Showing up: SOMA students volunteer at COVID-19 vaccination clinics


When opportunities arise to support community health, SpartanDO students show up!

To meet MSU’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, faculty and staff before fall semester classes started, MSU Health Care Pharmacy organized a series of walk-in vaccination clinics in August and September at the Breslin Center.

The clinics, held on August 30, September 1, September 22 and September 23, offered first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine through 10 vaccination stations.

The SpartanDO Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) group led the charge in recruiting volunteers to support the clinics. While students from the pharmacy school were also there, the volunteers were primarily College of Osteopathic Medicine students.

“There was overwhelming support from students,” says Addie Schumacher, OMS-II. “There was no shortage of volunteers, especially from the College of Osteopathic Medicine.”

Fellow student Jennifer German, OMS-I, adds, “They were turning away volunteers because some shifts had too many people!”

The clinics offered student doctors the opportunity to support community health while applying their skills and gaining experience in different aspects of the health care process. Volunteer roles included vaccinators, supporting functions such as handling documentation, inputting data into the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR)—an immunization database that documents immunizations given to Michiganders—providing vaccination cards to patients, and post-vaccination symptom observation. With pharmacists and pharmacy students on hand, most SpartanDO students took on supporting volunteer roles to ensure smooth patient flow and experience.

Schumacher, who is trained to be a vaccinator and had volunteered several times at the spring 2021 vaccination clinics for students and faculty at the Pavilion, signed up to volunteer again because she enjoyed her first experience. She supported documentation and readied supplies. “It’s always nice to give back in a way that makes a difference, especially to get shots in arms,” she says. “It was a good experience and it made you feel like you were there to help people.”

She supported 65 vaccinations across her two shifts on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1. She explained that the first session occurred on the heels of full FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, so many of the walk-ins still had questions about the vaccine, but the pharmacists and volunteers were able to assure them of its safety and efficacy.

“I got to know the pharmacy students and talk about their role in health care. It’s nice to get to know future colleagues,” Schumacher says.

Cindy Chu, OMS-II, also volunteered at the first session, and entered data from patient forms into MCIR. “Entering data correctly and keeping a tally of who’s getting vaccinated is important!” she says of her task. She plans to volunteer at another vaccination clinic hosted by Sparrow Hospital in October, where she expects to have more hands-on experience as a vaccinator.

Chu explains that she volunteered to “get the community vaccinated as much as possible to meet the university’s requirement,” and that she loves to volunteer. In addition to serving at her first vaccination clinic, she also regularly volunteers through Spartan Street Medicine by supporting telemedicine calls, and supporting the food needs of communities with Forgotten Harvest.

German volunteered at the second and last clinics, and shares that bad weather caused a low turnout during her shift. A former software engineer who entered medical school after attending the University of Michigan Postbac MEDPREP program, also supported the Spartan vaccination effort by entering data into MCIR. “I enjoyed the camaraderie between staff and volunteers,” she says. “We definitely had fun and it was a good experience.”

Overall, 75 student volunteers from the College of Osteopathic Medicine, along with other volunteers, helped to vaccinate 275 people!