Driven by the increasing awareness of antibiotic resistance and its link to food animal production and the ever growing demand for meat and poultry products raised without antibiotics, The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, hosted a Supermoms Against Superbugs Advocacy Day on May 15 in Washington, D.C. to celebrate and unite individuals across America working to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for their children and families.
We're excited to introduce you to our "Supermoms," passionate advocates from across the country who are raising awareness about the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animal production and its impact on human health.
Jennifer Amdur Spitz
Jennifer Amdur Spitz has a personal interest in banning the overuse of antibiotics in healthy food animals. In 2006, her 16-year-old son Sam became seriously ill from antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter. Sam made a full recovery, but the experience inspired the family to get involved in efforts to create a safer food system. To that end, Jennifer and her husband, filmmaker Jeff Spitz, co-founded Groundswell Education Films NFP and produced Food Patriots, a documentary film and public engagement campaign. Jennifer is principal of Amdur Spitz & Associates, a Chicago public relations firm she founded to work with non-profit organizations, foundations, and entrepreneurial businesses.
Lambertville, New Jersey
Gina Asoudegan is Director of Communications at Applegate, the leading brand of natural and organic meat in the U.S. At Applegate, Gina is responsible for advocating for effective policies around issues such as school foods and the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. Gina's strategy has been to use art, music, and film to build awareness about food related issues. She is currently working with Uji Films on Resistance, a documentary about the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. Outside of Applegate, Gina is the founder of the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to building the infrastructure for the production, distribution, and sale of locally grown and produced food. The organization has instituted farm-to-table programs in schools, established farmers markets, and fostered the transition of conventional to organic farming.
Astra Bester is a working mom concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production. In 2001, Astra suffered from an antibiotic resistant infection that took 17 weeks to fight. She believes that, by reducing the amount of antibiotics used in the food industry, we will not only save our health, but reduce health care costs and stop the increasing rise of superbugs.
A former Peace Corps volunteer, Amanda Buchanan is a perennial volunteer and advocate. She has worked with Consumers Union since 2008 on a variety of issues, including food safety, healthcare reform and the Safe Patient Project. Amanda is helping to organize a chapter of the Western Organization of Resource Councils in her area to promote small farms, safe food, and positive stewardship of the environment and natural resources through community action. She also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for her community hospital.
Anne Dennis Copsey
Anne Dennis Copsey established the Staphylococcus Educational Leadership Foundation (SELF) to organize a network of experts in diagnostics, infectious disease management, public health, clinical microbiology, drug discovery, and infection prevention. SELF creates and implements research, education, and mentoring initiatives to improve clinical and patient outcomes in healthcare and community settings. Through Clinical Exchange programs, SELF creates awareness about antibiotic resistance within existing healthcare systems and communities. Anne has worked in medical education for over 16 years with a focus on new and unique therapies in multiple specialties including infectious disease, dermatology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, and neurology. She received a BA from the University of Southern California and an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. Anne is a competitive open water swimmer and ocean advocate, sailing most weekends.
Cecilia Di Pentima
Dr. Cecilia Di Pentima is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Clinical Services, and Director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Monroe Carrel, Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. She completed medical school at National University at Rosario, School of Medical Sciences, Rosario, Argentina. She earned her Master's in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and completed her pediatric residency and pediatric infectious disease fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She became faculty at Thomas Jefferson University and Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware and initiated one of the first pediatric antimicrobial stewardship programs in the United States in 2004 before joining Vanderbilt.
Fairport, New York
Penny Dunn has made taking care of her family her top priority. They teach their children by example, making the best choices for themselves and their daughters. Health, education, and happiness are frequently examined, reevaluated, and improved, if possible. Penny holds a BS and MS in Materials Science and Engineering from Alfred University. Before taking on her most challenging and rewarding career as stay-at-home mom to two daughters, she worked in the engineering field in manufacturing, research and development, and as a consultant.
