Janis Betten & her granddaughter
Ever wonder what goes on “behind the scenes” at the Oregon Immunization Program? Which staff have been there the longest, and who has the historical knowledge? How are school immunization laws managed? One lady, very dear to our heart, Janis Betten, Health Educator, can tell it all. If you’ve never met Janis, I hope some day you do. She’s the kindest, most gentle-hearted person you’ll ever meet. Janis Betten has had her hand in immunizations for over 34 years. This month we will celebrate her retirement and mourn the loss of such foundational knowledge.
Janis’ immunization journey began when she started working with Head Start in 1979, reviewing immunization records for siblings of children in Head Start which included visiting migrant camps in Washington County. In 1978, a large measles outbreak occurred in Oregon, which caused a huge need to track down 100,000 + immunization records for Oregon’s schooled-aged children. The Oregon Citizens for Immunizations Inc. (OCII) was formed to create strategies to keep school-aged children safe if another outbreak was to occur. OCII was a group of partners consisting of non-profit agencies, local volunteers, county, state employees AND our lovely Janis Betten. This organization worked on legislation to revise the immunization school law requirements passed in 1973. This revision would require schools to require immunization documentation for every student, providing more teeth to the existing law.
Janis then went to work for the Multnomah Education Service District. One of the most memorable moments in her career was the first Oregon school immunization exclusion day in April 1982. There were 29,000+ exclusion orders issued in Multnomah County. Many county staff groups came together to hand write all 29,000+ exclusion letters at the warehouse at the old Ford Building on SE 11th and Division, and Janis was an integral part of that successful partnership. This was also the beginning of a professional relationship and friendship with Peggy Lou Hillman, who was Immunization Coordinator for Multnomah County Health Department. Janis and Peggy have shared a position with the Oregon Immunization Program for the last 12 years.
About that same time, Janis became a part of the staff for the Oregon Immunization Program. As schools began to develop electronic means of tracking the immunization records of their students, Janis took on the enormous roll of working with various computer system developers, reviewing their results and ensuring that their assessments of those records complied with Oregon requirements. Janis also kept her forecasting skills highly tuned by assisting at Multnomah County immunization clinics and providing technical forecasting support for the state registry and the state immunization tracking systems used by local health departments.
Janis’ secret to a long career is to always be curious to learn more. In her early career, Janis always looked for part-time, short-term work in fear she would become bored with a job. Then she found, strong, committed women within the field of public health, and the challenge of an ever changing field, which kept her in immunizations for 34 years. When asked what advice she would give someone seeking a long career in public health, Janis shared that people should seek out a mentor, someone who has had experience in the field. She also advised people to take every opportunity for advancement, and get as many experiences and professional development opportunities as possible.
In her retirement Janis looks forward to more time to care for her mother and sister and spending time with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, highlighting the kindness Janis has in heart in caring for her family.