Students at the UofSC College of Pharmacy have a deep commitment to supporting the community, as demonstrated through their volunteerism at COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
From reconstituting the vaccine, preparing syringes, and putting shots into arms, to more administrative tasks such as guiding traffic and registration of patients, students perform important tasks.
Even though fourth-year students are in the midst of completing their APPE rotations which can be extremely challenging, several students have still managed to find time to assist with the vaccination efforts.
"Working behind the scenes to make sure everyone has the resources needed to make this work has been an opportunity to take what I learned in the classroom and put it into action."
Ben Tabor Pharm.D. Candidate, Class of 2021
Ben Tabor began volunteering with the launch of Prisma Health’s vaccination effort at Gamecock Park in January. He had previously worked with the COVID-19 vaccine as part of an earlier rotation in infectious diseases.
“The drug remdesivir was in the process of being evaluated,” he says, “and I had the opportunity to help cover that for a few days.”
Once the clinic opened at Gamecock Park, Tabor saw an opportunity to gain some valuable experience.
“Working behind the scenes to make sure everyone has the resources needed to make this work has been an opportunity to take what I learned in the classroom and put it into action,” he says.
Volunteering has also provided Tabor an opportunity to gain more insight about the many different professions involved in such a mass vaccination effort.
“I have met so many people that I otherwise would not have had the chance to work with,” he says, “like nurses, athletic trainers, process engineers and national guardsmen. It has been a very rewarding experience and a breath of fresh air to actually help people.”
Fourth-year student Morgan Grier spent the month of January at a retail pharmacy setting in Austin, Texas.
“The pharmacy received two different shipments of the vaccine, and it gave me the opportunity to compare the differences in how the vaccines are stored and at what temperature.
Grier, who vaccinated more than 150 residents, never thought she would be able to have such an experience.
“My first rotation was in infectious diseases,” she says, “and six months later, to see the vaccine come out has had a tremendous impact on me as a student, knowing that I have had an impact on the community, even from far away.”
“I gained a sense of family among health care providers by seeing nurses, physicians and other providers come together for a common cause.”
Karla Kristo Pharm.D. Candidate, Class of 2021
Fourth-year student Karla Mia Kristo also had the chance to experience working in a vaccine clinic from far away. Kristo has been completing her rotations in her home state of New Jersey at Holy Name Medical Center, an area that has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19.
“During my November rotation, I helped update pharmacists and staff about changes to the guidelines in working with COVID-19,” she says.
She then learned about an opportunity to become more involved at Summit Medical Clinic where she accepted a position to help draw up syringes and administer doses.
“I gained a sense of family among health care providers,” she says, "by seeing nurses, physicians and other providers come together for a common cause.”
Kristo appreciated that she could now apply what she learned as a student at the College of Pharmacy.
“I was able to apply clinical knowledge in real-life practice,” she says. “I feel it’s our duty to help however best we can.”
Hirali Patel, a third-year student, serves as Operation Immunization Chair for the college’s chapter of the American Pharmacists Association and has vaccinated more than 100 patients. She did not feel her strengths lay with infectious diseases, but volunteering at the clinic provided her with a newfound perspective.
“It’s a great learning opportunity as well as a rewarding one,” she says. “especially when we have the chance to talk with patients who thank us for being there.”
She encourages students to volunteer for whatever role is needed.
“You many never have an opportunity again in an environment like this,” she says. “It is a hands-on, real world perspective, and the chance to learn from someone else is invaluable.”