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Regional Coordinator Information

Pat Sammartino, Education Network Manager
UAA Alaska Center for Rural Health AHEC
(907) 786-6589
Mary Helgeson
Eastern Montana AHEC
Shellene Dougherty
Oregon Pacific AHEC
Shellene Dougherty
Oregon Pacific AHEC

Success Stories

Regional Webinars Benefiting Providers in Multiple States

The collaborative effort between the Alaska AHEC and the American Cancer Society continues to grow and flourish. These two organizations have not only successfully developed and marketed a total of five webinar training opportunities for providers in the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho but is now able to show the benefits of these trainings.

Participants from all four states have attended the four webinars that have already been held even though they were specifically designed to be available to providers during the lunch hour of their specific time zone.

A total of 213 healthcare professionals attended the webinars and have been trained on the HPV Immunization recommendations. Attendance was highest among nurses, followed by medical assistants and physicians. Many responded favorably. Here are a few comments:

  • “I will be able to approach the recommendation with more confidence.”

  • “As a nurse I have the opportunity to encourage and support the recommendation.”

  • “Understanding the risk of oropharyngeal cancer is new for me.”

  • “I discovered new information today that will help me to discuss with patients.”

The final webinar in this series will be Sept. 8 at 12:00pm Mountain Time. Register Now

For more information contact Pat Sammartino of the Alaska AHEC at plsammartino@uaa.alaska.edu or Regional Coordinator Carlen Williams at cwilliams@ntc.nationalahec.org.

Project Planning in a Regional Partnership

How does project planning work across multiple states with a regional partner and not to mention working with three different time zones? The Alaska AHEC State Entity (SE) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have successfully been working through this progression as partners in the NAO HPV project. As a result of this work some exciting training opportunities are in the works right now! At the beginning of the process the Alaska AHEC SE and ACS had a few challenges that needed to be addressed including coordination with the speaker’s schedule, within the timeline it takes to secure Continuing Education (CE) credits and also within the three different time zones of the region. Both agencies have an important role to play in overcoming these challenges. ACS was able to work with the speaker and coordinate the training schedule while the Alaska AHEC used their expertise to complete the procedures needed to provide CEs to the trainings.

As a result of working together, three lunchtime “You are the Key to HPV Cancer Prevention” webinars, one for each time zone has been developed. The speaker will be Michelle Berlin, MD, MPH, co-director of the Oregon Health and Sciences University Center for Women’s Health. To register, click on the link below:

The regional collaboration between the Alaska AHEC and ACS not only continues to develop but is already resulting in HPV immunization provider education opportunities. This regional approach between the Alaska AHEC SE and the ACS is developing into a strong and supportive relationship with a bright future ahead.

For more information contact Pat Sammartino of the Alaska AHEC at plsammartino@uaa.alaska.edu or Regional Coordinator Carlen Williams at cwilliams@ntc.nationalahec.org.

Alaska partnership uses press release to highlight vaccine importance

The Alaska chapter of the American Cancer Society – under the leadership of Kimberly Morgan - with input from the Alaska AHEC wrote and submitted a press release highlighting the importance of the HPV vaccine and its partnership with Alaska AHEC. The following article will be released in April by the Anchorage Press:

From the moment they enter this world, the only thing we want to do is love and protect our children. When a child gets sick with an irreversible diagnosis, it can be difficult for those who love them to be unable to simply zap that illness away. What if there was a way to prevent children and young adults from ever getting certain cancers? What if you knew this specific vaccine existed and has been proven safe in 80 countries around the world including the U.S. for the past 10 years to protect against cancer?

What every parent should know: We do our best to be health conscious and aware, but more importantly as a parent we want to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle to our children. Protecting children against cancer is beyond pre-conceptions and personal fears, which can be some of the biggest stumbling blocks. With increased awareness, understanding connections between the HPV infection and the cancers it causes as well as having more education on antibody function and response are motivating factors for parents who vaccinated their kids with all 3 HPV vaccine doses.

What providers are saying: The CDC reports no evidence that the HPV vaccine is linked to increased promiscuity, nor does research show the vaccine initiates sexual activity at a younger age. “This is about preventing cancer, which is the best advice I give my patients,” said Family Nurse Practitioner Betty Bang at University of Alaska-Anchorage. Dr. Tina Tomsen of the Anchorage Women’s Clinic agrees with that advice and adds, “The squeamishness around below-the-belt cancers definitely crosses over into the doctor’s office.” Dr. Tomsen continued, “It must be found in order to be treated. Be your own advocate and take charge of your health. See your doctor at least annually and keep track of any changes no matter how small they may seem.” The HPV vaccine has proven to be safe for more than 8 years. More than 200 million doses have been distributed worldwide with more than 67 million reaction-free doses in the U.S. The HPV vaccine is effective and approved for both males and females. Vaccine costs are covered by the Affordable Care Act, major insurers, Medicaid and the federal Vaccine for Children Program which provides free vaccines for uninsured and underinsured children and adolescents.

