Guest Editorial

Learning, Building Connections Are Only Two Benefits of Vaccine Fellowship

February 19, 2014 11:30 am Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H.

My curiosity was piqued a few years ago when I read a call for applications for the AAFP Vaccine Science Fellowship. Although immunizations were not my area of expertise, I had been searching for an outlet for my particular combination of interests -- public health, health information technology and quality improvement. The fellowship fit perfectly.

[Margot Savoy, M.D.]

Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H.

Applying was one of best decisions of my professional life. Although the impact was great, I can sum my experience up in three words: knowledge, connections and opportunity.


I learned more about vaccines than I would have thought possible across a broad spectrum from vaccine research and manufacturing to the development of policy and clinical recommendations to implementation of vaccine services in physician offices.

Two fellows are selected each year. My co-fellow, John Epling, M.D., M.S.Ed., and I traveled to a vaccine manufacturing plant, where we discussed emerging trends in vaccines with company representatives before seeing the manufacturing process from start to finish.

We also attended quite a few conferences, including an excellent vaccine course that covered the gamut of basic knowledge about recommendations and guidelines. We experienced the CDC's National Immunization Conference, and we presented a session on immunizations at the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine's Conference on Practice Improvement(

We attended policy forums and met thought leaders in both Washington and Atlanta, which is home to the CDC. We also participated in a meeting of the Wisconsin Council for Immunization Practices.


All the travel and meetings expanded my professional network considerably. So many people crossed my path that year!

The AAFP provides two outstanding family physician mentors for its vaccine science fellows: Jonathan Temte, M.D., M.S., Ph.D.(, is the chair of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and Doug Campos-Outcalt, M.D., M.P.A.(, is a member of the ACIP and the Academy's liaison to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Both mentors took us under their wings, introducing us to immunization thought leaders across the country and explaining all the vaccine terminology we had to learn. Each meeting introduced us to immunization champions from the CDC; other national physician organizations; and immunization advocacy groups, such as the Immunization Action Coalition.

We also had an opportunity to hear from other AAFP members via focus groups about challenges in providing vaccine services. We met past vaccine science fellows, who now present on vaccine topics at meetings and conferences and serve on ACIP workgroups and as the AAFP liaison to the ACIP.

Along the way, our outstanding staff from the AAFP's Division of Health of the Public and Science and the Academy's Washington office were there to support and guide us.

Last, but far from least, was the connection I made with my co-fellow, who, besides being my travel buddy for the year, is now a great friend and co-author.


There was no shortage of opportunities for John and me to get involved both during and after our fellowship. Our "Vaccine Preventable Diseases" manuscript -- written in collaboration with our family physician mentors and Bellinda Schoof, M.H.A., the director of the AAFP Division of Health of the Public and Science -- will be published soon in the Journal of Family Practice.

My fellowship experience has resulted in my representing the AAFP at multiple Association of State and Territorial Health Officials meetings and CDC advisory meetings on anthrax and smallpox, and I am on the ACIP's human papillomavirus and smallpox workgroups.

Back at home, I represent the Delaware AFP on the state's vaccine advisory committee and serve as the chapter's liaison to the Immunization Coalition of Delaware. I also have the pleasure of advising the AAFP's Adolescent Immunization Champions project. And I am not the exception. Our vaccine science fellows are all serving in leadership roles on the national and state level.

Your Call to Action

Do you know someone who has a passion for health policy or immunization science? Someone who is ready to take on a leadership role bringing the family physician voice to the vaccine and policy world? The Academy now is accepting applications for two 2014-2015 fellowships, and the March 17 deadline is fast approaching.

Here is what you need to know about applying:

  • Applicants must be active AAFP members in practice or teaching and out of residency and fellowship. They also must be U.S. citizens.
  • Applicants should plan to devote 10 percent of full-time employment for one year to fellowship program activities. 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 AAFP Clinical Policies Manager Janet Leiker, R.N., M.P.H., via e-mail to
  • 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.

I can't wait to welcome two more family physician colleagues to our vaccine science family. Opportunities like this don't come often, so apply today.

Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H., is a member of the AAFP Commission on Health of the Public and Science and a former AAFP vaccine science fellow.