.