WMed employees and students log more than 1,800 hours volunteering at Kalamazoo County COVID-19 vaccination clinics

Founding Dean Dr. Hal B. Jenson Receives COVID-19 Vaccine
Founding Dean Dr. Hal B. Jenson received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from M2 Koby Buth during vaccination clinic at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center.

As more people in Kalamazoo County have become eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, WMed faculty, staff, and students have played a key role in helping staff vaccination clinics at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center.

Since February, members of the WMed community have logged more than 1,850 volunteer hours at the clinics, which are being coordinated and led by the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department. Between February and April, the medical school provided eight volunteers – four medical roles and four non-medical roles – per day for two days each week.

“We are extremely proud of the physicians, staff, and students who have taken the time to give back to the community by volunteering at the vaccination clinics,” said Michele Serbenski, associate dean for Clinical Operations and Performance Excellence. “In doing so, they have each played a key role in the ongoing fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Most recently, in late April, the Health and Community Services Department expanded vaccination clinics at the Expo Center from two days per week to three days per week. As part of that expansion, WMed Health is collaborating with the county and Ascension Borgess Hospital to supply staffing and resources to allow for more than 10,000 does of the vaccine to be administered weekly.

Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford said the expansion of the vaccination clinics at the Expo Center will allow staff to serve more residents at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in Kalamazoo County and across the state. It is projected that WMed employees and students will log more than 760 hours working at the county clinics in May.

“It is in our best interest to vaccinate as many people as we can, as quickly as we can,” Rutherford said recently. “By combining our resources, we are able to accomplish that.”

The expansion of the clinics began April 20 and WMed plans to provide eight volunteers per day at clinics that are scheduled to be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Those eight volunteer positions include four medical roles, which can include vaccinators, medical reviewers or observers to draw up and administer vaccine, review documentation provided by patients, answering questions, or to monitor patients for reactions while they wait after receiving the vaccine. There are also four non-medical roles, which may include greeters, registration, assistance with forms completion, registration form review, and schedulers.

“Each role is different but they have each been vitally important in helping the county vaccination clinics run smoothly and efficiently,” said Robin Scott, RN, the medical school’s manager of Occupational Health and Infection Control.

In addition to the work being done at the county vaccination clinics, several students volunteered for a project during which they helped staff pop-up clinics in the community where 2,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered. 

Students have also been working closely with Dr. Cheryl Dickson, associate dean for Health Equity and Community Affairs, the county, and three grassroots organizations in Kalamazoo to create culturally responsive messaging aimed at providing education about the COVID-19 vaccine and addressing hesitancy among many in the Black and Hispanic communities to receive the vaccine. 

That effort, known as Vaccine Community Champions, is being supported by a generous grant from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation that was awarded to Dr. Dickson in January.