As Executive Director, Claire Hannan has helmed the Association of Immunization Managers since 2004. In this episode, hear why 2022 was the right time to launch the “AIMing to Inform” podcast and what she hopes you get from this new series. Join us to listen to this adept leader who balances it all with passion, curiosity, and a regular running routine.
Claire Hannan joined the Association of Immunization Managers as its first Executive Director in 2004 and has spent her career working to support immunization policies and practices. She is responsible for the overall administration and management of AIM, as well as representing AIM at conferences, meetings, on committees, and in workgroups. She also represents AIM in Congress, communicates with the CDC, and facilitates coordination among AIM members in addition to preparing AIM positions, policy papers, reports, letters, and presentations.
Claire holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Wagner College and a Master of Public Health in health policy from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Before joining AIM, she worked on Capitol Hill, lobbied for children’s health issues, and was the Director of Immunization Policy for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Brent Ewig 0:03
Welcome to aiming to inform. I’m Brent Ewig, your host for this limited series podcast produced by the Association of Immunization Managers. We started this podcast so we could talk to immunization managers across the US to understand how they have overcome challenges and become a champion for vaccines. Before we’re done today, we hope you’ll experience at least one aha moment, enjoy a few dad jokes and leave the episode feeling motivated to carry on your work as a public health leader. Let’s get started.
Welcome to the inaugural episode of AIM’s new podcast series aiming to inform this is a podcast series really set out to do three things. One is to create a forum for creating conversations and sharing stories that can help motivate and inspire people. Two to highlight how immunization program managers and staff have surmounted challenges. And, three, to help immunization program leaders and staff feel supported. We are thrilled in this first episode to be joined by none other than Claire Hannan, the Executive Director of the Association of Immunization Managers, she served in that role since 2004. And we’re going to hear a lot more about her background, and just really want to jump into and get started.
So Claire, can you tell us from your perspective, why do you feel like this is the right time to launch a podcast for AIM?
Claire Hannan 1:23
Well, first off, it’s the first time we have this technology. And you know, the resources to do this. But really, I mean, I think it’s just the right time to start sharing. I think program managers are anxious to talk to each other. They want to talk about their experiences they want to share. And I think people are ready to dive in and listen and learn from each other. And the podcast is such a great format because it allows people to listen on the go and just to connect with their colleagues in a new way.
Brent Ewig 1:53
Excellent. So who are some of the people you’re excited to be hearing from in the series?
Claire Hannan 1:58
Yeah, I don’t have any favorites. I’m just really excited that we’re connecting again, Zoom is like okay, but, you know, let’s really hear from people and see and learn. So I’m excited to hear from everyone, all the program managers.
Brent Ewig 2:13
Excellent. So let’s turn to your experience a little bit. And if you could kind of briefly tell us about your career. And what brought you to this work in immunization?
Claire Hannan 2:23
Well, I graduated with a political science degree, and I was ready to change the world. I started working in Congress. And I really started to like children’s health issues. I was inspired by those working on children’s health issues. And I was lucky to get a job after working in Congress in children’s health issues. And I just became drawn to immunization. And I think we all know that children’s health is a really big field. But immunization is the best part about that. Right? Protecting kids. And also, you know, we just know how to get together and work together. So once I got into immunization, I never wanted to leave.
Brent Ewig 3:10
Excellent. And I’m going to ask you in just a second, what motivates you to do this work? But you did a kind of perfect setup. One of the things we’ve promised with the podcast series is to share it, at least a few dad jokes. And so you talked about children’s health. When you’re talking about children, you’re talking about families. Right? So do you know when a joke becomes a dad joke?
Claire Hannan 3:33
When a dad tells it and no one laughs?
Brent Ewig 3:35
Close, but when it becomes apparent? Oh, yeah, apparent. So back to the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about what motivates you to continue to do this work?
