Flu vaccines: Better health care

For some of us, end-of-summer days at the beach or barbeque may make thoughts of the flu seem premature. But for Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, now transitioning from provost of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to his new position as dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, the time to focus on rolling out the flu vaccination campaign is upon us.
 
How does the flu vaccination campaign fit with your goal of improved medical outcomes at Stanford?

First and foremost, the campaign reflects our fundamental mission of delivering outstanding patient care. We know from a large number of studies that we significantly reduce the risk of infection transmission to our patients when we have a vaccinated and immunized population of workers — and that means faculty, medical students, residents, nurses and staff who work with our patients. There have been a number of studies done and the evidence is incontrovertible: those health care organizations that achieve a very high level of vaccination — and it takes a high level because influenza spreads so rapidly and so easily from one person to another — have better outcomes.

At Stanford Hospital and Clinics and Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, we treat very ill patients. We are commonly treating immune-compromised patients who are at risk of an adverse outcome should they contract influenza. Because we have evidence that an immunized health care workforce prevents the transmission of infections like influenza, we are obligated to do what we can and should be doing to protect our patients and ensure the best outcomes for them.
 
You are known for your ability to enhance interdepartmental coordination across a campus. Is this year’s flu campaign in line with such a mission?

Yes. And I think it is a good example of how increasing awareness leads to a change of behavior. I learned from Dr. Firestone that there are going to be many things rolled out this October which will make it accessible and relatively easy for our professionals to get immunized against influenza. And as we talked about before, the evidence is abundant: immunizations make a difference to our patients. Therefore, the more we spread the word, the more we engage collectively in this important project, the more successful we will be.

You are scheduled to take your post on December 1, when the majority of the flu shots will be done. Do you have any words of advice for successfully reaching a broad audience of participants?

I think what you are doing with this interview is a good start. Also, I assume the campaign will include emails and posters. The flu shot will be administered in easy-to-access places during easily accessible hours — around the time of shift changes, for example, and early in the morning or late in the afternoon (because many of our health care professionals are busy during the 9-5 hours). Success will also hinge on making sure people are aware (1) of the importance and (2) the ease of getting vaccinated without having to take much time off work. The idea is to make it easy for people to do what is right — for both our personal health and our patients’ health.
 
As a physician-leader, how would you convince a skeptic to get a flu shot?

Well, I think the best way to convince people is with the evidence, which is as strong as anything I've seen in medicine: (1) the flu shot is safe; (2) the flu shot is effective; and (3) the flu shot markedly reduces our individual risk against the flu and therefore reduces the risk that our patients will contract influenza from those of us participating in their care.

Will you get your flu shot this year?

You bet I will — as soon as it is available. I have gotten the shot every year for as long as they've been administered commonly. I am a strong believer. While I don’t officially become the dean until December 1, I am going to be on campus in an office in the Alway building for about three months starting after Labor Day. I'll be getting to know people, getting to know the School of Medicine and the hospitals much better, and also getting the flu shot at Stanford. I look forward to being one of the first people in line to receive it!

For more information on flu shot availability, visit https://flu.stanford.edu.