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Dell Med Students Help Administer Free Flu Vaccines

Oct. 19, 2020

This post is by Thomas Varkey, MBA, a third-year medical student at Dell Medical School.

Over the last few months, the world has come to a screeching halt as we prepared and protected ourselves from COVID-19. Along with trying to ensure that our loved ones are safe from this unknown virus, there are other common viruses that make a large impact on some of our most vulnerable patients.

Every year, thousands of people throughout the United States become sick, incapacitated or die from the common flu or its complications. Unlike COVID-19, there are vaccines available to help ease flu-related symptoms and costly hospitalizations. To prevent unnecessary sickness during these uneasy times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend getting a yearly flu vaccine.

To promote this effort, Dell Medical School students Kaylee O’Connor, Laura Bashour, Garrett Bourne, Katherine Jenson and myself set up the third annual Dell Medical School vaccination program and class, which focuses on providing influenza vaccinations free of charge to children and adults.

Sharon Rush, a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice in The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, and University Health Services nurses Charlotte Katzin and Ericka Holmes were the instructors. To finish the course, student volunteers had to complete eight hours of online CDC training, a three-hour web-based recorded session and a simulated vaccine administration assessment to ensure students are able to safely determine a patient’s vaccine needs and administer these life-saving vaccinations.

Forty-one students from Dell Medical School volunteered to take the class and participate in administering the vaccine as part of UHS’ annual campus flu vaccine drive and throughout the community, including the Dell Med-supported C.D. Doyle Clinic.

“Now more than ever, national attention has been brought to the topic of infectious disease and what individuals can do to protect themselves,” Kaylee O’Connor, a third-year medical student and Master of Science in Health Care Transformation student, said. “As future physician leaders, we hope to address this by doing our part to be advocates for preventative health. With the help and support of our colleagues at the College of Pharmacy, School of Nursing and the Texas Medical Association, we hope to train and organize medical students to administer influenza vaccinations in the local community this fall.”

This effort is exemplary of Dell Medical School’s past work and future plans and demonstrates the school’s interprofessional philosophy.

Last year, project lead Katherine Jenson and Dell Med administrator Tamara Wood worked with the Texas Medical Association to procure grant funding for the project and were able to obtain a refrigerator for the safe storage of vaccines for future use in the community. This will allow for long-term storage of the vaccines so they can be used at community events like last year’s Colony Park Back-to-School Bash at Overton Elementary School and 2018’s work with Austin Public Health to provide free vaccines at the C.D. Doyle Clinic.

Future plans include working with the Gus Garcia Recreation Center to provide free vaccines of multiple types to community members in the Rundberg neighborhood and to provide free vaccines to the C.D. Doyle patients.

With so many fast-paced changes, it can be easy to forget the annual flu shot, but the consequences can be devastating. We look forward to seeing you at one of the clinics at UT Austin or in the community.

UT Austin students, faculty and staff can sign up for the 2020 University Health Services Flu Shot Campaign. If you are interested in either getting involved with a flu-shot event or hosting one, please email John Luk, M.D.