RANDOLPH – Long-time Gifford Medical Center pediatrician and pediatric hospitalist Dr. Lou DiNicola this week received national recognition for his work around childhood immunizations.
Dr. DiNicola of Randolph was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases and the CDC Foundation as the first ever “CDC Childhood Immunization Champion” for the state of Vermont.
The award was announced in a letter to Dr. DiNicola from Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schucaht and CDC Foundation President Charles Stokes, who thanked Dr. DiNicola for his “efforts to help save lives by ensuring that our nation’s children are fully vaccinated.”
“It humbles me,” said Dr. DiNicola of the surprise award. “It humbles because it really shouldn’t go to me. I’m one of many.” Nurses, office staff, the Department of Health and caregivers across the state all work on the issue of immunizations, he noted.
A pediatrician in Randolph since 1976, Dr. DiNicola has long since been among those caregivers advocating for immunizations in their practices and on a state level.
Dr. DiNicola also now serves as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter. In that role and as a pediatrician, he’s been a strong advocate of a Senate bill now in committee that proposed to eliminate the current “philosophical,” non-medical and non-religious, vaccine exemption for children entering childcare and school.
Dr. DiNicola has been to the Statehouse multiple times to testify regarding the issue, penned editorials to regional media, spent hours reaching out the governor and other state officials and helped establish the first-ever advocacy program for physicians in their residency program at the University of Vermont. The program teaches physicians in-training how to advocate for children’s health.
The efforts are all meant to better immunization rates that he says are now a major problem in Vermont.
The immunization rate of incoming kindergartners has dropped from 93 percent in 2006 to 83 percent today, according to Vermont Department of Health data. “We’re going to face significant morbidity and probably mortality,” if vaccinations rates don’t change, Dr. DiNicola says, urging parents and lawmakers not to “allow children to be opted out of a lifetime of health and happiness.”
And providing children a lifetime of good health has always been Dr. DiNicola’s goal. In fact, he’s received approximately five previous national awards over his 36-year career, including a recognition from Pres. Jimmy Carter, awards for work with special needs children, a Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) award and more.
To learn more about Dr. DiNicola’s efforts around immunizations, visit the CDC online at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/champions.