Name: dr. Brian Prystowsky
Title or position: Santa Rosa Pediatrician with Sutter Health
Working since: Joined Santa Rosa Community Health in 2009 after moving to Sonoma County. In 2017, he switched to Sutter Health.
Residence: Born in the Philippines, raised in New Jersey and now lives with his family in Santa Rosa
Why Prystowsky is one to watch:
Over the past year, Prystowsky has been a key community partner in local COVID-19 vaccination efforts, advocating for a more equitable distribution of the vaccine, participating in nationwide education campaigns, and providing medical and scientific facts about the vaccine to outreach workers, educators and other foot soldiers in the fight 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 the Santa Rosa Community Health Center. He became immediately involved in the local COVID-19 vaccination efforts about a year ago, just as the vaccine became available, in hopes of addressing what he saw as a growing community hesitation.
In the spring, he teamed up with the nonprofit culture and arts group Raizes Collective to produce and distribute colorful — and culturally appropriate — posters and flyers designed to dispel vaccine safety fears and myths. The project was one of the first local efforts to bridge government mistrust and authority in marginalized communities, especially among undocumented migrants.
Since then, he has participated in webinars for local organizations, the district 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 to give aid workers like health promoters — trusted voices in underserved communities — the information they need to change hearts and minds.
What others say about Prystowsky:
“Brian has been (active) in many different community spaces, not only as a practicing pediatrician, but also as someone who has helped with communication and collaboration with various community-based organizations and parent groups. It’s been a great partnership and there have been others in the community who have been very helpful as well, but he’s definitely stepped up and done a lot for the community.” — Dr. Urmila Shende, the province’s vaccine chief.
What Prystowsky says about 2022:
Prystowsky is hopeful about the pandemic outlook in 2022. He said he will continue his advocacy for vaccines inside and outside his practice. Prystowsky said he will work to communicate what he believes is the true purpose of vaccination: to prevent serious illness among all, pushing COVID-19 from pandemic to endemic — a widespread disease of relatively low severity. As a pediatrician with a 4-year-old son, he is looking forward to early next year when COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available for infants and toddlers under the age of 5.
“I really feel that when people ask how we’re getting the pandemic under control internationally, people should at least get the first round of photos,” he said. “As a pediatrician I feel like it’s not over for kids because a lot of them haven’t even had their first round yet, a lot of them haven’t qualified yet… Honestly I’m looking forward to it the most to get my family fully vaccinated.”