Charlotte Moser of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center has been on the leading edge of educating the public about vaccines for 20 years. Hear how she has survived burnout through the pandemic and her advice on keeping up the fight to share science.
Brian Crawford 0:02
Welcome to the Create Good podcast. I’m Brian, and I’m Dawn. And we’ve spent the last decade plus working with passionate communicators activist and do-gooders around the country. We also host a conference called Create Good, where we gather folks to share their work, and create a community for people trying to make the world a better place.
Dawn Crawford 0:25
The Create Good podcast is a conversation with changemakers and rabble rousers to find out what makes them tick, and how they create good. Let’s get started.
Hey, welcome to the Create Good podcast. Today, we’re talking to Charlotte Moser. And we’re so excited to have you on today, Charlotte.
Charlotte Moser 0:52
Thanks for having me. It’s I’m excited to join you.
Dawn Crawford 0:55
Great. So, you know, we talk to nonprofit communicators. And you know, we have this set of 20 questions that we’ll ask you. But before we get started, I’d like to do a little introduction. So everybody knows who you are, and who’s you know, giving them such sage advice? So could you share your name, your title in your organization?
Charlotte Moser 1:14
Sure. My name is Charlotte Moser, and I’m the Assistant Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dawn Crawford 1:22
Great, and then tell us your website and then a little bit about your organization.
Charlotte Moser 1:28
You bet we actually have several websites, our main website is vaccine.chop.edu. But we also keep a website vaccinemakers.org that’s dedicated to classrooms, and Hillemanfilm.com, which kind of follows the history and science behind a lot of scientists that people might not have heard of, but who’ve done really cool things in their lives.
Dawn Crawford 1:51
Great. And then yeah, so tell me a little bit about your main organization and why it’s around.
Charlotte Moser 1:57
Sure. We started the Vaccine Education Center about 20 years ago, I had started working with Dr. Offit, right out of college. I was a first gen college student who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and I attended a small private university and agreed to a two year commitment with with Dr. Offit if you can believe that. We’re now 30 years in. And so I had graduated with my bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in Chemistry. And we were doing bench research. We were working to understand rotavirus immunology and microencapsulation, which was we were looking at as a system to deliver vaccines safely. And it was in the late 90s, really, that Dr. Offit realized there, you know, there were a lot of parents who had questions about vaccine safety. And so he had this idea to start the Vaccine Education Center. And he said, Hey, do you want to join me? And the rest is history, as they say, I mean, I think we thought we would be doing some communication around vaccine science for a few years. And then we’d go back to the research lab. But we ended up closing our research lab and focusing solely on the communication.
Dawn Crawford 3:07
Interesting. Yeah, I have a long history in vaccine communication, too. started way back in around 2010. And so it’s been an interesting ride, right. And learning about vaccine communication through COVID has also been fascinating and how we’ve been able to refine our messages like rapid fire over the last year. Right.
It really is an everchanging field. It truly is. Yeah, you’re never done learning.
Yeah, it’s certainly Yeah, figuring out new things that work for specific audiences and things like that has been super interesting. Well, cool. So So yeah, again, how many years have you been in this nonprofit communications world?
Charlotte Moser 3:51
More than 20?
Dawn Crawford 3:54
That’s fantastic. Yeah. Great.
Charlotte Moser 3:55
That’s fine. I think about that too much. About My Age, but
Dawn Crawford 4:00
exactly. I know. I just say decades, like decades. Cool. Okay, so great. You definitely did kind of share a little bit about your career already. Is there anything you want to add to that about, you know, anything else has kind of shaped your career to this point?
Unknown Speaker 4:15
Yeah, no, I mean, I think we talked we talked about it a little bit, you know, vaccine science and vaccine communication. Seems like it should be something that we can conquer pretty quickly. But it’s a complex issue. And it continues to evolve and, you know, become more complex and have more things to think about. And of course, throw a pandemic in there and you get a whole new set of parameters that you’re working under. So, you know, it’s been a really fun place to land for me as someone who’s a trained scientist, but to really start thinking about how to communicate that science to the public because I think that’s something that’s so important. And, you know, clearly there’s a need for.