Claire Hannan 3:47
It’s definitely the people and it’s definitely the cause. I mean, I think protecting people from disease. It’s just so simple and rewarding and basic, and working with program managers, such passionate, dedicated, smart giving people there, it just doesn’t get any better, I guess than that.
Brent Ewig 4:10
That’s excellent. Can you share a little bit of how you discovered the need for AIM how you came to AIM? What do you value most about working with this community?
Claire Hannan 4:18
Well, yeah, I mean, I was I was working for health officials, and they’re important people, secretaries of health. So I was working on immunization. I immediately connected with the immunization staff people and who worked for their health official on immunization and I made a lot of connections really learned a lot and enjoyed working with them. At the same time, they were getting together and really talking about how much they needed to learn from each other and how much they needed to have that contact. And so they they formed AIM with a circle of chairs. I mean, they got together at meetings and circled up and started talking about their challenges and then they decided to move forward and make it formal. So I was just lucky to be involved in the beginning, and it was really rewarding.
Brent Ewig 5:07
And that was about 2004 was formed
Claire Hannan 5:10
1999, actually. And it took some time to get the 501(c)(3) and to get some funding. And once they got down into place, they conducted the search for executive director.
Brent Ewig 5:24
Excellent. So you’ve had that perspective than over a couple of decades, despite your continued youth. But can you kind of tell us what you’ve how you’ve seen the role of immunization managers change over those couple of decades,
Claire Hannan 5:37
Of course, it’s gotten more complex, because there are more shots right there, the schedule has gotten extremely complex. And I think that the nature of being a program manager has evolved to just include a lot more responsibility. So over time, the funding that comes from CDC has gotten more, there are more requirements, there are more reports that need to be done. There’s just a lot of boxes that have to be checked. In the beginning, I think it was a little a little more simple. And I think technology has improved data has improved. There’s just so much more to doing the job now, then, you know, making sure that vaccine gets shipped to the right place. So things have evolved, things have grown, we’re doing much more, there’s much more responsibility. And but I do think program managers have more resources as well. And the nice thing too, about immunizations is that there’s never a dull day, you know, things are always changing in the environment. There’s always new vaccines on the horizon, we always have to be preparing for what we don’t expect. And so, you know, that’s, that’s a constant, but it’s also always changing the job responsibility.
Brent Ewig 6:57
Can you talk a little bit about how the game has changed and evolve to support as those additional responsibilities have been added?
Claire Hannan 7:05
Sure, you know, I think in the beginning AIM was very much about sharing amongst the program managers, and really sort of being that connection and liaison to CDC. A lot of the funding came from CDC, the requirements came from CDC. And we have just moved far and beyond that, to have a voice not only with CDC but throughout the immunization community – legislatively, policymaking, federal advisory committees. So we’ve grown in that respect. We’ve also grown in our way of getting funding, we get a lot more grants, we have much more diversity of funding. And that supports a lot more activity for us. So the staff have grown. We have research, research presence, we have a development presence, we also still maintain all the members’ support activities, and we do a lot of leadership training. So we’ve expanded to meet the needs of program managers. And we’ve been lucky to find different diverse ways to fund the organization in our activities.
Brent Ewig 8:13
Let’s quick pause for another dad joke.
Claire Hannan 8:16
Brent Ewig 8:17
Three dads walk into a bar. You’d think one of them would have seen it.
Claire Hannan 8:23
That one was good.
Brent Ewig 8:25
But let’s talk a little bit about COVID. And how has that change accelerated the pace for what immunization program managers are faced with?
Claire Hannan 8:33
Oh, well, I guess I mean, I would say that COVID has put immunization program management on steroids, things that we that take time and collaboration and, you know, like data sharing legal agreements, enrollment of providers, reaching all adults, Americans with two doses. You know, that’s happened in a year, you know, even less. So it’s just been a firestorm of improvement. Communities, partners, collaborators, working with universities, with hospitals, all kinds of new employers, all kinds of new groups, new technology, political scrutiny, things have happened quickly, hiring people, a lot of things that had challenges or we needed to work through over time. We’ve just jumped right in it. So it’s really changed it since it’s changed the environment. There’s a lot more scrutiny, I think, too on what we’re doing media scrutiny, public scrutiny, leadership, scrutiny, lawmakers, governors expectations are higher, but but also there’s been a lot more resources and ability, you know, frankly, to do more, some flexibility to move more quickly.
