TogetHER Staff Spotlight: Tom Harmon

In the five-plus years since our founding, TogetHER has prioritized putting a spotlight on the work of our members, the perspectives of leaders and experts in cervical cancer prevention, and on the fantastic work of organizations making strides in reducing the burden of cervical cancer in the most challenging environments.

We thought we’d mix it up a bit and shine that spotlight back on ourselves this year, to give our supporters an opportunity to get to know the people behind TogetHER for Health. Enjoy learning more about our External Affairs Director, Tom Harmon!

What’s your organizational role?

I’m responsible for TogetHER’s external affairs efforts, so: communications, website, social media, advocacy content, policy research, and all the bits in between. I also contribute to building and managing relationships with our existing partners, as well as seeking out new partners to further our mission.  

Tell us something about what brought you to cervical cancer prevention.

I was extremely fortunate to spend twelve years making the case for investment into new technologies and policies to end HIV/AIDS, working alongside brilliant researchers and advocates at the former International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, now just simply IAVI.

When a former colleague flagged an opportunity to join her at TogetHER about five (!) years ago, I got to apply myself to the OTHER side of an effort to end a preventable disease. Cervical cancer elimination isn’t hinging on breakthrough technologies because we essentially already have those – it’s a matter of connecting them to the people who need them.

That gets me fired up, especially as someone who lost a parent to cancer. If we have the means to ensure that nobody has to endure the suffering and loss from cervical cancer ever again, why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to make that happen?

What are your interests/hobbies/etc.?

I’m a big baseball fan, although as a New York Mets fan I suppose “disappointment” gets tacked on as an adjacent hobby. I live in Minneapolis so I also like catching Twins and St. Paul Saints games when I can.

Becoming a parent gave me a reason to work on my cooking, something that I was terrible at in prior years. There’s something really satisfying about putting a healthy meal on the table, even more so on the occasion that my 7-year-old cleans her plate. (She’s partial to my chili.)

Otherwise, I probably consume more than my daily recommended intake of comic books, science fiction media, and loud music. SOMEBODY has to be the team expert on the X-Men.

Besides cervical cancer, what are some other issues you care deeply about?

I’m a big believer in the importance of public education. My spouse is a media specialist in a public school, and I get a lot of fulfillment out of volunteering at my daughter’s community school in South Minneapolis. It’s not just cervical cancer; we won’t solve any of this world’s many problems without teachers.

It’s been disheartening to see local and regional news capacity being gutted over the past decade, undermining community trust and creating fertile ground for misinformation (including around vaccines). I’m a huge fan of organizations doing what they can to carry on the critical role of local reporting, with my two favorite examples being the Minnesota Reformer and Racket.

A lot of comics creators struggle even though their ideas and creations are now billion-dollar movie and TV franchises, so I support the Hero Initiative, which supports comics creators confronted with financial catastrophe.

What Is your current state of mind?

“Chaotic” is the first word that comes to mind – there’s a lot happening right now! As I write this, I’m preparing to represent TogetHER at the launch of the Global HPV Consortium meeting in Malaysia, which coincides with my spouse returning to work and my daughter to school after what has been a really lovely summer. It feels like things have never been busier for our organization, which is wildly exciting but also makes me feel like this kid.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I believe that about 90% of what you need to know about somebody can be gleaned from how they treat restaurant staff. Rude, entitled diners and bad tippers should be publicly shamed.