Dawn Crawford 5:01
Okay, so why nonprofits? And you know, why do you do this work?
Unknown Speaker 5:07
Man, I think I landed in nonprofit work, quite serendipitously if you will, because I was looking to work in a research lab and I just happened to land in Dr. Offit’s lab at CHOP. But I found it was a really great place for me to land because I’m the type of person who likes to help people. And so in a place like CHOP, I’m surrounded by other people who like to help people. So it’s, it’s kind of a been a perfect fit.
Dawn Crawford 5:31
Great. So what’s your favorite thing about what you get to do every day?
Unknown Speaker 5:36
I think every day is different. And I really liked that, you know, you’re always learning something new, and thinking about things in new ways. And so it’s just the challenges remain, and the, you know, the intellectual motivation, that is stimulating is there because you never know what any given day is going to bring.
Dawn Crawford 5:56
Absolutely. Okay, magic wand time. If there’s one thing that you could change about your work life, what would it be?
Charlotte Moser 6:05
Probably fewer emails. And I guess if I could wave the wand of one extra time, I would just say that, you know, that it would be nice if people from the public who maybe disagree with what we do, and what we are talking about, were a little bit more kind in delivering those messages. Because people can be pretty nasty sometimes. And I don’t, you know, we don’t all have to agree. But we should all try to be nice to one another.
Dawn Crawford 6:33
Yeah. Do you feel like do you feel like comments and things and has changed over the last 20 years? Do you feel like it’s gotten any more hurtful, crazy, biting? What do you feel about those changes in the comments that we’re receiving about vaccines?
Charlotte Moser 6:51
I mean, I think there are always those people willing to say those mean things. But I think being able to hide behind computers has definitely made people much more cavalier about doing so. And, you know, I think people have also been feeling feeling like they’ve been given license to be mean, you know, to say things in a hurtful way, on purpose. A lot of times too, you know, so it’s, you know, like I said, we can all have our own opinions about things, but we don’t need to be disrespectful to one another when we’re sharing them.
Dawn Crawford 7:29
I agree. And I feel like it has gotten more directly hurtful. I think, you know, we certainly started with the dawn of Twitter, and even Jenny McCarthy coming out against vaccines. You know, I think there were still people asking hard questions about vaccines, you could turn them and talk to them. But it was science. But I think with the rise of the pandemic, and COVID, that I’ve certainly experienced that comments are, well, they’re better organized, right, that the anti-vaccine groups are better organized. So they have, you know, fresh, crazy messages all the time. And that there’s no reasoning with them anymore. There’s no more, they’re just viewing awfulness, and is there really, is there really even an opportunity feel like to correct science? Or should we just be blocking those folks and just removing them from the conversation?
Charlotte Moser 8:24
I mean, there’s definitely a small percentage of people who are never going to be changed. And that was true before. And it remains the case. You know, but there are a lot of people who really just have heard that information. And when you can talk to them and share share information in a respectful way. They’re very appreciative of that. And, you know, for as mean, as some of the emails have been that we’ve received over the course of the pandemic, we’ve had a lot of really grateful people who just say, Thank you, like, I couldn’t find the answer to this question. I didn’t, it took me a long time to find you. And now that I have you answered my question so quickly. Thank you, you know, and, and so there are still people out there who are really trying to get, you know, the right answers not and I don’t mean the right answers, meaning you must vaccinate, I just mean the right answers to here’s my general question about how this vaccine works or what, what the science behind this means? Can you help me? And you know, those are the people that that we really feel like, there is an opportunity to continue helping you and we hope that they find us, because we’re not trying to strong arm anyone into vaccinating their kids, or themselves for that matter. We just want them to make those decisions with the best information possible. You know, and I think there’s been some erosion. And we’ll probably get to this in some of the related questions, but just some erosion in the ideas related to what scientific information means. There aren’t two sides to scientific information. Then when we can all have our own opinions about what that science says or how we want to interpret it, but it’s not we can’t all make up our own facts. That’s not the way this works. So, you know, I think that’s another place where it’s been tough.