Diana Goodpasture has spent the last 30 years enjoying her profession as a bus driver for special needs children. Involved with her church as well as local charities, she was healthy and active until she contracted an antibiotic-resistant infection, Salmonella Heidelberg. (The strain behind the recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey in 2011.) The severity of her illness and associated pain kept Diana in the hospital for five days. It was not until after Diana got sick that she gave much thought to how food is produced or the steps it takes to get to the table. Despite a weakened immune system and her struggles, Diana says, "I'd much rather not have to tell those in government that we need safe food, but until they realize what's really for dinner, I'm going to tell my story."
Los Angeles, California
One of Los Angeles' most popular chefs, Suzanne Goin cooks with a palette of colors and flavors that showcase the best farmers and producers from the Southern California markets. In all four of her restaurants, Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern, and The Larder at Maple Drive, her passion for seasonal cooking is reflected in her ever-changing menus and artfully presented dishes bursting with colors and textures that embrace the beauty and decadence of California gardens. She has earned numerous accolades including Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs of 1999," the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef: California" in 2006, and four nominations for the national Outstanding Chef Award in 2008,2009, 2010, and 2011. She has been the exclusive caterer for the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards for three years, and, in 2011, prepared a dinner for President Obama and 60 guests at her restaurant, Tavern. She has been featured prominently in Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Saveur and Food & Wine magazines and was named Chef of the Year by Planned Parenthood Los Angeles in 2012. Her latest achievement is the launch of L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade, which she co-founded in 2010 to raise research funds for childhood cancer and the Alex's Lemonade Stand.
In 1980, Mary Graba faced a difficult and painful illness that doctors were unable to name. Losing weight and unable to keep any food down, Mary and her sister, a manager of a hospital lab, took matters into their own hands. Mary's sister collected a sample for bacterial testing and found that Mary was infected with Campylobacter, which she was told often originates in chickens. Mary suspects that her illness originated at a restaurant where she was served undercooked chicken. "Antibiotics saved my life," Mary now says, "they are a precious resource that must be preserved." Today, with two kids of her own, she is committed to preserving antibiotics for her children and others.
Melissa Graham, a former attorney, is the founding Executive Director of Purple Asparagus, an award-winning non-profit organization dedicated to educating families about eating foods that are good for the body and the planet alike. Through its Delicious Nutritious Adventures program, Purple Asparagus has taught thousands of parents and children about healthful, sustainable eating in schools, community centers, and farmers' markets throughout Chicago and its surrounding areas. Melissa speaks and writes regularly on childhood nutrition and sustainability, both in Chicago communities and online—blogging at Little Locavores, as The Sustainable Cook on The Local Beet, and as a regular contributor to Kiwi Magazine's KiwiLog and Williams-Sonoma's Blender blog. The Chicago Tribune awarded her a 2011 Good Eating Award and the International Association of Culinary Professionals recently honored Melissa as the Culinary Youth Advocate of 2012.
After working 10 years in a hog farming operation, Kim Howland knew a lot about the management and growth of the animals for which she cared. But it was not until her husband contracted a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection that she became concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production. Kim is committed to helping reduce overuse and misuse of antibiotics in meat and poultry operations.
Melissa Lee's daughter, Ruby, was only 10 months old when she contracted a foodborne infection, Salmonella Heidelberg, found in the ground turkey meatballs she ate with spaghetti just days before. The infection was resistant to several antibiotics. Fortunately, her doctor was able to effectively treat her with an antibiotic known as cephalosporin. Being relegated to standing by, able to do little besides hope and pray that Ruby would recover is not an experience Melissa would wish on anyone. That is why Melissa is working to help ensure that other families are protected from such circumstances in the future.
