Pacific plays essential role in serving its 3-campus communities during pandemic


Pacific's Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy has held 11 vaccination clinics open to qualifying individuals who live or work in San Joaquin County

In the midst of the global pandemic, vaccination centers and other services created by University of the Pacific are serving thousands of people across northern California – including some of the most vulnerable populations.

COVID-19 vaccination centers on the Stockton and San Francisco campuses and legal clinics in Sacramento illustrate Pacific’s approach to education: Creating in-depth experiential learning opportunities for students while providing critical services to communities.

“These are truly extraordinary efforts by our students and faculty during historically challenging times,” said Pacific President Christopher Callahan. “We are tremendously proud. Our students, working side-by-side with their professors, simply refused to let the pandemic stop their educational and public service missions.”

Drawing on the university’s unique blend of interdisciplinary health programs in dental, pharmacy and health sciences, Pacific has partnered with county public health offices, local non-profits and hospitals to provide testing, early vaccinations and information to thousands.

Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry recently organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities living or working in San Francisco.

A long-time leader in offering community clinics, the Dugoni School is the first dental school in the nation to reach this population.

“The values and purpose of the Dugoni School of Dentistry—humanistic care and commitment to service--have been on full display during our clinics,” said Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, dean. “It was amazing to hear and read the messages of gratitude from all the attendees for the kindness, calm, professionalism, and care displayed by our volunteers.” 

In partnership with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Disability, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and several local non-profits, the Dugoni School has vaccinated more than 500 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities during three clinics, with plans to continue holding more.

In total, the Dugoni School has vaccinated over 3,000 qualifying individuals at their clinics who live or work in San Francisco County.

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services announced dental students are now among providers authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccines nationwide. The Dugoni School has begun training third-year students and will incorporate vaccine clinics into its clinical rotations.

Dr. Allen Wong, director of the Hospital Dentistry Program at the Dugoni School, shared some positive feedback he received from attendees. "One of the parents wrote that her adult child who really wanted to have the vaccine, tried a drive by vaccination clinic earlier and was unsuccessful. They were successful and appreciated how we delivered the care in a caring and efficient manner. She relayed her child's words which could not be said better: 'Today, my future begins!'’" 

In Stockton, Pacific's Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy has held 11 vaccination clinics open to qualifying individuals who live or work in San Joaquin County. To date, students, faculty and other health professionals have distributed nearly 4,500 vaccines with more clinics scheduled.

Dubbed “Operation Immunization,” Veronica Bandy, clinical professor in the School of Pharmacy, said the successful work in Stockton is credited to the students—notably the four co-chairs of the effort: second-year pharmacy students Woo Jin Lim and Kyle Vo and first-year pharmacy students Carissa Leung and Talar Yetenekian.

“The amount of work that goes into the day of the vaccination events does not compare to the tireless effort and planning and paperwork that occurs before and after,” Bandy said. “I often need to remind people that these four outstanding individuals are full-time pharmacy students and are leading these efforts on top of their educational commitments.”

Beyond the widespread impact they are making, the students are gaining valuable experience. In addition to administering the vaccines, pharmacy students have benefited from being involved in a historic, large-scale project with many moving parts and challenges.

“With the transition to distance learning, we have also provided invaluable access to in-person patient care in the form of working at COVID-19 clinics in counties throughout the state,” said Vo. “Otherwise, students would have been deprived the ability to cultivate in-person, patient-provider skills.”

Similarly, Pacific's physician assistant studies students in the School of Health Sciences have been gaining in-person experiences with COVID-19 patients in local hospitals during their clinical rotations. As part of the Physician Assistant Program curriculum, students complete 12 four-week clinical rotations in various healthcare settings.

This spring, physician assistant student Jena McCall '21 did her clinical rotation in the intensive care unit at Sutter Gould Memorial Medical Center.

“Although we have worked hard to flatten the curve in California, there were at least 30-60 critical COVID-19 patients in the ICU daily we were working with," explained McCall. "Most patients were on ventilators and I assisted in taking labs, testing kidney functions and helping x-ray their lungs."

Pacific alumna Cierra Coffman ’19 served as McCall's preceptor during her clinical hours, where she was responsible for supervising her clinical activities.

"Jena was incredibly engaged and actively involved in the care of our patients," said Coffman. "Given these special times, families are not allowed to be in the hospital and staff have been needed to be available to provide more emotional support to patients. Having Jena work closely with patients and give them small tasks each day to feel successful in their recovery was invaluable."

As McCall nears graduation, she hopes to continue working in an in-patient hospital setting.

"I'm so thankful to Pacific and the physician assistant program for providing me the opportunity to get this experience and allow me to serve my community in this way," McCall said.

Pacific's McGeorge School of Law Immigration Clinic has also supported the community in Sacramento by working with the FUEL Network, a coalition of non-profits dedicated to supporting undocumented immigrants, to advocate for their clients to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Each year, McGeorge's legal clinics deliver quality pro bono representation to hundreds of underserved community members experiencing issues with bankruptcy, health, homelessness, immigration and prisoner civil rights.

"With our roots in the health sciences and as a community partner we play an essential role in mitigating the spread of the virus," said Pacific Provost Maria Pallavicini. "Pacific’s efforts in vaccine distribution and work with community partners exemplify the deep experiential learning that our students and faculty benefit from while serving our communities."