As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I have been passionate about the importance of keeping children healthy and the necessity of lifesaving vaccines for many, many years: twenty in total this year! I consider myself to be pretty savvy with the healthcare system and consistently advocate for my patients and their families in our community. However, it wasn’t until the 2019 National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NAPNAP) conference that the lightbulb went off. After attending a presentation about the Shot@Life campaign and realized the importance of advocating for vaccine access for all children– regardless of their geographic location. I had no idea that two well-respected faculty members at my graduate school (Old Dominion University) are Champion Leaders in Virginia. I accepted that this was truly a part of my purpose: to be a provider and advocate.
It is important to note, I had zero experience with political advocacy, didn’t know about Congressional appropriations, and had never met with members of Congress in district, on Capitol Hill, or in any other location. We continue to find humor about the meeting to prepare for my first presentation with a member of Congress. I proudly announced that I would just listen and learn, smile and nod at the appropriate breaks in conversation, and thank them for their time at the conclusion. This did not happen. I found myself wanting to engage and share all of the important information meticulously prepared by the Shot@Life team and even began answering questions when presented.
This desire to advocate for children around the world has continued to grow. Since this initial introduction to the campaign, I have been given the opportunity to network with other Champions and learn from other leaders in advocacy from many states and countries around the world.
My success as a Champion is certainly owing to the mentorship by our Virginia Lead Champions, Dr. Janice Hawkins and Dr. Deb Gray, resources and support by the Shot@Life team, and simply knowing that as a nurse practitioner and mother, I have a very important voice.
I have shared the importance of using your voice with my daughters. Each has participated in the Champion training and a virtual phone bank during Race to Erase. As a college and a high school student, each has expressed a desire to support global health programs and activities. My hope is that more youth will use the power of their collective voice to impart change and influence public policy. The Shot@Life campaign has been amazing, and I look forward to working with this campaign for many years.
Lukia Beverly, MSN CPNP