Dawn Crawford 10:15
Absolutely. Yeah, completely agree that you have talking about sciences changed really dramatically last five years too. Okay, so what are you looking forward to in the next year? We’re all in a, you know, a cute little pandemic low right now, you know, what are you looking forward to the next year?
Unknown Speaker 10:31
Yeah, I’m looking forward to the same thing everybody else is looking forward to putting this darn pandemic behind us and feeling like it’s a little bit normal again, you know, it’s been a really crazy couple of years. And as I’m sure you understand, well, being in the immunization world has made the pandemic crazy in its own special kind of way. So,
Dawn Crawford 10:54
absolutely. It’s been really pleasing to me, though, to see how well the vaccine is working. I have a very elderly neighbor, neighbor. And, you know, they’re pretty medically fragile, and they both got COVID. And they both survived. They didn’t have to be hospitalized. It was incredible. And I’m just like, that is thanks to the vaccine. Like that would have been like achievement, completely different story.
Unknown Speaker 11:15
Huge, and it hasn’t been discussed, really, at all. I mean, the fact that, you know, as a collective population, we were able to get a vaccine within a year and the number of lives we’ve been able to save. And, yes, there have been a few vaccine safety concerns identified, but in the scheme of the millions and millions of people who’ve been immunized safely, and effectively. I mean, it’s just such a scientific achievement. And, you know, in some circles, it’s had its moment, maybe, but in a lot of circles, it hasn’t. People, I don’t think really realize what was accomplished, scientifically speaking. But you’re right, for people who are working in this field, that’s been tremendous. You know, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Dawn Crawford 12:05
Yeah, it does feel like yeah, all the effort is worth it. Yeah. And vaccines are so hard, because they prevent the worst from happening. And so people don’t ever yeah, see less of the worst, right? It’s like, well, I got to say, but I just got kind of sick. So I mean, I guess it was a vaccine, or was it just my amazing, you know, health? Probably, little bit of both. But mostly, maybe the vaccine. Cool. So, you know, what do you still feel that you need to achieve? You know, you’ve been in the business for a while, you know, what’s, what’s your next mountaintop?
Charlotte Moser 12:43
I mean, and somehow, we’ve been kind of talking about here is just this, the value placed on science and the knowledge that’s gained through scientific inquiry. It’s, it’s not just an opinion, there’s a way you know, science is really a way of learning about the world that we live in. And if we collectively decide that science is no different than what I wake up thinking one morning, or what you wake up thinking one morning, as a group, we’re really going to suffer. And so, you know, I just, I would love to be able to figure out how, how do we help people to see more about how science is different how some information that’s gained through scientific inquiry is different from other kinds of information. And then, you know, I think that we have a lot of work to do in terms of decreasing the impact of misinformation. People need to be able to think about all of this information that’s coming at them in so many ways. And understand that there are people out there who want to misinform them intentionally? And how do I sort through that as just somebody sitting at my computer? And so, you know, I think that’s where I feel like we still have a lot to achieve, and I hope we can start to make some impact there.
Dawn Crawford 14:07
Do you have any cool projects on the horizon? Mounting that task? Is it? Is there anything crystallized around that?
Charlotte Moser 14:13
We’ve been for the last few years talking about, you know, how do you evaluate information? We have a logical fallacies q&a to just get people thinking about what is the logic behind this argument? And is it valid? What you know, how can I tell if this is a good website or a bad website? How can I, you know, have tips for evaluating social media? And we also have a Classroom program where we’ve, you know, tried to use some of that kind of information to help the next generation of adult decision makers as well. But, you know, I think there’s still more to do. We’re currently running a three series article in our parents pack, which is our newsletter for the public. That’s really kind of looking at You know, what does science mean? And, and what do I need to look for when I see science in, you know, in the news, but also, you know, looking at scientific understandings that came along that maybe weren’t first accepted by the scientific community. And then another group that our scientific papers that have been used to mislead, the papers themselves aren’t necessarily misleading. But they’re used by the general public. And so just kind of trying to tease some of that out. So people have tangible examples of, you know, what does that look like? What Why doesn’t this paper mean that because we do we get emails from people who will say, you know, I see this paper, and so when are you going to change that webpage that you have the wrong information on, even though there’s really nothing in that paper that changes anything about what we’ve said? And so we answer those questions, one on one when they come in, but we saw that there’s kind of this maybe opportunity for other people to start realizing those things, too, and kind of looking a little bit more questioningly at a media report or social media post before they just assume that what they’re hearing is accurate.
