Meet Those Nerdy Girls – Dr. Alison Buttenheim


Today we’re launching a new series: a chance to meet Those Nerdy Girls! We’ll be introducing you to one of our contributors each week so you can get to know us & our backgrounds better. 🤗

First up, we’d like to introduce you to our co-founder, Dr. Alison Buttenheim. Dr. Buttenheim is an Associate Professor at Penn School of Nursing, where she teaches and studies human behavior and the prevention of infectious disease–including vaccine acceptance. She does research both in the US and globally, and she’s focused strongly on social and racial justice.

Dr. Buttenheim is one of our two original Nerdy Girls. Waaaaaaayy back in early March, she launched the Dear Pandemic Instagram page and then, shortly afterward, the Facebook page. At that time, Dr. B and Dr. Malia Jones–longtime collaborators in vaccine hesitancy research–were both posting COVID updates to their personal Facebook and Instagram pages. Penn colleague Dr. Ashley Ritter suggested that they start posting regular COVID content on social media for the public.

Her response: “I thought, ‘Yikes, she’s right!’ and the next day I got Malia to agree and the Instagram account that would become Dear Pandemic was launched!”

{By the way, here’s our insta}

Since much of her work focuses on vaccine confidence and acceptance, Dr. Buttenheim expects that her research will focus mostly on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance for the next year or two. 💉
We asked Dr. Buttenheim a few questions about her work and her life.

Why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree? 📜

“I was very interested in global maternal & child health and population issues, but by the time I figured that out I had 2 small kids 🤱and couldn’t drop everything and go work for UNICEF or USAID or The World Bank… so I thought the next best thing would be to get a PhD.”

What has been the most frustrating thing about the pandemic, in your opinion?

“The missed opportunities in the US in *every* *single* *month* of 2020 to get on top of it. That, or how mask wearing and stay-at-home strategies got politicized.” 😷

What’s your superpower?

“Coming up with good acronyms or names for new projects.” But, she notes that in spite of this superpower, it was her partner Paul who came up with the name for Dear Pandemic–a play on the old-school advice column, Dear Abby.

If you had to do the last 9 months over again with the knowledge you have now, what would you do differently?

“I would have ordered that case of good French rosé a lot sooner. 🍷 No, seriously, I wish I hadn’t been so slow to come around to the importance of masking, and then of airborne transmission.”

Who is your hero?

“This week I’m celebrating Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament who introduced legislation (and built a coalition to get it passed) that ends “period poverty” in Scotland by making period products freely available to all who need them. She was persistent, creative, and matter-of-fact in advancing this agenda that de-stigmatizes menstruation and chips away at the “pink tax” in pursuit of gender equity. Congratulations, Monica!!”

What you miss most from Before Times: Hugs and spontaneous interactions with friends.

What you don’t miss at all: Denim. 👖

What you do to unwind: Listen to Jane Austen audiobooks read by Juliet Stevenson. 📚

Fun fact about Dr. Buttenheim: She’s a beekeeper! 🐝🐝🐝

Dr. Buttenheim has a PhD in Public Health from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and an MBA from Stanford University. She’s also an undergraduate alumna of Yale University. After finishing her doctorate, she completed postdoctoral training with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health & Society Scholars program.

Today, she is an associate professor at Penn’s School of Nursing in the Department of Family and Community Health. She teaches courses including Behavioral Economics and Health, Impact Evaluation of Global Health Programs, and Introduction to Principles and Methods of Epidemiology. She was recently appointed as a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Committee on the Equitable Allocation of the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Her research has been published in journals such as Health Affairs and Vaccine, and she’s been quoted on COVID-19 related happenings in The Washington Post, USA Today, ABC News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Working Mother magazine.

Dr. Buttenheim 

Link to original FB post