Students are the power behind Pacific’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics
University of the Pacific’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics have been well-planned and streamlined, and a large share of the credit for the clinics’ success goes to Pacific students. Clinics have been held at Pacific’s Stockton and San Francisco campuses and similar events soon will be held at the Sacramento Campus.
Pharmacy students in Stockton and dental students in San Francisco have been joined by classmates from other health care programs to contribute to the multi-campus and community push to vaccinate against the pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States.
In Stockton, the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy has held three vaccination clinics with more planned in March. To date, there have been 1,235 COVID-19 vaccinations and 255 influenza vaccinations of Pacific employees, students and community members, report pharmacy students who have administered vaccines and helped plan the clinics.
“We hope to vaccinate as many students, faculty and staff as possible to create a safe and healthy environment for students to hopefully return in the fall,” said first-year pharmacy student Carissa Leung.
On the San Francisco Campus, 704 students, 680 faculty and 391 staff in health care programs, including those working on the front lines in the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry clinics, received COVID-19 vaccinations during seven clinics held in January and February. In addition, community first-responders also received vaccinations. Students helped coordinate these clinics, which were very efficient: even with the required 15-minute observation period after vaccines, the average time for each patient was only 27 minutes.
“There is a sense that we are fending together instead of fending for ourselves,” said Jovie Dangtran, a third-year dental student and president of the dental school’s Associated Student Body. “One of the most beautiful things I have seen is how appreciative everyone is that they can play a role in helping to fight against this pandemic.”
Speech language pathology, physician assistant, physical therapy, athletics training and occupational therapy students are among those who also took part in helping with the clinics.
Pacific’s pandemic response has been dubbed Operation Immunization. Veronica Bandy, clinical professor in the School of Pharmacy, said the successful work to date in Stockton must be credited to the efforts of students—notably the four co-chairs for Operation Immunization.
Second-year pharmacy students Woo Jin Lim and Kyle Vo and first-year pharmacy students Carissa Leung and Talar Yetenekian were lauded for their planning and leadership.
“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 a clinic day,” 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 campus and community health impact they are making, students are gaining valuable experiential learning. In addition to administering the vaccines, pharmacy students have benefited from being involved in a 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 from San Francisco down to Los Angeles,” Vo said. “Otherwise, students would have been deprived the ability to cultivate in-person, patient-provider skills.”
Those who have benefited from the Stockton clinics, including San Joaquin County community residents over the age of 65, have praised the professionalism of the students. Bandy received a voicemail from one appreciative senior, who stated:
“I have shared information about your clinic to a number of our elderly friends who had not been able to get an appointment (elsewhere). They are thrilled with your organization. You are doing such a great service. It’s such a blessing to so many of our seniors.”
Yetenekian said the students have been pleased with the positive feedback.
“We have had numerous people praising us on how smooth we have made the vaccination process for them,” Yetenkian said. “One key item that is continually mentioned is that the patients really enjoy the outside, drive-up environment. We hope to continue to serve the people in San Joaquin County, in addition to our other campuses.”
What’s next? On March 6, Pacific, working in partnership with San Joaquin County Public Health Services, will hold a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for faculty and staff on the Stockton Campus. All slots are filled, but Pacific anticipates additional employee vaccination clinics in the near future.
San Francisco Campus
Dental students cannot administer vaccines, but dentists—including many Dugoni faculty members—now are able to do so. In early January, the Department of Consumer Affairs in California issued a waiver that lets dentists administer vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration after completing a short sequence of training.
San Francisco students, meanwhile, have taken an active role in the planning and execution of vaccination clinics.
“Students helped organize the clinics and volunteered to help during the events,” said Eve Cuny, executive associate dean and associate professor of diagnostic sciences at Dugoni. “In addition, they make sure the paperwork gets filled out, strategize on how to make things run better and so much more. They are receiving valuable experience in dealing with something that takes a high level of communication and understanding.”
Second-year dental student Steve Leung serves as a student liaison to the school and university leaders. He also helped recruit students to take part in the clinics.
“The experience we are getting is outstanding, and it is great to have a sense of contributing in fighting this deadly pandemic,” Leung said. “We are contributing in the ways that we can.”
Communications and the sharing of resources have been crucial to the success of the clinics, Cuny said.
“Veronica Bandy and the pharmacy faculty have been very key for us,” Cuny said. “She taught me what we would need to know to be able to pull this off. Communication is such an important part of dealing with a crisis. And this is a very protracted crisis.
“Just having the other health disciplines, and being able to work with them as they are very generous with their time, has been great. Hopefully it will pave the way for more professional collaboration. We have so many things in common that maybe we didn’t even realize before.”
What’s next? Cuny said San Francisco Public Health is transitioning to large vaccination clinics to meet demand. She does expect the dental school to continue with vaccines for patients with specific needs.
As additional vaccine supplies become available, the dental school is hoping to open up appointments to the professional dental community and members of the wider public who qualify for vaccines, said Dean Nader Nadershahi, who added the dental school will be “ready to step up to help face and end this pandemic.”
There are influenza vaccination clinics on the Sacramento Campus during flu season, but there has yet to be a COVID-19 clinic. Sacramento County health officials have worked mostly with large health care providers on vaccines.
What’s next? Provost Maria Pallavicini said at a recent meeting with Pacific staff that she expects to have clinics in Sacramento soon. Students said they will be prepared when that happens.
“We hope to host COVID-19 clinics on the Sacramento Campus in the near future,” said Lim, one of the pharmacy students. “Dr. Bandy and (Director of Health Services) Dayna Cerruti-Barbero are working with Sacramento Public Health officers to explore opportunities. Hopefully, we will have more information on efforts on the Sacramento campus in the near future.”
For more information about Pacific’s response to COVID-19, visit our website or email COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.