Do You Believe in Vaccines? (Part III: Experience)
Dec 23, 2010

This article was written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP and originally posted on her Seattle Mama Doc blog on Dec. 3, 2010 .  As a board-certified, practicing pediatrician, blogger, freelance writer, and mother to two young boys, Dr. Swanson elicited responses from many prominent doctors to the question “Do You Believe in Vaccines?”.  In an effort to help our Shot of Prevention readers to gain further insight into the value of vaccines, as witnessed by those working in the field of medicine, she has graciously granted us permission to reprint the entire three part series.  
Helping families make decisions about their child’s health takes training, expertise, and experience. The training is standardized (medical school, residency, fellowship), and the expertise confirmed by passing board examinations and maintaining yearly CME (continuing med education). But the experience piece is ultimately unique for each physician. With each day in clinical care, patients teach, instruct, and shape how we understand wellness and illness. Through individual experiences with patients, physicians ultimately become who they are in the exam room. In medicine, despite the huge push to standardization everything from centralized phone calls to how much (or little) time we get with patients, individual doctors will fortunately remain unique. As patients, we still get to enjoy our physicians as people helping us through illness and injury.
This week has been intense. Wednesday, I spent the morning as a patient in the care of my incredible doctor. (I’m fine). She’s entirely instructive for me as a patient and as a physician; her bedside manner astounds. I believe she’s just very good at her job, partly because she’s uniquely experienced. I believe her experience being a nurse for many years before becoming a doctor really colors how she provides care–she gets it.
The week has also been intense because of this series. I’ve been thinking about immunizations, reading comments here on the blog, writing, and witnessing my patients’ responses. I’ve received many e-mails. Yesterday, I was at clinic for over 10 hours and like most days, immunizations were a huge part of my day. But I said things I’ve never said before…True synergy between my clinical self (doctor) and my writer self (Mama Doc), this experience is shaping who I am, in and out of the exam room.
Of course, experiences in clinical care (and living on planet earth) shapes how all pediatricians discuss and listen to families when discussing immunizations. Here’s the final segment in my series on asking pediatricians if they “believe” in vaccines. The 20 or so pediatricians who responded, talked about their experiences in representing vaccines. Additional comments are included in part 1 (emotion) and part 2 (evidence).
Dr Kronman, a pediatrician and infectious disease fellow:

We don’t see these diseases anymore. I work at a premier tertiary/quarternary care facility for children. I have seen children die of influenza (seasonal, H1N1), pneumococcus, meningococcus, the late sequelae of measles, pertussis; I have seen Hib meningitis, tetanus, severe debilitating outcomes with varicella, cervical cancer caused by HPV, and severe rotavirus. This list goes on. But most people haven’t seen these things anymore. People don’t have to panic about their children in the summer becoming permanently paralyzed from polio, because we don’t see it anymore. And the reason? Vaccines. 

To read the remainder of this post, click here.  You will be redirected to Dr. Swanson’s original piece.  Feel free to include your comments on Seattle Mama Doc, or here on Shot of Prevention. 
Dr. Swanson’s background includes a degree in psychology from Kenyon College, two years teaching middle-school bilingual science and math in Oakland, Calif., with Teach For America, an MD and MBE (Master’s in Bioethics) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Swanson maintains a busy pediatric practice and writes Seattle Mama Doc, the first pediatrician-authored blog for a major children’s hospital.

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