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President’s Message: Voices for Vaccination….and Overall Public Health

When I began my KMA Presidency in August last year, I announced that increasing vaccination rates across the state would be one of my top priorities. Working in pediatrics, immunizations have always been important for me, and we knew that following the pandemic, our coverage was significantly decreased. Thanks to a grant our Foundation received from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, we were able to launch “Voices for Vaccination,” a partnership with the Kentucky Nurses Association and the Kentucky Hospital Association.

Voices for Vaccination encourages Kentuckians to receive their COVID, flu, and all other scheduled vaccinations, particularly those in areas of the state where immunization rates are the lowest. Nearly 8 months into the campaign, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far. We have aimed to “meet patients where they are” through targeted social media and digital ads, especially focused in communities where vaccination rates are the lowest. While we still have another round of these ads to go, the initial set generated nearly 1 million impressions. Additional PSAs and ads on streaming services garnered another 700,000 views and nearly 200 clicks to our website,

Most recently, I was honored to be part of two highly successful educational events for providers, which discussed “The Modern Anti-Vaccine Movement” as well as the “State of Vaccinations in Kentucky.” For the latter, I was pleased to be joined by past KNA President and infectious disease specialist Ruth Carrico, PhD, DNP, APRN. We analyzed current vaccine trends across the state and discussed how physicians and nurses can work together to address vaccine challenges. Hundreds of physicians, nurses, and healthcare professionals from across the state joined these virtual events, which will be made available online as enduring material. If you did not get a chance to join us live for these discussions, I highly encourage you to check them out on our website. The sessions were entertaining, informative, and practical.

Public health has always been a priority for the KMA, but I am particularly proud of the work we have done over the last several years. Our campaigns, such as lung cancer screening, have been timely, meaningful, relevant, and have delivered results. While we still have work planned for our vaccine campaign as we enter the ‘back to school’ season, I am looking forward to the future public health work that KMA has planned.

At no time was public health more important than during the pandemic, and this month I wanted to highlight one of my role models in organized medicine, Dr. Brent Wright. I had the honor of swearing in Dr. Wright as I was serving as Board Chair at the time, and at the time I was impressed with the success of his “Tobacco Free for Students” initiative, which put new, free signage into every school district that opted in to the state’s recently passed tobacco free schools law. Dr. Wright also made it a point to reach out to many of the rural medical societies, advocating for the strength that organized medicine brings. In March of 2020, all of that changed very, very quickly. When the pandemic hit Kentucky, we went from questioning the decision to cancel the girls’ Sweet Sixteen tournament to meeting with the Governor about cancelling all elective surgeries so ventilators could be used for critically ill patients – all within a week. Dr. Wright spent several hours with me as well as with many other physician leaders during those early stages of the pandemic, talking to various stakeholders and sharing what limited knowledge was available at the time. He helped in pivoting KMA meetings to a virtual format, which enabled the Association to be a source for trusted health information at a time there was none, and which allowed us to continue to make policy which would be crucial in continuing our public health work. Dr. Wright served as the face of Kentucky physicians, communicating important messages and information to both healthcare professionals and patients. He carried out our “Wear It For Me” mask campaign, launched in the summer of 2020, and remained a steadfast advocate for science-based decision-making. His efforts helped to build trust within our communities, encouraging more people to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones. Dr. Wright, thank you.

One of the things I’m most proud of about the KMA is our ability to remain based in science and truth, but to adapt to the needs of the changing world around us in order to best serve our patients. Dr Wright and our public health work is a testament to exactly that.

Thank you for your membership in the KMA, which is what makes these efforts possible.

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