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March 7, 2019

A bill to promote the benefits of immunization will be heard in the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee on Friday, March 8.

Please take 1 minute to contact your House member and urge them to support this effort to increase immunization rates. Our voice needs to be louder than those contacting legislators with anti-vaccine rhetoric.

In short, HF 1182 would provide funding to the Minnesota Department of Health and community-based organizations to promote the benefits of immunization for those communities most at risk. The education efforts would be focused upon geographic areas or populations experiencing or at risk of experiencing an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.

Talking points:
  • Vaccines prevent serious illness and save lives. Yet misinformation about vaccines is all too common, leading many parents to opt out of vaccines and put children and others at risk.
  • States with more permissive vaccination laws, such as Minnesota, are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease.
  • Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows that several communities and schools have high rates of non-medical exemptions. In Wadena County, for example, 13 percent of Kindergartners are entering school without required vaccinations.
  • Targeted education is needed to counter myths and falsehoods about vaccination, especially in communities with high rates of non-medical exemptions.

Please take 1 minute to contact your House member and urge him or her to support HF 1182. 

1. Enter your home address to find your MN House member:

2. Send him or her a brief email using the language above. Feel free to personalize or modify. Copy so we can track outreach.

Another option is a quick call saying, “I’m a constituent in your district and pediatrician calling to convey my support for HF 1182, a bill to help provide education to communities with low vaccination rates.”



Over the last several years, projects initiated through the AAP’s Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) program have advanced child health for vulnerable populations and connected nearly 2,000 pediatricians and pediatricians-in-training with their communities.

Here in Minnesota, one MNAAP member has had a front row seat to the CATCH project process for more than a decade. Brian Lynch, MD, FAAP, began serving as the chapter’s CATCH facilitator in 2010 after then-MNAAP President Anne Edwards, MD, FAAP, recruited him for the role. Dr. Lynch practices at Mayo Clinic, where he also serves on the faculty as an associate professor of pediatrics.

As a CATCH facilitator, Dr. Lynch helps chapter members prepare for the grant application, as well as review and grade CATCH applications from other chapters. According to the AAP, the CATCH program is a flagship initiative that has, for 30 years, supported pediatricians and residents to collaborate within their communities to advance the health of all children, especially the most vulnerable children.

Through an annual competitive process, CATCH awards seed funding for planning and implementation grants to pediatricians; fellows/fellowship trainees receive $10,000 for planning or implementation projects, while residents are awarded $2,000.

“What’s neat about CATCH grants is they focus on new projects that are pediatrician-led that are in their local community that involve community collaboration and generally serve populations that have demonstrated health disparities,” said Dr. Lynch.

Typically one CATCH project from Minnesota is funded each year, which is a pretty good track record, according to Dr. Lynch. He will often talk through project ideas with eight and 10 people, and of those interested parties three to four will continue on to the process of applying for grant funding. CATCH is a good opportunity for pediatricians or residents who are new to research. 

“I really had no research background before coming to Mayo Clinic. Taking on an idea like a CATCH grant would have been very difficult for me when I started. So it’s gratifying to help people who are in that same position move forward with an idea and get a grant application together and implement that idea in their community,” said Dr. Lynch.

The grant cycle typically opens in November with a call for applications and closes in January. Selected projects are announced in April. Work on the project then usually begins the following June. But the work to prepare for a CATCH grant application submission can and should begin earlier to allow for community connections and partnerships to develop, as well as application drafting and refinement. All told, it can take between 10 and 20 hours to prep, but as the chapter CATCH facilitator, Dr. Lynch is ready to help interested applicants.

“One of my goals is that if someone is going to put in that work that they will get funded,” he said. In fact, you get additional points on your application if you work with your chapter CATCH facilitator in the process. 

Once funded, CATCH grantees receive technical support from AAP, networking opportunities, and the potential to develop collaborations in their community that extend past the project timeline.

Dr. Lynch was recently joined by a co-facilitator, Chetna Mangat, MD, FAAP, who may eventually take over for him in the role as chapter facilitator. Typically, the chapter facilitator rotates every three years. 

“I think it’s important that new people come into this position and bring new energy and new ideas,” he said. 

If you are interested in the CATCH grant program, or in a future role as a chapter CATCH facilitator, contact Dr. Lynch at 

Previous Minnesota CATCH Funded Grant Projects

2017 – Irreducible Grace Mental Health First Aid
2018 – Dialogue, Diseases and Debunking: Immunization Outreach to Minnesota’s Somali Community; MMR vaccine perceptions among Somali-Minnesotans
2019 – Health and Well-being for Homeless Families; Somali Mother Infant Lactation Experiences Project; Increasing LARC Access in Primary Pediatrics
2020 – Doctors and Teachers Improving Health Together

Jennifer Abuzzahab is a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Minnesota and has been a MNAAP member since 2001. Dr. Abuzzahab answered these questions for Minnesota Pediatrician as this issue’s member spotlight.

What made you choose pediatric endocrinology as your specialty?  

I like the balance of hormone pathways, the ability to replace (most) deficits with bio-identical hormones, and the opportunity for patient continuity. I really like the Yin/Yang balance of it all. I chose pediatrics because kids are fun to work with and generally make me laugh every day. 

What is a typical day like for you? 

