Dr. José Romero with Arkansas Children’s has been named Arkansas’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for his outstanding efforts to promote childhood immunization. Romero is recognized for his critical analysis of vaccine data that has helped lead Arkansas through a number of influenza, pertussis, mumps, and measles outbreaks.
Romero is director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Section at Arkansas Children’s. He is a professor of pediatrics in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine, and holds the Horace C. Cabe Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases at Arkansas Children’s. He also serves as director of clinical trials research at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute.
“I am extremely honored for being nominated for and having received the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award out of all the extremely worthy candidates in our state,” Romero said.
Since medical school, Romero said, “I have believed that vaccination for the prevention of infectious diseases is the single most important medical intervention that has led improved quality of life and longevity. The opportunity to work closely with the Arkansas Department of Health, vaccine advocacy organizations, and healthcare providers around the state to promote vaccine uptake is one of most gratifying aspects of what I do.”
A frequent consultant for the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) on vaccine issues, Romero also takes daily calls from physicians around the state regarding indications, side effects, and policy. In nominating him for the award, Hilda Dupwe, ADH immunization program manager, wrote, “Most impressive is his ability to rally forces to execute ideas once he formulates a clear need for the community.”
“Dr. Romero sets the standard for his peers by documenting immunization records on every patient who is seen in the Infectious Disease clinic on every appointment to make sure they are up to date on their immunizations,” Dupwe said. “Because he sees patients with immune compromising conditions, he promotes additional indicated immunizations in high risk groups and educates medical students and residents, thereby establishing himself as the primary instructor and resource for the state.”
It was a lecture on the poliovirus during medical school that led Romero to becoming a passionate champion for childhood immunization. He said, “To see what a scourge it was and the impact the vaccine had on the lives of children made me realize the importance of polio vaccine in maintaining the health of children.”
“One of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in pediatrics is because pediatricians make such an impact on the longevity and quality of life of their patients,” Romero said. “Vaccines are key to that. They prevent early death and lifelong sequelae. As I tell the trainees, no other medical intervention has such a profound and long lasting effect as vaccination.”
“We are extremely pleased that Dr. Romero has received the Childhood Immunization Champion award for Arkansas, said Jennifer Dillaha, MD, ADH medical director for immunizations. “He is passionate about the health of our children, and he has worked tirelessly to make sure that vaccines are safe and effective and available to every child in our state.”
Each year, the CDC Foundation uses National Infant Immunization Week as an opportunity to honor health professionals and community leaders from around the country with the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion awards. These awards acknowledge their outstanding efforts to ensure that children in their communities are fully immunized against 14 preventable diseases before the age of two.
“The tremendous success of CDC's immunization programs to protect the nation’s children from vaccine-preventable diseases is a direct result of the efforts of childhood immunization champions,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We cannot overstate the value of the dedication our champions have shown, which ultimately protects our children, schools, and communities from serious diseases.”
CDC Childhood Immunization Champions were selected from a pool of health professionals, coalition members, community advocates, and other immunization leaders. State immunization programs coordinated the nomination process and submitted nominees to the CDC. One winner was selected in each of the participating states and the District of Columbia.