In 2000, measles was declared officially eradicated in the United States. Yet in the first six months of 2019, more than 1,000 cases were confirmed in 28 states. And according to the World Health Organization, 2017 saw 110,000 measles deaths globally, most of them children under the age of five.
So when Nadine Gartner ’01 was pregnant with her first child, she was surprised to discover that many of her Portland neighbors had decided against vaccinating their children. Fearful for their children’s health and confused by conflicting information, they had turned to the internet, rife with alarming reports about the supposed dangers of vaccines. And the only sites advocating for vaccination came from voices that many parents distrust—federal and state agencies.
A lawyer and Bryn Mawr English major, Gartner saw a need—and stepped forward to fill it: in 2015, she founded the nonprofit Boost Oregon to provide evidence-based education for new and expecting parents. “The vast majority of people who are not vaccinating are not the staunch anti-vaccine movers who will never vaccinate their children no matter what,” says Gartner explained on a recent CBS News segment. “It doesn’t work to tell parents what to do. We know every parent wants to make the best health decision for their children. So I want to make sure that when parents are examining the facts, that they understand what’s scientific, what’s not, and to really be able to separate the truth from the fiction.”
Today, Boost Oregon hosts workshops for parents that present the science, provides seminars for medical professionals about the best ways to talk to concerned parents, coaches parent volunteers to speak to friends and neighbors about the value of vaccinations, maintains an informative website, and publishes educational pamphlets for parents and medical providers. “I founded Boost Oregon to change the culture of children's immunizations from one of fear and anxiety to confidence and love,” says Gartner. “Serving the greater good through education, empathy, and kindness feels very Bryn Mawr to me.”
Pictured: Gartner, with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. In May, she and Boost Oregon were featured on CBS Sunday Morning.