What inspired you to start the MRSA Survivors Network?
There was no support group online and very little information for patients and caregivers, so I wanted to help others who had this disease.
How did you get connected with big organizations like the WHO and FDA?
I attended a WHO Patient Advocate Workshop in Chicago to become a Patient for Patient Safety Champion in 2008 to raise awareness for MRSA, healthcare-acquired infections and antimicrobial resistance. After, the WHO asked me to join its committees to develop a hand hygiene program for patients, work on its antimicrobial resistance awareness campaign and conduct a MRSA webinar. Last year, I was appointed as an advisor on the WHO’s Ethics Committee for the Ebola virus.
The FDA contacted me in 2007 and asked me if I would apply to be a patient representative on the Anti-Infective Drug Development Committee. I have participated as a voting member in FDA hearings for drug approval and have presented during FDA Staph Workshops on why we should use prevention and certain approaches to eradicate MRSA.
You recently won the MITSS Hope Award, which recognizes people and organizations that support patients, families, and clinicians impacted by adverse medical events. What does winning that award mean to you?
MRSA is a secret and silent killer and needs so much awareness. I hope by winning this prestigious award that it will draw more attention to the ongoing MRSA epidemic and bring this disease to the forefront.
Jeanine Thomas with Sanjay Malaviya, RL's president and CEO, at the MITSS Hope Award ceremony
What do you love most about your work?
I enjoy helping patients, caregivers, family members and healthcare workers (HCWs) who need information and to talk about the psychological aspects of this disease (the MRSA Survivors Network operates the only MRSA Crisis Hotline in the US).
What has been your greatest professional triumph?
Knowing that passing groundbreaking legislation which mandated screening and reporting of MRSA would save tens of thousands of lives, prevent infections and give transparency to this disease. The early years were very difficult and pioneer work was exhausting, as most people did not know what MRSA was.
The MRSA Survivors Network website posts Survivor Stories. What can healthcare workers can learn from reading these stories?
Healthcare workers and those in the industry can see how infections affect survivors' lives—especially after they leave a healthcare facility. Infections can become chronic and change the life of a patient. We also have RNs and other HCWs who have been impacted with this disease and live with it and we give support to them too.
What role do you think technology plays in preventing infections like MRSA?
Reporting colonization and infection rates are very important to get a true magnitude of the epidemic; software that makes it easier for healthcare workers to report infections is crucial. With well-developed software, infection preventionists can run various reports to see what patient population base their infections are coming from, trends, etc. so they can target their approaches for prevention.
I have called upon the WHO to ask every country to report MRSA colonization and infections rates (as they do for HIV/AIDS) and post the data on a public website. It is also important for every state to have a website that patients can access to see hospital infection rates (by pathogen and procedure), so they can make more informed decisions when having a procedure. Transparency is key.