Dawn Crawford 16:23
Absolutely. Okay. So what advice do you have for somebody who wants to join nonprofit communications and this wild world of doing things because you love them? What advice do you have for them,
Charlotte Moser 16:36
I think people should make sure that that the organization’s mission aligns with their beliefs and their values. And then just enjoy having the opportunity to have a job where you can make a difference. Because I think a lot of times we get really busy with the busy, and we don’t remember that, hey, we’re in a place where we can actually have a have a different make a difference, you know?
Dawn Crawford 16:57
Okay, so this next part is about how you receive feedback as a professional from other people on your team. So certainly, with science, communication, there’s a lot of fine tuning that happens throughout a process of releasing a newsletter or an article, or communications project. So this is really about that process, right of that collaborative process of working with, I’m sure a bunch of people at your work. So so how do you personally process criticism and feedback on your work?
Charlotte Moser 17:33
Well, I think like everybody else, there’s always room for improvement in processing feedback. You know, none of us are perfect at accepting feedback that we weren’t expecting to get. In terms of things like, you know, the day to day writing of, of newsletters, or web pages, or whatever it is, you know, we we pass those around so much, and so often, that you don’t really, I think, it’s the ideal of thinking about feedback, which is that you see it as what it is, it’s feedback on what’s on the paper, it’s not feedback on you personally. And I think that is what I try to carry back to the bigger kinds of feedback that one gets, you know, sometimes you have those moments where you’re in a conversation with somebody, and they’re giving you feedback that maybe you didn’t anticipate getting, or that doesn’t feel really great. But really being able to separate the feedback from my personal personal sense of self and realize that the feedback is about the project and not about me, has been very helpful for me over the years.
Dawn Crawford 18:39
Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, how do you like to receive feedback? You know, I mean, there’s, there’s different ways there’s kind of, you know, the coaching feedback, the direct feedback, you know, and then also, how do you communicate to that to your colleagues, so that you get what you need at a review process?
Charlotte Moser 18:56
Yeah, I mean, for me, I tend to be a quiet person. And so I always appreciate when feedback can be given more in a one on one and, you know, one on one setting in a respectful manner. But I know that that’s not always possible, either. I mean, sometimes you’re in a big group meeting, and, and it’s your idea that’s being discussed. And, you know, the, the pros and cons are being described in different ways. And so, you know, I think you just have to be flexible when you’re getting that kind of feedback. And I’ve been on both sides of those conversations, because often I’m giving feedback. And so what I’ve learned from that is that neither side is a comfortable side to be on, right. And so we really need to give each other the benefit of the doubt in the midst of those conversations, because both people are just trying to get the best end result and handle it in the best way even if they don’t necessarily find the best way to deliver the message sometimes. So you know, I just think again, like that whole coming back to being nice to one another and thinking about like, even if this hurt me when it was said or how it was said, that wasn’t necessarily the intention behind it. Absolutely.
Dawn Crawford 20:14
So it’s still the feedback doesn’t work for you.
Charlotte Moser 20:17
I definitely don’t like to be blindsided. And that’s happened, you know, a couple of times where, you know, Dr. offit and I are sitting in a meeting and a third party person comes in and starts ranting and raving about something I’ve done, which is horrible. So you never like those moments. But, you know, generally speaking, that that’s happened very rarely, and few and far between. So I try not to remember those times. I don’t care for disrespect. I don’t like loudness or shouting. And, and luckily, I’m in an environment where that isn’t what I experience. But I know enough about myself that that’s just not how I respond. Well, you know?
Dawn Crawford 20:55
Yeah, definitely. Okay, so their next kind of questions are, yeah, you’ve logged some time, in your current job, you’ve definitely, you know, lived through some burnout. And I think, certainly, for folks in public health and any sort of health or anything that’s really touched the pandemic, even frontline workers and restaurants and all those folks that have just had to come back for the last two years, a lot of folks are experiencing burnout. And so how do you avoid burnout?
