ACP Faculty, Students, Alumni on the Frontlines Helping to Administer COVID-19 Vaccine

OAKWOOD, VA (JANUARY 26, 2021) –  Appalachian College of Pharmacy faculty, student pharmacists and alumni members have been on the front lines in recent weeks helping to administer the COVID-19 vaccine at various clinics in the region and in other states — from Virginia, to Maryland, to Idaho and to other points in between.

On Tuesday, some are volunteering at Buchanan General Hospital’s vaccine clinic in Grundy and will be there to help administer some 200 shots to those with appointments to receive the vaccine.

“Being a part of helping to end this national pandemic is something hard to describe,” said ACP Dean Susan Mayhew. “We are so proud of our faculty, student pharmacists and alumni members who have stepped up to volunteer to administer the vaccine at the various clinics and in the various locations they have chosen to do so.

“As more people receive the vaccine, the threat to all is diminished, however it will still take time for its effectiveness to translate to an official end to the pandemic,” Mayhew continued, adding, “being able to administer the vaccine now is a huge step forward toward that end.”

In Virginia, vaccine administration is being conducted in several phases, with healthcare workers, first responders, nursing home residents and teachers having been the first to receive it. Vaccinations continue in an expanded Phase 1B for those age 65 and older and those age 16 to 64 with health issues now in the group eligible to receive it where sufficient quantities of the vaccine are available.

“I’m grateful to be playing some small part in the efforts to stop this pandemic,” said Dr. Ed Talbott, assistant professor in the department of pharmacy practice. “We’ve run a long hard race; we are tired and weary; but now is not the time to take our foot off the gas when the finish line is on the horizon. 

“Everyone can do their part,” he continued. “Wear a mask, social distance and get vaccinated as soon as you can. Coming together in a common cause is the only way we will put this virus behind us.”

Dr. Randall Cole, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, a lifelong resident of Buchanan County, noted it has always been his goal as a pharmacist to serve his family and friends in the community.

“Never did I imagine that I’d be able to dispense hope to the people in this area during such trying times,” Cole said of his involvement in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. “Helping to administer COVID vaccines to the public has given me the hope that as a community, we can work together to achieve our goals of eradicating this deadly virus and ending the pandemic.”

As director of pharmacy for Steele Memorial Medical Center in Idaho, ACP Alumnus Joshua Davis became involved immediately in preparing for the vaccine at his location. 

“I ordered an ultra-cold freezer before the prices skyrocketed and was involved weekly with planning with Easter Idaho Public Health to ensure we could roll out the vaccine to the community,” Davis said.  “When I got word that the first batch of vaccine was ready to be picked up, I was excited and relieved —  excited to be a part of this historic health measure and relieved to be able to vaccinate and hopefully eliminate COVID-19. 

“We were fortunate that Eastern Idaho Public Health received the first government shipment from Operation Warp Speed and we were able to vaccinate our staff as some of the first healthcare workers to receive the vaccine in Idaho,” Davis said. “I’m asked questions constantly about the vaccine from coworkers in the hospital, patients I treat and people I see in the community. I’m grateful and humbled to be a part of history.”

Linda Hendrickson, a 2018 ACP alumna, who is now a pharmacist at University of Maryland Shore Regional Health in Easton, MD, noted it has been an honor for her to be part of vaccination efforts.

“As a pharmacist, our profession is often misunderstood, so this was a great opportunity to take ownership to help aid in the fight to end this pandemic,” Hendrickson said. “I have been able to educate patients, staff members and the community on the importance of being vaccinated.

“It has been a very humbling experience to hear everyone’s reason for being vaccinated and what it means to them,” Hendrickson continued. “Each and every single person has been impacted by COVID in different ways and they are so proud and excited to get vaccinated. It gives me a sense of relief to help aid in vaccinating those who are at high risk for COVID.”

Batrina Sykes, a third year pharmacy student as ACP, said that as a pharmacy intern, it has been both an honor and a privilege to be administering the vaccine.

“Each vaccine I give is a small step towards stomping out this pandemic that has destroyed our world, our county, our community and our people,” Sykes said. “I’m doing this for my family and friends and for your family and friends, for my current patients and my future patients.  I am doing this so that we can have family gatherings, celebrations, graduations, sporting events, or just normal daily activities and not have to fear that we are putting ourselves and our loved ones at risk.

“One must walk before they run and each vaccine is a small step in the right direction to get our country back to running at full tilt as safely as possible,” Sykes added.

ACP’s involvement in the vaccine administration is what Mayhew called “a true reflection” of its overall mission in the region.

“Addressing rural health needs is one of the areas we identify in our mission to provide academic, scientific and professional pharmacy education to address the health-related needs of rural and under-served communities, particularly those in Appalachia,” she said. “Our philosophy is and always has been, to cultivate a learning community committed to education, community outreach and the professional development of pharmacists.

“Through the community outreach initiatives surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic – from our earliest hosting of drive-through testing clinics for the general public on our campus; to our on-site testing events staffed by ACP representatives like the one we did just last week for the Appalachian School of Law; to the volunteer efforts now underway to administer the vaccine – we are proud to have been involved,” Mayhew said. “We remain committed to our collaboration with others in the community to address identified needs in rural health.”

The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is the only three-year Doctor of Pharmacy program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Founded in 2003, the college accepted its first students in 2005. It is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Its mission is to cultivate a learning community committed to education, community outreach and the professional development of pharmacists. Its graduate pharmacists are now practicing throughout the United States.

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