It’s the largest pandemic-driven vaccine distribution program in the history of the United States and OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students are a part of it.
Right now, about 175 medical students from the OSU Center for Health Sciences campus in Tulsa and 54 medical students from OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation campus in Tahlequah are doing their part to vaccinate Oklahomans for COVID-19 as the U.S. surpasses 400,000 deaths associated with the disease.
Students in Tulsa are assisting nurses and pharmacists as they administer COVID-19 vaccines as well as checking in those with vaccine appointments, helping patients with paperwork and consent forms, and conducting post-vaccine observation at the OSU Medicine Healthcare Center.
Tiga Wright and Brent Spurling are second year medical students in Tulsa who have worked at OSU Medicine’s drive-thru vaccine clinic.
“It’s honestly been eye-opening,” Wright said. “I definitely feel more educated now about vaccines and the logistics involved in administering them on such a large scale. I feel all the more prepared for the future.”
Spurling, who also helped with OSU Medicine’s COVID-19 testing site, said it’s good to be part of the solution.
"It’s been really interesting to see the people who come get the vaccine. They’re so excited, they’re almost in tears, they’re so excited."
“I’m happy to help and happy to help people protect themselves and their families,” he said.
First year medical students at OSUCOM at Cherokee Nation are working at the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Tahlequah administering vaccines to tribal citizens.
Jonas Weygandt, a medical student at the Tahlequah campus, said they went through a training and instruction course in the school’s Simulation Center on giving intramuscular injections and were checked by faculty before they could work at the vaccine clinic.
“We have been encouraged to be active members of the Tahlequah community and the chance to help distribute this vaccine was another opportunity for us as medical students to serve our community,” Weygandt said.
Dr. R. Stephen Jones, Cherokee Nation Health Services executive director, said when they asked if the medical students could help with the vaccine rollout, OSUCOM at CN didn’t hesitate.
“Having the medical students working alongside our staff to vaccinate helps our patients and gives these future physicians invaluable experience working on the frontline of the pandemic in rural Oklahoma,” Jones said. “Cherokee Nation is deeply grateful to the leadership and faculty at OSU for their willingness to support their medical students working alongside our staff vaccinating patients.”
For Wright, it’s also a chance for real-world experience with health care providers and patients.
“With COVID-19, we’ve had limited opportunities for in-person learning and interaction. This is a great chance to get some of that back,” she said. “Working with the pharmacists and nurses, I’ve learned a lot about administering vaccines and how members of a health care team work together.”
Jared Droze, manager of operational performance and transformation at OSU Medicine, said having the medical students working on-site at the vaccine clinic has been crucial.
“Without the medical students assisting with our vaccine rollout, the system and process would be much more stressful for our health care professionals and staff,” Droze said. “Our clinical staff have the opportunity to impart their experience and know-how to medical students who are eager to learn, and the students have the opportunity to be engaged and involved in ending this pandemic.”
Weygandt said no one has been spared from the effects of COVID-19 and he’s proud to be part of what he hopes could be the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Patients receiving the vaccine have been really excited to do their part and help end this pandemic,” he said. “I know we have all missed seeing smiles, family, friends and so many other joys of life that brighten our days. I know we are all longing for an end and this vaccine has the ability to bring us closer to that dream.”
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