Brent Ewig 9:57
Can you talk a little bit what you think from your perspective, some of the biggest wins have been?
Claire Hannan 10:01
Well, obviously, a huge win that we got the vaccine out, you know, the vaccine, the research and the vaccine being done, and it being effective, but a tremendous, tremendous success to get the vaccine into hundreds of 1000s, you know, thousands of places where people could access it, people could get it, providers were educated how to store it, they were reporting data back. So, you know, that’s obviously the first success that we were able to accomplish everything that we’ve done, I would say just tremendous gains in in data collection and sharing. So all of those providers, you know, probably 38,000, sites that weren’t previously connected to public health are now connected, you know, they signed an agreement to give data back to accept the vaccine. They’re all enrolled, you know, we have them, we have their information, we have a connection with them, we’ve been able to educate them and their reporting data has made progress sharing data nationally, to have a national dashboard, you know, CDC getting the data, every state has a COVID dashboard, publicly show where we are to have transparency. So this, these are tremendous gains, all of these enrolled providers, all of the data that we’re getting, and we can clearly see the pathway where we need to go, you know, we need to be able to have better interoperability across all of our data systems, we need to get to that point where we’re sharing all of our data across states. So there’s just been tremendous, I think, improvement in the data, in the providers, in the education, the promotion, we now have communications, and education and partnership in communities to establish trust. So we’ve just made leaps and bounds, I think, from where we were just a few years ago, before COVID
Brent Ewig 12:06
Really extraordinary and a half million doses in less than a year is truly unprecedented and historic. And it couldn’t have happened without AIM and in its membership. So congratulations to you and and all of our listeners.
Claire Hannan 12:19
And I think some wise person called it the public health accomplishment of the century, for what what, what do you call it?
Brent Ewig 12:28
Something like the greatest public health achievement of our generation, or of the century?
Claire Hannan 12:33
There it is.
Brent Ewig 12:36
And yet, some things will never be the same. And so you sort of touched on this, but are there other things that you would think will never be the same after COVID?
Claire Hannan 12:44
Well, I, you know, I don’t think we’re going back to enrolling providers and making sure they get vaccine and tracking inventory. We’re beyond that now. And we have relationships in communities, we have new partnerships, this, this is here to stay, you know, we need to sustain that and use these connections to really build strong competence in public health and trust in vaccines. You know, I think those aspects are just not going away, we aren’t going back. Hopefully, we’re not going back to really focusing on children and being limited with adults. You know, all these providers we’ve enrolled, let’s hope that we can, we can go somewhere with that just to sustain this network of providers, we’ve made gains in other places too where, where we just won’t retreat.
Brent Ewig 13:41
You talked about the urgency that COVID created within the community. And yet we’ve seen cycles of panic and neglect throughout all previous public health emergencies. Do you have some thoughts on how we avoid that cycle of panic and neglect this time?
Claire Hannan 13:55
Well, it’s about advocacy. And we’ve got to continue to make the case for sustained investment. You know, we’ve got to show what we need. As far as data as far as improving and modernizing IT. We’ve got to show how it benefited the COVID response and talk about what we need to continue on. And, you know, I think we have so many more groups and players at the table, and so many more people whose awareness has been raised in the country that I just feel really good about our ability to advocate and our ability to show in simple terms. You know, we’ve got to sustain investment, and we reap what we sow. So, you know, if we want to protect against disease, we’ve got to invest and we’ve got to keep that up people kids are born every day. You know, no one’s born fully vaccinated. So we can’t ever stop and say we’ve achieved where we want to be. We have to continuously invest and continue to improve, and advocate and educate
Brent Ewig 14:59
I love that. And I know AIM will be there right in the lead on that. So you’ve seen a lot, and you’ve done a lot in your career, and really tremendous leadership over these couple of decades for AIM. There’s a series of questions, we’re gonna ask every one of our guests in this podcast. And the first is to think back, if you could go back to talk to your younger self, what kind of professional advice would you give yourself?
