Mike Brownlee: On leading UI Health Care and the state in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Flexing arms, big smiles, and happy tears are what you’ll likely see from those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination in one of UI Health Care’s vaccine clinics.

Mike Brownlee, PharmD, MS, and Jennifer Miller, MPA, MHA

But what isn’t as visible are the late nights, weekends, and countless meetings that the members of the COVID-19 vaccine team have endured to make it all possible. And at the helm of that team is Mike Brownlee, PharmD, MS, chief pharmacy officer for UI Health  Care.

Back in September 2020, no COVID-19 vaccines had yet been authorized, but Brownlee and colleague Jennifer Miller, MPH, MHA, assistant director for support services, were already hard at work planning for the vaccine rollout.

“Somewhere around Labor Day is when the COVID-19 employee vaccination plan began to take shape,” says Brownlee. “Jenn and I have overseen the employee flu vaccination campaign for the last six years and that experience translated really well.”

Connecting the dots

While planning continued, Brownlee joined the Iowa Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC) with the recommendation of Jorge Salinas, MD.

Iowa’s Infectious Disease Advisory Council (IDAC) provides guidance to leaders of the Iowa Department of Public Health in developing COVID-19 vaccine distribution and therapy guidance.

“I wasn’t a voting member of IDAC, but I was included as an ad hoc member to help them operationally understand how the vaccine would be administered and managed,” says Brownlee.

In this role, Brownlee provided information and direction to the council so they were better equipped to make informed and educated decisions regarding administration of the vaccine across the state.

“I was able to provide consultation on how Iowa would plan and proceed through the various tiers: Phases 1a, 1b, and 1c,” says Brownlee. “I was grateful for the opportunity to help IDAC be better informed about how the vaccination would actually work, and to Dr. Salinas for plugging me in.”

Brownlee talks with a patient during the first day of Phase 1b vaccinations at HSSB.

A constant effort

As the COVID-19 employee vaccination campaign was launched within UI Health Care, Brownlee took on additional responsibilities working with Johnson County Public Health (JCPH) to help guide vaccination efforts throughout the surrounding community.

As influential and involved as Brownlee is with the COVID-19 vaccine campaign, he’s the first to give all credit to the dedicated teams working to make it possible.

“We rally like no other organization I’ve ever seen, and I’ve had the chance to work at other health systems comparable to ours,” says Brownlee. “When you look at something like creating our vaccine clinics, we knew what we needed to do, we knew what the timeline was, and we worked all hours to get it done.”

For Brownlee and team, the long hours are well worth it when they have a chance to vaccinate someone who hasn’t left their house for 12 months.

“It’s all about the people for us,” says Brownlee. “That’s our motivation. We knew very clearly what we needed to do, and that was to improve the health of our community.”

Meet the team:

For Brownlee and the rest of the UI Health Care organization, a special thank you goes out to every employee involved in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

And while it is by no means a complete list, here are some of the influential members of the vaccine team:



Karmen Dillon HCIS
Katie Tunning Reporting
Keri Semrau Patient Access Center
Beth Jaggers/Rachel Kirchner/Debbie Herold UI Community Clinics
Ann Showers Finance
Trisha Smith Pharmacy
Doug Vance Safety and Security
Barb Schuessler University Employee Health Clinic
Pat Winokur Vaccine Expert
Emily Gries Marketing and Communications
Katie Imborek/Pat Hartley/Claudia Corwin Provider Support
John Heinemann Operations
Tim Kan/Erin Willits Planning
Pete Forkenbrock (not pictured) / Kyle Anson Human Resources
Ken Valley HCIS/University Employee Health Clinic
Brian Hegland IT Equipment
Luke Leyden Space Design

Top – Left to right: Karmen Dillon, Katie Tunning, Keri Semrau | Bottom – Left to right: Beth Jaggers, Rachel Kirchner, Debbie Herold

Top – Left to right: Ann Showers, Trisha Smith, Doug Vance | Bottom – Left to right: Pat Winokur, Emily Gries, John Heinemann

Top – Left to right: Katie Imborek, Pat Hartley, Clauia Corwin | Bottom – Left to right: Tim Kan, Erin Willits, Kyle Anson

Top – Left to right: Barb Schuessler, Ken Valley | Bottom – Left to right: Brian Hegland, Luke Leyden

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