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Public Health nurse wins national CDC award


June 6, 2019

A little sleight of hand and Carol Stutzman’s colleagues at Crook County Public Health were able to keep her in the dark until the very moment she was announced as Wyoming’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for 2019. The national honor recognizes those who go above and beyond to promote childhood immunizations in their communities.

Several weeks after her nomination had been accepted, Stutzman’s first clue was the unexpected presence of her husband at the Casper conference she had been asked to attend. “I didn’t really even see him at first, I saw this person in a cowboy hat and then I did a double take and said, what’s going on,” she laughs.

Not even once she had been invited up on the stage did Stutzman realize the importance of her award. Only later, looking at the engraved glass plaque, did she realize this was a national recognition.

“You nominate somebody who you feel goes above and beyond to really advocate and accomplish something for childhood immunization rates for your state,” explains Public Health Director Becky Tinsley, who submitted the nomination.

“Last fall, we had an outbreak of whooping cough in our county and Carol worked very hard going up to do contact investigations, testing, providing treatment and eventually providing immunizations to a population of people who don’t typically get immunized. We worked a lot with the state epidemiology and state health officer to try and coordinate all that care and be culturally responsive to them.”

Whooping cough is a serious condition among the young and immunizations can only be administered above two months of age. Pregnant women can be immunized, however, and will pass a small measure of protection on to their baby.

The outbreak last fall affected a group of people including families with children under the age of two. The community is both geographically isolated and unfamiliar with modern medicine.

Stutzman was able to develop a relationship with the community, including the resident birth attendant, which bore fruit when the outbreak posed a significant risk to the community’s youngest residents.

“All of them made it, nobody passed,” Stutzman says proudly, adding that she hopes the experience also provided education that could help that population in the event of future outbreaks and immunization opportunities for such illnesses as measles.

A CDC representative took note of Stutzman’s work during the outbreak and called Tinsley to suggest the nomination. Tinsley was more than happy to oblige, she says.

Stutzman is a Public Health Nurse in Crook County with a long history of volunteer work in vaccine advocacy. She came to develop a passion for immunizations – and for keeping both children and adults safe and healthy, she says.

Stutzman has volunteered time over the years to vaccination clinics and parent education campaigns and currently handles many health-related issues in her work, including reaching out to undervaccinated populations. She was named Wyoming’s CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for her commitment to educating isolated communities about vaccination.


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