After growing up in Singapore, Jaclyn Lo moved to the United States to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Bryn Mawr College. Now, as a senior, Lo explains how her various leadership and service opportunities impacted her work with Shot@Life as a first-time advocate.
Jaclyn Lo: I heard about Shot@Life through the United Nations Foundation, where I became involved as an UNA-USA youth member last year. What brought me to Shot@Life is my perspective of what a global citizen should be, with a focus on health and well-being. I wanted to understand my place in the wider world, beyond political boundaries, and take an active role in my local, national, global community to work collaboratively with others toward making our world more equitable, humane, and sustainable.
I first learned of the profound impact that advocacy and policymaking have on enacting lasting, socially responsible change through PLEN’s (Public Leadership Education Network) Women in Science and Health Innovation Seminar 2020. I realized I could use my biological sciences and public health academic background and leverage it with my volunteer and community experiences to enact lasting change and improve health through advocacy.
Previously, I focused on community advocacy for health and wellness on campus at Bryn Mawr College. For three years, I was the Chairperson of the Student Government Association Health & Wellness Center Advisory Board, organizing health education events to spread awareness of community resources and promote student self-advocacy in health settings. I led the Board in leveraging our combined experiences to create effective community engagement strategies, develop innovative community partnerships, and improve access to medical and counseling services.
In response to community needs during the pandemic, I initiated and coordinated the inaugural Wellness Education Week in 2021 and the second in 2022. Each year, over 200 students, staff, and faculty were engaging in community and self-care programming while building social connectedness. Thereafter, I continue to identify and address practical community needs, especially towards SDG 3: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Ultimately, Shot@Life has empowered me to bring my unique experiences and elevate my advocacy to a national level for my first Hill Day, where I advocated for global childhood immunizations with members of Congress.
My service experiences with my background in biological science and public health strengthen my belief that every person has the right to access lifesaving vaccines and for “every child to have a shot at life no matter where they live.”
My first global health service experience was volunteering at the Singapore Leprosy Relief Home. The residential home serves adults living with the effects of severe leprosy. Here, I first came to understand the power and limits of medicine. Despite being medically treated and no longer contagious, the residents still suffered from social isolation and family abandonment from the disease’s long-standing stigma. I realized my presence brought energy and life to the home, highlighting the role of mental health in the context of one’s physical health and well-being.
This experience left a lasting impression on me regarding the lifelong mental, psychological, and social effects of disease. Through my academics, I have learned about the underlying immunology of vaccines and gained a strong understanding of the economic, infrastructure, and cultural barriers to developing and delivering vaccines into the arms of people who need them most, particularly through the lens of HIV. This further reinforces the importance of ensuring global access to proven vaccines for all, no matter where they are, and decreasing vaccine-preventable childhood deaths.
The moments I spent with residents at the home stay with me and fuel my work toward improving the lives of and caring for global communities. It especially drives my continued advocacy for global vaccination programs to combat vaccine-preventable diseases that either lead to death or lifelong physical effects that affect all aspects of health and well-being.
I am proud of the Shot@Life champion family and to be one of the thousands of trained advocates who act to ensure global vaccine access for all, especially children. At Shot@Life’s Advocate to Vaccinate Spring Summit 2023, it was very exciting to meet other passionate advocates from across the United States and to learn from each other’s personal journeys and advocacy experiences. To that end, we continue to become more effective leaders in championing vaccines in our communities and advocates with our lawmakers for global immunization programs. I am grateful for our Pennsylvania team this year and to grow my advocacy work from an on-campus community level during the pandemic to a national level in 2023. I look forward to continuing to advocate during Shot@Life’s Advocate to Vaccinate efforts this spring!
Want to become a vaccine advocate like Jaclyn? Learn more here.