A Hepatitis Survivor Uses Her Experience to Prevent Unsafe Injection Practices
When Dr. Evelyn McKnight was battling breast cancer in 2002, the last thing on her mind was Hepatitis C. So when she and her husband Thomas learned that she had contracted the virus from unsafe injection practices during her treatment, they were shocked.
“We are both healthcare providers and were incredulous that I was infected with Hepatitis C through healthcare delivery,” McKnight said. “Going to the doctor to try to be healthy, I came away with a second deadly disease.”
In 2007, McKnight and her husband formed the Hepatitis Outbreaks’ National Organization for Reform, or HONOReform Foundation. The goal was to protect patients from unsafe injection practices and encourage healthcare providers to follow safe injection protocol.
“Coming from our background, we wanted to use our own experience to do whatever we could to prevent infections from unsafe injections happening to other people,” said McKnight.
As the HONOReform Foundation began spreading its message of safe injection practices, McKnight connected with the CDC Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where HONOReform became part of the Safe Injection Practices Coalition (SIPC). Through that coalition of health providers and other stakeholders, formed to raise awareness about unsafe injection practices, McKnight says she realized the unique perspective that she possessed as a survivor of one of the largest viral outbreaks in United States healthcare history.
“The staff at CDC and the CDC Foundation helped us to see that the patient voice is very important,” McKnight said. “By sharing our story, it becomes very meaningful to policy makers and healthcare providers.”
The work of the McKnights and the coalition organized by the CDC Foundation and CDC helped to start a national dialogue about unsafe injection practices and patient safety. Today, nine states employ injection safety educators to teach both healthcare professionals and patients about safe injection practices, and many other organizations have taken up the cause of safe injection awareness.
Because of the success of the coalition’s work, the HONOReform Foundation dissolved in 2018, and chose to continue their work by partnering with the CDC Foundation to launch the Evelyn and Thomas McKnight Family Fund for Patient Safety.
Through the Fund, the McKnight family will recognize important work being done to promote safe injection practices and raise awareness of the One & Only Campaign, developed by CDC and the CDC Foundation to provide educational tools and resources about injection safety. The Fund also supports The McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes, an annual award that honors people who are doing critical work on behalf of safe injection practices or patient safety.
“CDC and the CDC Foundation have great enthusiasm for the work, so it’s wonderful to see other people who share our passion,” McKnight said. “They have been a great resource for us, and we think they are wonderful partners.”
Looking back on her years of advocacy, McKnight says she is often reminded unexpectedly of the impact HONOReform and her work with CDC and the CDC Foundation has had on ensuring safe injection practices, and it always makes her smile.
“I am heartened when I go to the doctor’s office and sit in the lobby and see a sign for the One & Only campaign,” McKnight said. “People have heard our message and are asking about safe injection practices, and that is great to see.”
The Evelyn and Thomas McKnight Family Fund for Patient Safety honors and recognizes important work promoting safe injection practices and patient safety. The fund supports the production of educational tools and materials that raise awareness and highlight the work of the One & Only Campaign. The McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes, an annual award that honors and recognizes people who are doing important work on behalf of safe injection practices or patient safety, is also made possible through this initiative.