By Anna Morgan-Barsamian, MPH, RN, PMP, Senior Manager, Training & Education, NaRCAD
An interview with Rocko Cook, Public Health Detailer and Public Health Detailing Program Manager, Detailing Improved Sexual Health (DISH), Arizona State University.
Tags: Detailing Visits, Evidence-Based Medicine, HIV/AIDS
Anna: Hi, Rocko – thanks for joining DETAILS today! HIV prevention work is critical and often deeply meaningful to those working in the field. Can you tell me why this work speaks to you?
Rocko: I found out I was positive for HIV and syphilis in 2002. I encountered firsthand the stigma and shame associated with these diagnoses. It was devastating, but it’s made me feel even more connected to the work I’m currently involved in.
I’ve worked in various roles in the field of HIV prevention and care since 1994, just two years before medication was widely available. In the 90s, there was little support for people who tested positive for HIV from a care perspective, financial perspective, and housing perspective. We now have the medications and tools to prevent, treat, and support people with HIV.
Despite this, there’s an urgent need to continue educating clinicians, staff, case managers, community health workers, and other people who are on the frontlines about these tools and resources. Academic detailing helps to close that gap and gives me the opportunity to live my passion of educating others about HIV.
Anna: Thank you for your openness in sharing your personal and professional experiences. Your passion for HIV prevention and care is evident. What’s the number one thing you want clinicians and staff in your community to do differently when it comes to HIV?
Rocko: I’d love for them to change the culture of the entire clinic space and create a more welcoming environment for patients. There needs to be a focus on consistent communication coming from every professional a patient meets with when receiving care. All clinicians and staff need to be able to communicate with patients in a sex-positive way and in a way that connects with patients’ specific experiences, identities, and needs. They need to be comfortable communicating about sexual behavior, testing, and PrEP.
It’s difficult to have these conversations. I've been doing this for a long time and I’m not perfect at it either, but once we practice and start getting comfortable with ourselves, then it gets a lot easier to be comfortable with patients.
Anna: Modeling this type of communication during a detailing visit is key. It can help clinicians and staff feel more comfortable having the same conversations with patients. Can you share a story from the field about a positive response or reaction from someone you detailed?
Rocko: There was an agency we worked with that hired a new physician, testers, and medical assistants for their mobile medical and HIV testing unit. They had never worked with this patient population, so our team did several trainings and 1:1 detailing sessions where we role played conversations with patients. We needed to bring them up to speed on how to have gender inclusive conversations and communicate with sex positivity. We had a lot of fun together.
The team ended up going to Phoenix Pride to do a big testing event. We were delighted with their success in providing testing to the community and creating a welcoming and safe environment for people interested in being tested.
Anna: That’s a large event for the mobile unit team to tackle, while also succeeding in creating a safe space for all! Let’s talk a little bit more about the impact on patients. Can you share any data on the impact of your detailing work?
Rocko: We have anecdotal evidence that folks are benefiting from our services. My colleague and I are closely involved in the gay community and people often tell us about their care experiences. We’re in an enviable position because we know a lot of people and hear things in passing. It helps us do a better job targeting our services; we can work directly with clinics that we’ve heard would benefit from detailing.
I also recently connected with someone of trans experience who was tested at Phoenix Pride. They’ve had poor encounters in the past where clinicians and staff assumed the body parts they have. They shared that they had a positive experience with the mobile unit and felt comfortable throughout the visit. Being able to see our impact firsthand has been really motivating for me; it makes my heart sing.
Anna: It’s rare to be so closely connected to the community that’s being impacted by your detailing work. It’s clearly been beneficial for your detailing efforts and getting your program up and running. Let’s wrap up with a final question - what has made you most proud of this project so far?
Rocko: I’m so proud of the way our team has come together and engaged with partners across the state. We’ve been able to leverage partnerships and community relationships to enhance program development, implementation, and dissemination.
I’m also proud of our creativity in choosing our program’s name, DISH AZ (Detailing Improved Sexual Health). We send out a Weekly Special with a buffet of options on new evidence and information related to HIV prevention and care. We’re creating an active and robust network of professionals, while using food as our motivator!
Anna: That’s an innovative way to keep your network engaged! We’re looking forward to hearing about your program as your team continues to expand its network and positively impact more people in the community. Thanks for chatting with us today and sharing your experiences, Rocko! Your passion for this work is palpable.
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Biography. Rocko Cook serves as the Program Manager for DISH-AZ (Detailing for Improved Sexual Health in Arizona), a program of the Office of Evaluation and Partner Contracts for the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) at Arizona State University in partnership with Arizona Department of Health and Human Services. Rocko began working in the field of HIV in 1994 and is a community leader with over 15 years of experience implementing prevention and care programs in Arizona, Ohio, and Kentucky. In addition to his duties as a program manager, Rocko has served as a public speaker, presenter at local and national conferences, and as a consultant and leader for HIV community planning groups. Rocko has been living with HIV since 2002 and is passionate about improving sexual health for all communities.
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