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UTHSC Students Join Community Vaccination Workforce

Students and faculty from UTHSC are volunteering at the Appling testing station to administer vaccinations to the community.( Photos by Leigh Ann Roman/UTHSC College of Nursing)

Students and faculty from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center are joining volunteers from various local academic health care institutions to assist the Shelby County Health Department in the administration of second-dose COVID-19 vaccinations to the community this week.

University Clinical Health (UCH), UTHSC, and the City of Memphis are collaborating in organizing the vaccination effort that is taking place at University Clinical Health’s Appling Site, located at 2355 Appling City Cove, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., today through Saturday, January 30, by appointment-only through the county sign-up link.

Student and faculty volunteers will come from various academic institutions, including UTHSC, the University of Memphis, and Southwest Tennessee Community College, said Tiffany Wright, executive director of Quality, Patient Engagement and Community Outreach for UCH. They will join University Clinical Health’s mobile testing site workers at the Appling location.

“We are delighted to partner with UCH and the City of Memphis to increase the pace of vaccination in Memphis,” said Scott Strome, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine. “While UTHSC is helping to coordinate the effort, the success of this site will be based on volunteers from many of the health care colleges across our region. I am optimistic that this spirit of collaboration will serve as a platform to eradicate this disease.”

The student volunteer workforce from UTHSC will come from the Colleges of Nursing, Medicine, and Pharmacy. The qualified student volunteers from the colleges, with supervision from faculty, have played a major role, along with UTHSC’s University Health Services, in administering vaccinations on the campus since mid-December.

Thanks to the work of Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, UTHSC was able to participate in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine distribution from the state of Tennessee. UTHSC was the only university to meet the state’s guidelines and receive a vaccine allocation.

Following the state’s guidelines and priorities, UTHSC began administering vaccinations on the Memphis campus on December 19 to residents, students on hospital rotations, campus first responders, and faculty who provide inpatient services. The university has distributed first- and second-dose vaccinations to members of the campus community, based on the state’s priorities.

This is the second time UTHSC students have stepped up as volunteers in the community’s COVID-19 battle.

“One of the greatest value propositions for UTHSC being able to participate in the Pfizer COVID-19 distribution was to be able to vaccinate those residents, fellows, and students, who are caring for hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients and participating as part of the state’s health care workforce to get all of Tennessee’s citizens vaccinated,” Dr. Brown said.

Diana Dedmon, DNP, FNP, BC, assistant professor and director of Clinical Affairs in the UTHSC College of Nursing, said BSN students will serve this week at the Appling site as an alternative to their normal clinical experience.

This is the second time, UTHSC students have participated in the community’s battle against the pandemic. UTHSC’s College of Medicine, working with the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis, opened the first large-scale drive-through COVID-19 testing site in the city at Tiger Lane at the Fairgrounds on March 20. The site was initially staffed primarily by UTHSC medical students under the supervision of physician faculty. College of Nursing students, as well as some dental students, also volunteered at the site. David Schwartz, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UTHSC College of Medicine, served as medical director of the Tiger Lane testing site and is the medical director for the Appling vaccination site.

Second-year Pharmacy student Celia Bressler is among the hundreds of student volunteers, who have administered the vaccine on the UTHSC campus. She said as a pharmacist she hopes to make a difference in people’s lives in the future. She is proud to have the chance to do that now, even as a student, by administering the vaccine.