The success of immunization programs relies heavily on immunization program managers, who facilitate every aspect of immunization programs, from cost-effective procurement of vaccines to the vigilant monitoring of vaccine safety and efficacy. Sabin’s IAIM Network is the largest international network of immunization managers, offering opportunities to connect, share knowledge and strengthen skills required to effectively implement immunization programs. This peer network creates opportunities for immunization professionals to share best practices and address the most pressing topics challenging immunization programs.
In this spotlight series, we will feature IAIM Network members to highlight their accomplishments as immunization managers and learn from their programs. Our first interview is with Dolley Tshering, an IAIM Network member and district health officer in Bhutan. The following was edited for length and clarity.
What is your name and where do you work?
I am Dolley Tshering. I work as District Health Officer (DHO) in Trongsa District, one of the central districts of Bhutan. I work in close coordination with the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan.
How long have you been an immunization manager?
I have been working as an immunization manager since July 2006.
Why did you want to become an immunization manager?
Working in health is my passion. I was brought up in a humble family in one of the most remote corners of Bhutan. In the past, my village lacked basic health care which had a devastating impact on our lives. Within my family I was among the four lucky siblings who survived out of nine. My stepmother wasn’t as lucky; she lost all her seven children. These unfortunate histories of my community shaped and hardened my dream to become a medical doctor.
My rural upbringing and education didn't sustain me against the urban intellects for the [Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery] scholarship, thus ending my doctor dream. But I redefined my dream and chose to become a primary health care worker, which I understood was going to take me closer to my dream of serving the community. I then joined the Royal Institute of Health and Science now renamed as Faculty of Nursing and Public Health under Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan in Thimphu to formally certify myself as a health worker, undergoing a two year course. I then received an opportunity to begin my bachelor of science in Public Health and later, my master of science in Health Systems Management to represent as an Immunization manager in the district, bridging the gap between national health systems and the communities, and further reaching the health services right in the communities.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I am given the responsibility of bridging gaps between the national health services and the community. I have been working to educate the community for the last ten years and want to continue with same spirit for the benefit of my people.
What do you wish people knew about immunization managers?
Despite the personal satisfaction of my job, I discovered that the rural population is still unaware of many health problems and the availability of health care. Our best efforts seem to lack the efficiency to reach the rural uneducated majority, leading me to feel the need for new methods, better approaches, modern skills, new technologies and other practices from developed countries. The knowledge of new discoveries, new diseases, new medicines and new medical breakthroughs takes a long while to reach my country, and it takes longer to reach the rural communities where I work, which otherwise could save many lives and expenses.
What is your biggest professional achievement to date?
One of my most inspiring and satisfying achievements that I still remember is my work with the most remote part of my district, Thayne village, a six-hour walk from the district headquarters. People of this village rely solely on animals for their livelihood, moving from place to place along with their cattle. This makes it difficult for health workers to catch them for routine and scheduled immunization. They don’t value the importance of immunization and often don’t seek health services unless they fall seriously ill. I took this as a challenge, prepared a micro-plan and tried to sensitize them on the importance of immunization through the involvement of local leaders and other influential people in the community. Currently, immunization coverage in this village is 100 percent. I just thought and believe that there is nothing impossible to a willing heart. Of course, the overall achievement was through the support of local government and the local health workers. Thus, teamwork is essential.
In your opinion, what are the most valuable skills for an immunization manager?
Networking is the key to success in any health activities. The district health office alone cannot do and achieve everything. It is through the built network the health goals are met and achieved.
How can the IAIM Network help you as an immunization manager?
As far as I am concerned, building networks among the members and the member countries is very important. Although we may have different identities, wear different dresses and speak different languages, we share common goals.