Back to the Future: Past RIV Winners Talk About What the Recognition Meant for Their Careers

Larry Beresford


The Hospitalist. 2013;17(9):1,35-38. 

In This Article

Shetal Shah, MD, FAAP

Title: Neonatal intensivist

Institution: Stony Brook University Hospital, great Neck, N.Y.

Year: 2006

Riv: "Administration of Inactivated Trivalent Influenza Vaccine (TIV) to Parents of Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): A Novel Strategy to Increase Vaccination Rates" (innovations)

Citation: Shah SI, Caprio M, Hendricks-Munoz K. Administration of inactivated trivalent influenza vaccine to parents of high-risk infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Pediatrics. 2007;120;e617-e621.

Dr. Shah was in his final year of a fellowship in neonatology at New York University when he took on the challenge of improving immunization access to protect premature, highly vulnerable patients in the NICU from influenza infections. Because these children are too young to be vaccinated directly, the concept of cocooning them from infection involves extending protection to everyone around them.

"We came up with the idea of offering flu vaccinations 24/7 in the NICU to the children's parents," he says. "It worked well for us as a way to define an indicated therapy for a defined population, even if it was a little outside the box. By the end of the flu season, 95% of the parents were vaccinated."

SHM recognized the project as the top RIV innovations poster at HM06, but that was just the beginning.

"When I moved to SUNY Stony Brook, I continued to study and advocate for these vaccinations," Dr. Shah says. "We were giving 500 to 700 vaccinations a year. Then I wrote a national resolution for the American Academy of Pediatrics, which was significant because it meant AAP was behind the project."

Dr. Shah later became chair of AAP's Long Island Chapter Legislative Committee and joined a statewide pediatric advocacy group. In 2009, the New York legislature enacted the Neonatal Influenza Protection Act, which required hospitals in the state to offer parents the vaccine, with Dr. Shah's research and advocacy providing an essential basis for its passage. He's even been recognized for his research in congressional citations.

Based on that success with influenza vaccinations, Dr. Shah and his colleagues looked at other diseases, starting with pertussis, and then tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.[5] All the while, they continued tracking immunization rates. A second state law, passed in 2011, added pertussis to the vaccinations. Next on his advocacy agenda is a project to promote smoking-cessation interventions in the NICU.[6]

"These parents come to see us every day," he says. "What can we do, through the parents, to promote the health and well-being of their high-risk newborns?"