Tell us about your background.

I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health Education from Eastern Washington University in 1992.  I still remember Lyndia Wilson (our Disease Prevention & Response Director) and Torney Smith (recently retired SRHD Administrator) coming to my classes to talk about the work they did at SRHD. My first job was as the Eastern Washington Program Manager for the Washington State Breast and Cervical Health Program, commuting every day from Spokane to Chewelah. Eventually, I became the Clinic Operations Director for Northeast Washington Health programs.  Most of my career has been in clinic management, compliance and quality improvement. I worked at Providence for 12 years and then my department was eliminated in 2016. 

Describe your work at SRHD.

First let me share that when I first graduated from college, I really wanted to work for SRHD.  I applied for several jobs and it never worked out. Fast forward 20+ years and I submitted my application for the position of Immunization Community Network Specialist.  I was vacationing in Mexico when I received a call from Susan Sjoberg, our program manager.  She asked if she could set up a phone interview, and while looking at palm trees and the beach, I interviewed with the immunizations team. I later got a second interview and two years ago, on March 16th, started with SRHD.  I feel that at this point in my career, I bring much more to the job than if I had worked here right out of college. 

My work here involves connecting with groups that serve children from ages birth to kindergarten.  My goal is to create relationships and connect with community partners to figure out ways to increase immunization rates for this group, which are currently at only about 64%, far below the state and national goals of 80% completion of the recommended childhood series.  When I am not focused on that, I coordinate our mobile immunization clinics.  I work with the WSU Colleges of Pharmacy and Nursing, whose students act as our vaccinators.  Whether our SRHD immunizations team is managing the clinic or our partners manage the clinic with SRHD-supplied vaccine and supplies, I track that information and make sure that the supplies are ready and available.

What interests you most about communicable diseases?

Even though I had previous experience with vaccines, I never knew much about the actual communicable disease process. Since working here and being in close proximity to our great epidemiology team, I have learned a lot about how diseases are transmitted and the fact that many diseases that can significantly harm people are easily prevented by a vaccine!  It makes my job so easy because I can, without hesitation, recommend that families vaccinate.  What saddens me is that I see where once vaccines were the “hero” of the medical field, they are now being viewed by a small group as the “villain”.  Vaccines have done such a great job that people forget what it was like before they were in use.

Favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of the job, apart from working with one of the best teams I have ever been a part of, is the work that I do with community partners. I sit on a few committees and have enjoyed getting to know other groups in Spokane that are very supportive of the work that my team is doing. One of those groups is Rotary Club 21. Our partnership started when Rotary Club 21 wanted to provide some winter gear for our students and their families when we held school-located immunization clinics. That effort turned into them creating their own vaccination committee, and now they are at every school-located clinic providing hand-knitted caps, snacks, games and volunteer support.  They have helped us to take the vaccination clinic experience to the next level.

What can we find you doing when you’re not at work?

When I am not at work, I am crafting, hiking, baking, hanging out with friends or spending time with one of my ten grandchildren.  Life is full!

Reach Kari by email

You might be interested in...

In each issue of the Epigram, we are pleased to introduce you to a member of the Disease Prevention and Response team at SRHD. In this issue we feature our senior Epidemiologist, Mark Springer, DC. Mark works in our Communicable Disease Epidemiology program where he focuses on communicable disease investigation and intervention, emergency preparedness, and community education.

Read More

In each issue of the Epigram, we are pleased to introduce you to a member of the Disease Prevention and Response team at SRHD. In this issue we feature Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS), Kirsten Duncan, MPH. Kirsten works in our HIV/STD Prevention program where she focuses largely on syphilis investigation, treatment, and contact tracing.

Read More

In each issue of the Epigram, we are pleased to introduce to you a member of the Disease Prevention and Response team at SRHD. In this issue we feature longtime epidemiologist Dorothy MacEachern, MS, MPH, CIC, a dedicated employee of SRHD for 20 years. Dorothy is currently an Infection Preventionist funded by the CDC working with local healthcare facilities to prevent healthcare-associated infections.

Read More