VC Notes - A weekly word from Dr. LouAnn Woodward
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Friday, July 23, 2021

At the Heart of the Matter

We asked, and you responded swiftly.

I am happy to report that since we announced our new COVID-19 vaccination policy the demand from employees and students for the shot is high. Once again, you are stepping up to do what is best for Mississippians, and in this case it’s to provide the safest environment for patient care, working and learning.

Nicki Lawson is a hospitalist nurse practitioner.Thank you.

Policies like ours or ones that mandate COVID-19 vaccination are becoming more prevalent in health care institutions across the country and being supported by national organizations. For example, Dr. David Skorton, president and CEO of the AAMC, issued this statement on Monday calling for all medical schools and teaching hospitals to require vaccinations.

I have always believed that we have the best employees and students at UMMC; and in a matter of days, you have proven that to be true by wholeheartedly embracing your duty to protect our patients, colleagues and visitors from COVID-19.

I have heard both enthusiasm and concern since the announcement, but I firmly believe the policy is the right thing to do. As the state’s only academic medical center we should lead Mississippi in health care and public health matters. That’s what we do, especially during this pandemic that is currently resurging.

I am inspired by all of you who are already vaccinated or in the process of getting vaccinated. If you have not yet scheduled to get your first shot through one of the UMMC options found here or haven’t yet made plans to visit one of the many options in your community, I urge you to get the process started in the coming weeks. We are well on our way to our goal of reaching 100% fully vaccinated.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve heard from many people supportive of the policy and especially the commitment we are making to our patients through conversations, texts, emails or on social media. Once such example is a Facebook post shared by Nicki Lawson, one of our hospital medicine nurse practitioners. She wanted to publicly show how she is #UMMCStrong by sharing her support of the policy and encouraging others to get vaccinated. She spoke to the heart of every caregiver, and in hopes of encouraging at least one of you who are still unsure about getting your vaccination to schedule your shot, I’m sharing below the thoughts she shared on social media after she took a moment to slightly revise them.


I imagine I am seeing more and more anti-vax and pro-choice posts due to many institutions adopting new or changing old policies as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine.

While I understand some institutions and organizations have created more strict policies, I hope I can implore you to imagine the responsibility they feel to protect our community, our nation.

Soldiers selflessly fight battles that most of us know nothing about on a daily basis. They chose that responsibility, not knowing what the outcome would be: living, dying, freedom, or war.

Health care workers are no different at the heart of it all. We are asked to lead and care for our vulnerable populations selflessly. We chose this.

It’s just so disheartening to see individuals, especially health care providers, share inaccurate information that will undoubtedly influence and shape the trajectory of the pandemic.

Currently, most institutions, like my own, are NOT firing employees if they choose to remain unvaccinated. They are NOT forcing employees to get vaccinated. Though this would certainly be the standard for employment once approved by the FDA, much like our annual flu vaccine. And I expect that, eventually, this type of requirement will be commonplace in health care.

They ARE giving us an option: Get vaccinated OR continue utilizing a filtered mask.

And if we step back for a minute, vaccine views aside, is that not the same thing we have been doing since March 2020? Wearing a mask

If there is a new, more transmissible variant, would you not want to continue protecting yourself and your family members?

Especially NOT having all of the answers and until we know MORE about what we are up against.

Though I was not around then, I constantly wonder how our polio survivors feel about this.

They had to make tough choices.

They had to take risks to protect themselves and those around them.

Choices that saved generations.

I say all of this to encourage you to:

  • continue doing your research
  • stop spreading inaccurate info
  • get vaccinated if you feel comfortable
  • stay vigilant with safety measures, like mask wearing

Health care is changing and evolving faster than some are comfortable with.

I get that… but BIG PICTURE: The vast majority of people and institutions are doing their very BEST to maintain their oath of protecting the communities we hold dear and I can support that 1000%


Thank you, Nicki, for allowing me to share this with the entire UMMC community. In almost every way, it’s this type of dedication and commitment to our greater mission of A Healthier Mississippi that keeps me so very excited to come to work.

Signed, Lou Ann Woodward, M.D.

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