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 No. 1 priority has always been the safety and health of the the public and that continues as she leads COVID-19 vaccination outreach efforts throughout Columbia.
We talked 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 was working at a clinic prior to coming to the health department, and I had a co-worker that left that clinic and came to the health department. She was like, “This is where you should be.” It just so happened that my position at the other clinic was cut, so I was laid off from that job. She knew there was a nurse leaving the health department, so there would be an open position. Then I applied for the position, and I’ve been here for 22 years.
What is your personal mission?
Serving the community and making sure the community is safe and healthy. Prior to being the nurse supervisor, I was the immunization coordinator for our department. I oversee the school-based flu program every year and now COVID-19 vaccinations. So immunizations have been a big part of my public health career. But we work hard every day to serve our community. That’s what keeps us doing what we do.
What keeps you going despite criticism, especially with COVID-19 over the past two years?
My colleagues. We show up every day to support each other, and we all believe strongly in the mission. We’re passionate about the health and safety of people in our community. Every time we vaccinate a person, we think that’s one less person that’s going to be in the hospital with COVID-19. We feel like we’re saving lives and keeping people from having negative effects of COVID-19 with every other vaccine we give. We’re proud to be in the position to serve the public. Even when some folks aren’t very happy with us, there are lots of others who have expressed their appreciation. In public health, we’re used to working behind the scenes. We don’t worry about getting accolades. In the last couple of years, public health has been brought to the forefront, so it’s been a challenge. But it’s also given people the opportunity to see what we do in public health and understand some of the things that we do.
What does winning this award mean to you?
I’m not the only person pushing these things forward, and I couldn’t do it by myself. I have an amazing team of nurses that have worked tirelessly to do case investigations, contact tracing and provide vaccinations. I think it would mean something for the whole department because I am not the only person here who would deserve an award like this. It’s been really hard on everybody, not just within our department, but beyond. I think it’s nice to have recognition of the work that we do, but that’s not why we do what we do.