Charlotte Moser 21:22
Yeah, I mean, I’m not very good at it, I’ll say. But I think that taking a time away from work is the most important thing. And so definitely, during the pandemic, that’s been important for me, even if it’s just a little bit of time, sometimes you just need that break. You know, I’m a believer in mental health days. So if, if you need the day off, have the day off to really like, kind of regroup and just get away from the information for a little bit and the work, you know, to then come back and feel that ability to go on.
Dawn Crawford 21:55
Perfect. And then what makes you come back to work every day? I mean, it’s been, it’s been many a days that you’ve logged, so what keeps coming back? Why do you keep coming back on Monday?
Charlotte Moser 22:06
I mean, I’m really proud of what we created. I don’t think Dr. offit or I could have anticipated the Vaccine Education Center to become what it has, when we, you know, sat in his office across from each other at the desk and, and developed this idea to, to bring the science of vaccines to the public. And, you know, I want to keep finding ways to do that. Not only in vaccine science, but you know, people need science based information to make a lot of informed health decisions. And so I think we’ve learned a lot about that along the way. And I think there’s always going to be new ways to do that, you know, new audiences to, to, you know, who need information, as well as new places. They’re looking for that information. So that’s what keeps me coming back.
Dawn Crawford 22:54
Yeah, it has been, yeah. Somebody who’s worked. Yeah. With the information that you’ve posted on those websites. For the last many years, they have been incredibly useful. And it is always the golden standard of how to talk about vaccines in a scientific way. Right? It always goes straight to the head about why vaccines work, why they’re important, and why they really do save lives. So yeah, thank you so much for all your work over the years. It’s really neat to be able to talk to you and yeah, see how it’s going a little bit of behind the scenes. Okay, so this is the last fun part of our interview. These are rapid fire. These are meant to be, you know, off the cuff. Very fast, but one word answers. So here we go. You ready? I’m ready. Okay. What’s your favorite word? Thanks. What’s your least favorite word? Can’t? What is your personal professional cause or passion?
Charlotte Moser 23:54
Well, obviously, children’s health and overall health but food insecurity. I think, you know, nobody should have to not have a meal on the table at night. Go to bed hungry?
Dawn Crawford 24:04
Yeah. What cause Do you think it’s too much attention?
Charlotte Moser 24:09
I don’t think that’s possible. I mean, I just think there. It’s not possible. There’s a lot of work to be done.
Dawn Crawford 24:16
Excellent. What’s your favorite curse word?
Charlotte Moser 24:20
I don’t use them much. But when I do, I’m an equal opportunity user. Now I don’t have any particular favorite.
Dawn Crawford 24:27
And then what profession other than your own? Would you like to attempt?
Charlotte Moser 24:31
I’d like to try teaching at the college level. I think that would be a really fun place to be and just, you know, working with students as they’re on their way to their careers.
Dawn Crawford 24:45
Great. And then as a final question, you know, what other nonprofit professionals and organizations would you like to talk to on a podcast like this?
Charlotte Moser 24:55
I think Doctors Without Borders would be a really fun group to talk to, you know, I mean, If you look at the things happening, currently, and you realize that those people really put themselves in harm’s way to make sure that other people have health care, and, you know, as an organization, how you know, how they make the decisions they make, how they get the volunteers to come in and do that kind of work, I just think there will be a lot of interesting and fun things to learn about, about that effort.
Dawn Crawford 25:26
Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy, busy schedule to come talk to us inviting me. Yeah, it’s really great. I think it’s so important to tell the story of vaccine communicators because we’ve had a lot of impact. But you know, not a lot of it’s been so rapid fire, it’s been hard to hard to feel the impact. Big thank you for everything you’ve done to help guide people all over the country and all over the world to make the choice to vaccinate. So great job.
Charlotte Moser 25:56
Thank you. Thanks for having me today. Yeah.
Dawn Crawford 25:58
Well, thank you. Thank you all for listening, and have a wonderful day. Thank you for listening. If you want to get all the new episodes sent to you as we release them, subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And until then, keep creating good