Paul Hunter, M.D., of Milwaukee, had been a practicing family physician for more than 15 years when he became associate medical director for the City of Milwaukee Health Department in 2009. Hunter had plenty of hands-on experience with administering immunizations, but he wanted to know more about the public health issues that determine the nation's vaccine policies.
That's why he put in his bid -- successfully -- to join the AAFP's vaccine science fellowship program last spring. Now, other interested Academy members are invited to do the same.
The fellowship program is intended to develop a cadre of family physician experts who can help the Academy provide effective input into the deliberations and decisions of federal and state public health agencies that set vaccine policies.
Hunter told AAFP News Now he first learned of the fellowship opportunity when he met the program's inaugural fellows -- Everett Schlam, M.D., assistant director of Mountainside Family Practice Associates in Verona, N.J., and Jamie Loehr, M.D., of Ithaca, N.Y. -- during a meeting of the Wisconsin Council for Immunization Practices.
After speaking with the two about their experiences in the program, which included attending meetings of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, in Atlanta and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, or NVAC, in Washington, D.C., as well as touring a vaccine manufacturing facility, Hunter decided to throw his hat into the ring.
"I talked to them, and I thought, 'Wow, that's exactly what I need to get up to speed on immunizations and national immunization policy,'" said Hunter, whose fellowship ends March 31. "It's been perfect for me."
Hunter and the other 2010-11 vaccine fellow, Elizabeth Rosenblum, M.D., of San Diego, attended the National Immunization Conference in Atlanta and also met with a vaccine manufacturer last April. In June, they attended an NVAC meeting and met with FDA officials in Washington, D.C., as well as attending the ACIP meeting in Atlanta. In addition, the two fellows attended the AAFP's Conference on Practice Improvement last month in San Antonio.
Rosenblum, who is associate clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California-San Diego Medical Center, said the highlights of her experience in the program included meeting with state and national leaders in the field and gaining a better understanding of vaccine policy.
Rosenblum also said she came away with a better understanding of how to deal with patients who are resistant to vaccines.
"I would definitely recommend the program," she said. "It is a superb opportunity."
The AAFP is again soliciting applications from members for two one-year vaccine science fellowships. Applications and accompanying materials are due Feb. 18.
Applicants must be active members in practice or teaching and out of residency and fellowship. They also must be U.S. citizens.
Applicants should plan to devote about 10 percent of full-time employment for one year to fellowship program activities. Accordingly, an applicant's institution and/or department chair must submit a letter agreeing to the fellowship time commitment. Applicants also must commit to travel time for appropriate meetings; travel costs are covered by the fellowship.
Prospective candidates are invited to submit a curriculum vitae and letter of interest to Bellinda Schoof, M.H.A., C.P.H.Q., AAFP's scientific affairs manager, via e-mail.
The fellowship program is funded through a grant from Merck & Co. Inc., but the vaccine manufacturer has no input on or control over the selection of fellows or the content of the program.