In 2004, Everly Marcario's son, Simon Sparrow -- a previously healthy one-and-a-half year old -- died suddenly. It was not until months later that the cause of Simon's death was confirmed to be community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. In 2008, Everly joined colleagues at the University of Chicago Medical Center in founding the MRSA Research Center. She advocates on behalf of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Human Health and Industrial Farming Campaign's "Moms for Antibiotics Awareness" project and the StopMRSANow Campaign. Everly's goals include raising awareness of antibiotic resistance, making the term "MRSA" as familiar a household term as "AIDS," and serving as a catalyst for simple steps we can all take to reduce the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals. Everly has a doctorate degree in public health from Harvard University.
Cindy Madsen and her husband Vic live on a small farm–Madsen Stock Farm –in Audubon County, Iowa, where they raise hogs, chickens, and cattle without antibiotics, hormones, or other drugs. The farm also grows organic corn, beans, alfalfa, oats, and other small grains. Madsen Stock Farm has direct-marketed their chicken for the past 24 years, pork for the last 14 years, and home-raised beef since 2011. Cindy has been an active member of Practical Farmers of Iowa for the past 26 years. Cindy and Vic have been presented with numerous awards, including the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture (2010) and the Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award (2009).
Mary Sue Milliken
Santa Monica, California
Mary Sue Milliken is co-chef/owner of the critically acclaimed Border Grill restaurants located in Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. She is also co-chef/owner of a gourmet taco truck, Border Grill Truck. A pioneer of world cuisine since she created the City Café and CITY Restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1980's, Mary Sue is a leading ambassador of authentic Mexican cuisine, setting the standard for gourmet Mexican fare for over two decades. She was the first female chef to work at Chicago's prestigious Le Perroquet in the late 1970s, going on to train at a Michelin two-star, female chef-owned restaurant in Paris, and later joining a handful of progressive women chefs to found Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. A business partner with Chef Susan Feniger for over 25 years, Mary Sue is co-author of five cookbooks. Mary Sue competed on season three of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters," winning $40,000 for her charity, Share Our Strength. She also co-starred along with Susan in Food Network's "Too Hot Tamales" and "Tamales World Tour." She has appeared as a guest on everything from "Iron Chef America" and "Oprah" to "Good Day LA" and "The Today Show."
Sarah is the mother of a four-year old and is the foodservice manager at a school serving students in preschool through eighth grade. In college, she merged her personal interest in animal welfare with an academic education in microbiology and nutrition. Now, Sarah uses her position in the field of school nutrition to converse with food distributors, government staff, and non-profit organizations about improving the food industry. She demonstrates a commitment to sustainable living and wellness through volunteer work with non-profit groups and by educating others about the future of food and its implications for our health.
Avani Patel spent seven years as a sports writer at the Chicago Tribune. Three years ago, she left sports to join the editorial board where she wrote about food and product safety, education, juvenile justice, AIDS in Africa, pirates, and sports. As an editorial writer, Avani said her job "is to think about a broad range of issues, burrow deeply into the ones that most affect our lives, and explain the best way forward. In the course of my job, I get to interview scholars, politicians, activists and ordinary citizens. It's a big responsibility. But it's also a lot of fun." Avani has since left the editorial board at the Chicago Tribune. As a new mom, she says she has come full circle: "After years of watching games with a reporter's eye, I've gone back to what I started as: an equal opportunity sports fan."
Dr. Marilyn Roberts is a Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences and an Adjunct Professor of Global Health at the School of Public Health, University of Washington. She has specialized in examining different environmental sources, such as marine and fresh water beaches, for the presence of potential human pathogens including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Dr. Roberts is also interested in the presence and spread of antibiotic-resistant genes in the environment. She received her PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of Washington, where she specialized in molecular characterization of pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea. She has received numerous grants from NIH and, more recently, from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, and has published over 195 peer-reviewed articles on her research.
