Dear FACES Community-
As both a pediatrician and program director, it has been very difficult to see how the COVID pandemic has impacted the physical, mental, emotional and educational well-being and health status of the youth and communities we work with. On top of that, the pandemic literally forced us to change the way we could provide services to young people. And yet, while the temporary closures of schools and healthcare organizations required us to put our traditional FACES programs on momentary pause, our resolve to continue serving young people has strengthened.
2022 has been our year of rejuvenation, innovation, and responsive action. One important example of this was the launch of our COVID vaccine peer educator project. Funded by HRSA, this project supports youth focused peer vaccine education as a strategy to combat the pandemic. Leveraging our existing FACES Public Health Youth Corps program, FACES students in California, New Mexico, Colorado and Michigan were trained to become peer/near-peer COVID vaccine educators as a way to reduce vaccine stigma, promote accurate vaccine education, and ultimately increase vaccination rates in communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. With the awareness that many FACES youth already serve as de facto health navigators and sources of health information for their families, we trained FACES students to develop and lead outreach activities that promoted vaccine education and COVID prevention awareness among their friends, families and community members. Simultaneously, students achieved important certifications in Mental Health First Aid, CPR, Stop the Bleed and opiate overdose intervention (Narcan). To date, 469 FACES students have conducted literally hundreds of outreach activities that have increased community awareness of the vaccine and COVID prevention. I am proud to share some of the outcomes of this important work in the highlights below and recognize my team members for their extraordinary efforts to bring this project to fruition.
We are grateful that 2022 has also brought the return of much of our traditional FACES programming. Many FACES students returned to work-based learning internships in hospitals and clinics this Fall, and most of our wonderful Program Coordinators returned to classroom teaching. We have recently welcomed our next cohort of Youth Advisory Council members, comprised of current students and alumni from across our various programs.
Nonetheless, our commitment to developing innovative and responsive approaches to youth development, training and career preparation will continue. It is what we do, it is what we must do to ensure that youth get the services they need. It is what we must do to address the profound workforce gaps in the health professions that were magnified by the pandemic. I am proud that in spite of tremendous challenges this past year, we have continued to serve young people in very meaningful ways.
On that note, I hope that you can support our ongoing efforts to develop and implement programs for youth by offering a generous tax-deductible donation to the FACES for the Future Coalition. Every amount helps. Truly. Thank you for your support, in advance.
Wishing you all a very blessed holiday season,
Tomás A. Magaña, MD, MA, FAAP