22 to watch in 2022: Santa Rosa pediatrician Brian Prystowsky
Name: Dr. Brian Prystowsky
Title or position: Santa Rosa pediatrician with Sutter Health
On the job since: Went to work for Santa Rosa Community Health in 2009, after he moved to Sonoma County. He went over to Sutter Health in 2017.
Hometown: Born in the Philippines, grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Santa Rosa with his family
Why Prystowsky is someone to watch:
During the past year, Prystowsky has been a key community partner in the local COVID-19 inoculation effort, championing a more equitable distribution of the vaccine, participating in countywide public information campaigns and providing medical and scientific facts about the vaccine to outreach workers, educators and other foot-soldiers in the battle against the virus.
Prystowsky is a Sutter Health pediatrician who began his medical career in Sonoma County nearly 12 years ago working with underserved communities at Santa Rosa Community Health Center. He immediately got involved with the local COVID-19 vaccination effort about a year ago, just as the vaccine was becoming available, hoping to address what he perceived as a growing vaccine hesitancy in the community.
In the spring, he worked with the nonprofit culture and arts group Raizes Collective to produce and distribute colorful — and culturally appropriate — posters and flyers aimed at dispelling fears and myths about vaccine safety. The project was among the first local efforts to bridge the distrust of government and authority felt in marginalized communities, especially among undocumented residents.
Since then, he’s participated in webinars for local organizations, the county office of education and the public health department, doing his best to counter misinformation about the vaccine on social media. Prystowsky says one of his key roles in the fight against COVID-19, is giving outreach workers such as health promoters — trusted voices in underserved communities — the information they need to change hearts and minds.
What others are saying about Prystowsky:
“Brian has been (active) in many different community spaces, not only as a practicing pediatrician but as one who has helped with communication and collaboration with different community based organizations and parents groups. It's been a wonderful partnership, and there have been others in the community who also have been quite helpful, but he has certainly stepped up and done a lot for the community.” — Dr. Urmila Shende, the county’s vaccine chief.
What Prystowsky says about 2022:
Prystowsky is hopeful about the pandemic outlook in 2022. He said he’ll continue his pro-vaccine advocacy in and outside his practice. Prystowsky said he’ll work to communicate what he feels is the true goal of vaccination: to prevent serious illness among everyone, pushing COVID-19 from pandemic to endemic — a widely circulating disease of relatively low severity. As a pediatrician with a 4-year-old son, he’s looking forward to early next year, when COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available to infants and toddlers under 5.
“I do feel like when people ask how do we control the pandemic international, people need to get at least the first round of shots,” he said. “As a pediatrician, I feel like it's not over for kids, because a lot them haven’t had even their first round, a lot of them haven’t been eligible yet...Honestly, I'm most looking forward to having my family fully vaccinated.”