Trina Teacutter, Columbia/Boone County Public Health nurse supervisor, has been working behind the scenes on community vaccinations since before the pandemic, but COVID-19 put her at the forefront of the community.
Her number 1 priority has always been the safety and health of the public and will continue to do so as she leads the COVID-19 vaccination efforts across Colombia.
We spoke to Teacutter about her work and her nomination. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What led you to a career in public health?
I fell into it by accident. I worked in a clinic before coming to the health ward, and I had a colleague who left that clinic and came to the health ward. She said, “This is where you should be.” Coincidentally, my position at the other clinic was cut, so I was fired from that job. She knew there was going to be a nurse leaving the health ward, so there would be a vacancy. Then I applied for the position and I’ve been working here for 22 years.
What is your personal mission?Serving the community and ensuring that the community is safe and healthy. Before I became a nurse, I was the vaccination coordinator in our department. I oversee the flu program at school every year and now the COVID-19 vaccinations. So vaccinations have been a big part of my public health career. But we work hard every day to serve our community. That ensures that we continue to do what we do.
What keeps you going despite criticism, especially with COVID-19 of the past two years?My colleagues. We show up every day to support each other, and we all strongly believe in the mission. We are passionate about the health and safety of people in our community. Every time we vaccinate a person, we think there will be one less person in the hospital with COVID-19. We feel like we are saving lives and preventing people from getting negative effects from COVID-19 with every other vaccine we give. We are proud to be able to serve the public. Even if some people are not very happy with us, there are many others who have expressed their appreciation. In public health, we are used to working behind the scenes. We don’t worry about getting accolades. In recent years, public health has come to the fore, so it has been a challenge. But it also gives people a chance to see what we’re doing in public health and to understand some of the things we do.
What does winning this prize mean to you?I’m not the only one pushing these things forward, and I couldn’t do it alone. I have an amazing team of nurses who have worked tirelessly on case studies, contact tracing and vaccinations. I think it would mean something to the whole department because I’m not the only one here who would deserve such an award. It has been very difficult for everyone, not only within our department, but also outside it. I like being recognized for the work we do, but that’s not why we do what we do.