Dr. Tomsen shares a story about a young woman she saw in her clinic after receiving an abnormal pap smear. Her mother was a nurse and wanted her to get vaccinated as soon as the HPV vaccine became available. However, the young woman refused the vaccine even though it was covered by her insurance. She now wishes she’d been vaccinated. “I’ve taken my own kids in for the vaccine - when my daughter was 11 and my son was 13, because I wanted him vaccinated as well.” She continues, “Like many health- related stories, it is up to the practitioner to dispel myths and encourage appropriate health behaviors one on one behind closed doors.”

The time is now: My close friend, 55 years old, was diagnosed with cervical cancer 11 years ago. This was just before the HPV vaccination became available. She had a cone biopsy with clear margins. Four weeks ago, she was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer. A more aggressive chemotherapy treatment was necessary. My friend has five children, several grandchildren and is an amazing person whose life will end prematurely. Could this have been prevented?

Does it feel like we’re back where breast cancer was a few decades ago when not everyone felt comfortable talking about breasts? Why is this still a cancer people whisper about? How can we overcome the barriers to taking awareness of gynecologic and HPV associated cancers fully mainstream? We can remove the stigma attached to the HPV vaccine and the cancers it causes: 91-99 percent of cervical cancers, 69 percent vulvar cancers, 75 percent of vaginal cancers, 63 percent of penile cancers, 91 percent of anal cancers, 72 percent of oropharyngeal cancers, 80 percent of tonsillar cancer and 70 percent of tongue cancers. We know about half of these infections occur between the ages of 15-24 years of age, yet the HPV vaccine is underutilized despite the overwhelming evidence for its safety and effectiveness. Only 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys in the U.S. are fully vaccinated with all 3 doses. Even with the low vaccination rates, HPV infections targeted by the vaccines have dropped by more than half in the U.S. since the introduction of the vaccine.

The American Cancer Society Answers the Call to Action: More than 1 billion pre-teen and teenage boys and girls have been vaccinated. Current data suggests significant protection against 6 types of HPV associated cancers in boys and girls. In the U.S. alone, 79 million people are already infected with HPV. Every year 27,000 people get cancer caused by HPV; 17,600 females and 9,300 males. That's 1 in 4 people, so one person every 20 minutes of every day for a full year is diagnosed.

HPV vaccination is the best way to prevent many types of cancer, yet vaccination rates remain low. This is why the American Cancer Society has partnered with Area Health Education Center (AHEC) to provide more training and resources for physicians offering a strong recommendation in support of their patients age 11-26 to receive this vaccine. Check out 1-2-3 Protect Alaska's Kids to learn more about the impact we can make in the health of our children. Protect your kids against cancer by getting them vaccinated today. 

For more information contact Pat Sammartino of the Alaska AHEC at plsammartino@uaa.alaska.edu or Regional Coordinator Carlen Williams at cwilliams@ntc.nationalahec.org.

Regional Partnership with the American Cancer Society

Year 2 of the NAO HPV Immunization Project is taking on a whole new approach for Region J. The Alaska AHEC State Entity and the American Cancer Society (ACS) will be partnering together for the purposes of strengthening the HPV immunization efforts in the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Each of these states - through the ACS- are working on HPV immunization efforts in a variety of methods and formats that fit the needs of their states. The NAO HPV Immunization Project will focus on not only supporting and strengthening the already occurring activities but will concentrate on filling the identified “gaps” in provider training. This partnership will create a network of provider education, resources and project awareness on the HPV immunization efforts across the region as a whole.

The Alaska AHEC is looking forward to the positive outcomes of such a partnership and achieving the overall goal of educating our Health Professionals on the HPV vaccine recommendations and positively impacting the HPV Immunization goals of each state.

For more information contact Pat Sammartino of the Alaska AHEC at plsammartino@uaa.alaska.edu or Regional Coordinator Carlen Williams at cwilliams@ntc.nationalahec.org.

Training Across 663,268 Square Miles

The Alaska AHEC is no stranger to providing CE opportunities to the Healthcare Providers of Alaska while overcoming the challenges of a large land base, small populations and many Providers practicing in remote locations. As the State Entity for the NAO HPV Immunization Project the Alaska AHEC needed to approach this training opportunity in a way that could reach as many providers as possible. They solved this problem by creating a webinar that providers could participate in “live” from their own computers across the State.

One June 25, 2015 at 8:00am, 67 Healthcare providers across the State joined in and participated in the HPV Vaccination in Alaska: Safety Benefits and Efficacy A Providers’ Guide to the Evidence “live” training opportunity. Presenters Joanie Mayer Hope, MD, founder of the Alaska Women’s Cancer Care and strong HPV immunization advocate, along with Stephanie Massay, MPH, MT (ASCP) of the State of Alaska Immunization program conducted the presentation and answered participant questions. After the webinar providers gained the knowledge on how communicate the burden of HPV on both females and males, define the importance of the HPV vaccination as cancer prevention, explain the reasoning of vaccination at the recommended age range and communicate the safety of the HPV The webinar was recorded and processed for on-demand viewing with CE credits available and posted on the Alaska AHEC’s CE website (www.akcache.org) and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services HPV Vaccine Website (www.dhss.alaska.gov).

For more information contact Pat Sammartino of the Alaska AHEC at plsammartino@uaa.alaska.edu or Regional Coordinator Carlen Williams at cwilliams@ntc.nationalahec.org.

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