Thomas J. Schuch, MD MPH, a pediatrician with South Boston Community Health Center and a resident of Jamaica Plain has been named HPV Vaccine Is Cancer Prevention Champion Award for outstanding efforts to protect adolescents from cancers caused by HPV in Massachusetts. Schuch is recognized for his efforts in helping to achieve an impressive 70 percent HPV vaccination completion rate at South Boston Community Health Center.
Led in partnership by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Association of American Cancer Institutes, and the American Cancer Society, the HPV Vaccine Is Cancer Prevention Champion Award Program recognizes clinicians, clinics, practices, groups, and health systems that are going above and beyond to foster HPV vaccination in their community. This year, the award program is honoring champions from 25 states.
As SBCHC’s chief information officer, Dr. Schuch has programmed customizations to the electronic health records (EHR) at his clinic to study trends in vaccine uptake, as well as create and refine clinical decision support tools to help providers improve childhood and adolescent vaccine completion rates. Specific to improving HPV vaccination rates, Dr. Schuch built an automated advisory program embedded in the EHR that flags boys and girls at age 9, to encourage providers to initiate HPV vaccination early. This prompt gives providers greater opportunity to complete the two-dose HPV vaccine series on time.
These tools are available to other FQHCs across Massachusetts and the United States through the OCHIN collaborative (which consists of 500+ safety net clinics and 10,000 providers in 47 states), as well as through research partnerships in HPV immunization uptake with the Boston University School of Medicine and the American Cancer Society. Dr. Schuch currently partners with an FQHC in Houston, Texas, to help them replicate the clinical decision support systems he designed and implemented to improve HPV immunization completion rates. Data collected from his work feeds into HPV immunization research conducted at Boston University School of Medicine.
HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 79 million people are currently infected in the United States. Every year in the United States, nearly 35,000 women and men are estimated to be diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection. HPV vaccination could prevent more than 90% of these cancers—more than 32,000 cases every year—from ever developing. Both boys and girls should get two doses of the HPV vaccine series when they are 11 or 12 years old. The HPV vaccine series can be started as early as age 9.
Every year, the award honors up to one champion from all 50 U.S. states, eight U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia. Immunization programs submit nominations for the HPV Vaccine is Cancer Prevention Champion in their state or territory. Nominees must be a clinician, clinic, practice, group, or health system that treats adolescents as part of their overall patient population and must have an HPV vaccine series completion rate at 60% or higher for their adolescent patient population.