Maria and Ron Rosmann
Rosmann Family Farms located near Harlan, Iowa, is owned and operated by Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann and their sons. The farm has had an organic certification for some of its products since 1994, with a certification added for beef in 1998 and for pork in 2004. The farm also produces corn, oats, soybeans, barley, popcorn, turnips, and hay. Not satisfied with conventional farming practices, Ron began in the 1980s to explore sustainable agriculture methods. This interest helped Ron team up with like-minded individuals who formed Practical Farmers of Iowa, which is devoted to profitable, environmentally sound farming practices. Maria Rosmann was raised in Sioux City, Iowa, and has a journalism degree from Creighton University. Prior to her marriage, she was a television announcer, worked in TV promotions, and was the news bureau editor at Creighton. After taking time off to be at home with her sons, she worked in hospital public relations and was development director for Shelby County Catholic Schools. Currently, her efforts are solely directed toward the marketing of their beef, pork, and popcorn and working with Ron.
After earning a BA in industrial arts in 1973, Paula Rothman was a ministerial intern for several years, while nearly earning another BA in biblical literature. She started a family and an art business and has shown her drawings and etchings in juried art shows, winning several awards with exhibits in collections in the United States, Germany, and South America. Her two daughters have taught her to care about the Earth, understanding that if we do not safeguard our environment, we are all at risk.
Jeanne and Allan Sexton
Jeanne and Allan Sexton started Meadow Haven Farm, in Sheffield, Illinois. Allan, a retired veterinarian, was raised on a farm in Ohio that raised mixed crops (wheat, corn, oats, soybeans) and a variety of livestock (hogs, beef and dairy cattle, sheep, and chickens). His mother supplied a local college with free-range eggs in the early 1950s. In his veterinary practice, he saw the need to move toward more holistic practices and, when he retired, decided to return to farming in a holistic, organic, sustainable way. Searching for good rich soils, he settled upon Bureau County, Illinois, and, after securing his farm, set upon a path to not only certify it as organic, but to go further and produce the most healthful food he could. Jeanne was born and raised in Albuquerque New Mexico, camped a lot with her family growing up, traveled from coast to coast, andfell in love with the outdoors. She was teaching when she met Allan. They have five children and fourteen grandchildren. Early on, she became used to reconstructing her life to follow Allan's many entrepreneurial interests, so when he brought up going back to farming, she jumped at the chance. They have a certified organic farm, raising livestock: pastured pork, free-range chicken, eggs & turkey, and grass-fed beef. Jeanne: "I put on my overalls every day, and love it."
Dr. Pranita Tamma is a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She divides her time between taking care of children with infections -- often due to highly resistant bacterial organisms -- and conducting research. Her research interests focus on conducting antimicrobial outcome studies and improving the appropriate use of antibiotics in children. She is leading pediatric antimicrobial stewardship efforts at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which consists of actively educating physicians about optimizing the selection, route, dose, interval, and frequency of antibiotics, developing guidelines to guide the appropriate and judicious use of antibiotics, and monitoring patient outcomes after implementation of these practices. She is very interested in decreasing the burden of resistant bacteria in children.
Danielle Wadsworth acquired an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella Typhimurium from ground beef she had eaten. An otherwise healthy woman, Danielle became so ill that she had moments where she was not sure if she would ever feel better. Hooked up to IV drips while her doctors debated a blood transfusion, her friends had to don full hospital garb when they visited her as she hung onto life. A woman of action as well as faith, Danielle's experience taught her how devastating antibiotic resistance can be and how important antibiotics are.
Dr. Patricia Whisnant is a veterinarian who lives with her husband, Mark, and their six kids. They own and operate Rain Crow Ranch, which raises grassfed beef, pasture pork, and pasture poultry. They advocate a sustainable management protocol that utilizes open pasture rotation and maintains respect for the biological and behavioral instincts of the animals that are raised without the use of antibiotics or synthetic hormones. Dr. Whisnant is president of the American Grassfed Association, which offers third-party certification of grassfed standards. Rain Crow Ranch is certified for high animal welfare by Animal Welfare Approved and is USDA-certified organic. Dr. Whisnant is also the founder and owner of American Grassfed Beef, as well as the owner of Fruitland American Meat, a humane-certified processing facility.