When Dr. Monica Trivedi, professor in the College of Pharmacy at MBKU, received the great news that she was eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, she booked her appointment right away at a site situated in a local fire station. On the day of her first shot, she arrived to discover a line of cars stretching for miles, wait times many hours long, and a beleaguered vaccination site that had overbooked that day’s appointments a few times over. In that moment, she immediately recognized two very large needs: one was for trained vaccinators who could meet the demand of the millions of adults who were eligible and yearned for their vaccinations, and the other was for a community health organization that could help alleviate the logistical challenge of administering so many doses.
Naturally, Dr. Trivedi realized that MBKU was primed to meet both needs, and she became one of many faculty and students who volunteered at vaccinations sites throughout Orange County. These volunteer opportunities have ranged from supporting massive drive-through events at Soka University to smaller events partnered with local public health organizations like Family Health Matters and Latino Health Access. After completing all of the CDC training modules, student volunteers were able to serve in multiple roles, screening and checking in individuals, mixing and supervising doses, and of course, administering the vaccines themselves.
Dr. Trivedi volunteered a few times on her own early on so that she could learn what to expect, and right away she saw how fulfilling the experience would be for all involved. “It was so rewarding to see the number of people who came through who were so thankful,” she says. “Early in February the people eligible were over 65, so we had caregivers and people bringing their parents – all so grateful and relieved for the opportunity to get vaccinated.”
The recipients weren’t the only grateful ones. When MBKU students began working events, many of them felt uniquely empowered after a year of remote learning to be with each other and with people they could deliver care to. “Our students were super eager to be a part of these events,” says PA Andrea Galdamez, professor in the School of PA Studies (SPAS). “They got to talk to patients and feel really connected to being a part of the recovery of this pandemic.”
Erika McCracken, a first-year PA student who helped build interest among students for the volunteer opportunities and who volunteered herself, echoes how important this connection was: “The most rewarding aspect was getting to step away from the computer screen and use my hands to help someone,” she says. “Volunteering to give vaccines was the first time I and my classmates were able to apply some of the skills and knowledge we’ve been receiving during our grueling—but exciting—education.”