Claire Hannan 15:21
Yeah, so I would say, Don’t demand perfection from yourself. Don’t don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. That’s, that’s been told to me, but it’s really hard for me. I would say, don’t be afraid to try new things, too, don’t shy away from challenges. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s really what it’s all about with the AIM community is having someone that you can ask for help, and being there for another person to help them. You know, that’s, that’s what we’re all about.
Brent Ewig 15:52
Great. And leadership, something you’ve been out for a while. But how do you avoid burnout and build resilience?
Claire Hannan 16:00
I don’t really perceive myself as a leader, I really perceive the immunization program managers as leaders. And you know, it’s just so inspiring. They’re just so inspiring with what was put on their plate, and what they come in every day to work on. That it’s inspirational for me to help them and I’m just inspired by all of their hard work. And all of the hard work of the AIM staff, you know, we have a really dedicated and now we’ve got a lot more young staff, and it’s just really inspiring to see them and to see their passion. I do a few things for myself to avoid burnout. And let me just say, like, I definitely have bad days. And, and I’ve struggled through them, just like everyone, but I’m I take some time for myself, I am a runner, I run every day. And I think it really helps me get through COVID I think that’s what gives me resilience. Definitely makes me feel better about myself. So yeah, I mean, I take some time. And I do also allow myself to work late when I need to, like when I need to just to really put in some time and get stuff done. I do it. And I feel good about it.
Brent Ewig 17:18
Lot of good insights, thank you. Looking forward to the next year. What are you most looking forward to?
Claire Hannan 17:24
I’m really looking forward to taking a step back and having more thought and more discussion about what we’ve done and what we’ve learned and where we want to go. You know, I feel like we’ve been running, running on empty for a long time. And I’m really looking forward to processing some of that. And I mean, also, I’m really looking forward to talking and meeting and seeing all of my colleagues think that that gives motivation as well.
Brent Ewig 17:59
That will be nice. So we’re about to close the door on this first episode of the podcast. Before I ask the last question, one last dad joke about elevators.
Brent Ewig 18:09
Do you know why elevator jokes are so good?
Claire Hannan 18:12
No, I don’t.
Brent Ewig 18:13
Because they work on so many different levels. Thanks for the courtesy chuckles It’s a last question. Can you talk a little bit about what’s the greatest value you get out of being associated with the AIM community?
Claire Hannan 18:27
Yeah, and again, is the people. It’s the friendship and the support we have for one another. I think the mission is very rewarding. And it sustains all of this. But you know, I think a everyday day in and day out, it’s really the people that we interact with.
Brent Ewig 18:46
Excellent. So Claire Hannan, Executive Director of the Association of immunization managers want to thank you for being our first guest on the new AIM podcast, Aiming To Inform, we look forward to many future podcasts. And we want to just thank you again for being our first guest. And it’s been really great talking with you.
Claire Hannan 19:03
Thank you. It’s been great and you know, keep up all the good jokes
Brent Ewig 19:08
On many levels. Thanks so much.
Brent Ewig 19:15
Thank you for listening. If you want to get all the episodes as we release them, please subscribe on your favorite podcast app, or visit the AIM website to join our mailing list. The Association of Immunization Managers, AIM, is dedicated to establishing a nation free of vaccine-preventable diseases. Visit our website at immunizationmanagers.org to get resources and attend events to keep you aiming to inform. This podcast series was made possible through the independent financial support from Merck. AIM controls all content on this podcast. All episodes were recorded and produced in 2022.