Every day is different! I have days where I am only in clinic (seeing outpatients), days/weeks where I am on call seeing inpatients, and days with blocked research time for our clinical studies. I love that there is not a “typical” day or week, although I did almost go to the wrong clinic once. 

Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a research area of interest for you. What drew you to study this genetic disorder? 

It’s a fascinating condition and truly individuals with PWS can manifest many different ways across the spectrum of not only the genetic disorder but the stages of the disorder. I am proud to be part of the care team for several amazing kids (infants, school-age, teens, and young adults) with PWS and they have motivated me to look into ways to improve their lives. I also feel that there is some overlap between people with PWS and people with hypothalamic obesity following brain tumors.  

Is there an area of advocacy work that you feel strongly about? 

I am a strong advocate for preventive care and healthy lifestyles. I really believe that food is medicine. It is OK to eat candy or (my personal fav) Cheetos every now and then, but they are not every day foods. I promote more vegetables and fruits, or eating a rainbow every day. 

What’s the funniest thing a patient has said to you recently?  

There are so many to choose from. I think the best one was a 3 year old  who was showing off their counting skills by counting their teeth. I am loosely quoting his proud and hysterical proclamation: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…2, I have 2 teeth”  

The Anti-Racism and Disparities (ARD) workgroup met for a winter retreat this past January. It was a great gathering, full of reflection and discussion. 

The purpose of this workgroup is to facilitate a chapter structure for members that is just, diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible; and to promote health equity for children of Minnesota as identified by Minnesota communities and families. 

Here is an update on the work that this group wants to do together in 2023:


  • Assist with Equity Consultant and website redesign
  • Provide ARD guidance for board and workgroups when needed
  • Work with national AAP & other state chapters on ARD initiatives
  • Work with other professional state organizations to collaborate on ARD initiatives. 


  • Create safe environment for group work, learning, and growth
  • Meet quarterly virtually 
  • Have two retreats per year 


  • Provide efficient ARD resources and communication
  • Provide and promote ARD education opportunities


  • Amplify and participate in ARD community organizations’ work 
  • Promote C&TC access and utilization equity
  • Provide resources to improve parent and caregiver literacy levels

We are working on our chapter’s website redesign with the goal to have one page with ARD relevant Community Resources, Healthcare Worker Resources, and Workgroup sections. 

We will also find ARD MOC4 projects for chapter members. We hope that this will give members opportunities to access ARD resources in a helpful and meaningful manner to advance this work together. 

More news to come. Thank you for all you do for children and families every day!

Valeria Cristiani, MD, MPH, FAAP

Co-chair MNAAP ARD workgroup

Early childhood education has been a popular term at the legislature this year! As pediatricians know (and most other people, young parents and legislators included, do not know), early childhood education is the same as early childhood life!  No classrooms needed.  An enormous amount of learning has to take place before any “schooling” or “kindergarten” or even “Pre-K” can succeed.  The first thousand days of health, brain development and learning and life are the focus of the MNAAP Early Childhood Work Group.  

Brain development occurs more consequentially and rapidly in the first 1,000 days than at any other time of postnatal life. Infants and preschoolers learn an enormous set of skills, but doing so is predicated on a strong foundation of relationships.   

Babies must learn to direct their eyes, manipulate their arms and legs, grasp and maneuver objects in their world, and associate the look and feel and scent and taste of literally everything. As they get older, sitting up, rolling over, standing, walking, running, and turning somersaults all must be mastered. And that’s before learning the meaning of hundreds of words and how to say them.  And all must be remembered for later use. What a wonderful organism that can accomplish all this in three to four years and in any language. (Sometimes more than one!)

But none of it can be accomplished alone. Early childhood “teachers” are parents and grandparents, and siblings and paid childcare providers—adults with an eye to the child’s developmental stage and needs and a consistent presence throughout.   And perhaps more important, the brain cells and synapses that are not assigned a task and used repeatedly begin to be removed, “pruned”, toward the end of that same 1000 days—never to be available again! 

Our Early Childhood Work Group wants to support you by collecting the practices, skills and knowledge to better empower families, educators and legislators to do the important work of early childhood support. To this end, we have started a lecture series on early childhood,  bringing the newest science and best thinkers on topics such as autism identification, early brain development and trauma response.  You can see those lectures on the MNAAP website ( Moreover, we have had a big presence at the legislature that belies the size of our patients, conveying the importance of the following topics:

We want to support the ability of families to be at baby’s side in the early critical period as well as consequential moments such as times of illness. This is why we have been supportive of Paid Family Medical Leave.

We have been ardent supporters of programs such as home visiting, Reach out and Read and Early Childhood Family education that promotes early learning and interaction.

Currently, our childcare “system” is lacking about 40 percent of the early childhood educators that it needs.  Many families cannot find childcare at an affordable price if at all.  And parents are forced to stay home and forgo some of the income they badly need. Advocating for childcare reform is imperative. 

The Early Childhood Working Group would like to enlist you—as members of MNAAP, and as educators for the children and parents in your practices.  Legislators need to hear your voice.  Parents and families need your guidance and advice at every early childhood visit.  Your local schools and childcare settings need your attention and support. 

Please contact the chairs or members of the group to offer your advice and participation. 

Early Childhood Work Group Co-Chairs:

Nate Chomilo, MD, FAAP (

Krishnan Subrahmanian, MD, MPhil, DTM, FAAP (

Roger Sheldon, MD, FAAP ( 

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