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Published on July 05, 2022

Gundersen clinician a focus of national vaccination effort 

“This is cancer prevention. Just by getting two or three shots, we can prevent thousands of cases of cancer every year.”

Through his vaccine advocacy work regionally and nationwide, Rajiv Naik, MD, Gundersen Pediatrics, is being tapped by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), to help spread the word about the importance of the HPV vaccine – especially in rural areas.

Dr. Naik is the subject of a motivational video, produced by AAP, that aims to help rural healthcare providers discuss with patients the importance of children receiving the HPV vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided AAP with a grant to produce the video.

“We’re trying to get rural providers to message more efficiently and effectively about the HPV vaccine,” said Anne Johnsos, multimedia senior producer at AAP. “Right now, what’s happening is it’s, ‘you can get this’ as opposed to ‘it’s time to get this.’ And Dr. Naik is an expert at messaging style.”

The AAP scouted several practitioners from across the country to highlight in the video, but ultimately, they chose Dr. Naik, who Johnsos called a “champion” of the HPV vaccine.

“He’s been doing this, he’s passionate about it, and he’s kind of creating the curriculum for educating people … about what the vaccine can do,” Johnsos said.

AAP recently visited Gundersen Onalaska Clinic to gather footage of Dr. Naik consulting with a father and his son about the vaccine, and the pair was also interviewed about why they felt getting the vaccine was important. Later that day, the crew followed Dr. Naik to Gundersen St. Joseph’s Hospital and Clinics in Hillsboro, Wis., where he led a training for clinicians and staff about vaccine hesitancy and how to talk with patients in rural areas who might have reservations about the vaccine.

Footage gathered at Gundersen will make up the AAP’s five-minute video, which will be seen by the organization’s 67,000 members in the United States.

“It’s great to be able to positively influence child health beyond our typical borders and communities,” Dr. Naik shared. “It’s a reflection of our values and mission at Gundersen, and sharing with pediatricians across the country is an extension of the great work we are doing here with child and adolescent immunizations.”

HPV causes 30,000 new cases of cancer annually, and close to 90% of them are preventable simply by getting the series of vaccinations, Dr. Naik said.

Gundersen has experienced success over the years in its HPV and its adolescent vaccination rates, regularly ranking near the top of all providers in the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, a consortium in which Gundersen is a member.

“We’ve been there for a while, which is a reflection on not just work I’ve done, but also many others, from Infection Control partners, informatics, and colleagues in Family Medicine and Pediatrics,” Dr. Naik said.

The video, Johnsos said, is one small part of educating AAP’s members on ways they can better communicate the importance of the HPV vaccine. Once finished, it’ll be posted on aap.org, the Academy’s website, as well as the organization’s social media sites and in its newsletters. There’s potential for it to be seen around the world.

Dr. Naik’s hope for his peers throughout the country who see this video is that conversations about the vaccine between them and their patients become easier.

“There is a science to this, and it’s something that we can train people to do,” he said. “You don’t have to pull these conversations out of the air, and you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. What I’m hoping is that more and more people get trained and get comfortable with all of their techniques to help have these conversations with families so that we can get over some of these barriers, in terms of vaccine hesitancy.”

Rajiv Naik, MD, Gundersen Pediatrics

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