College of Pharmacy alumni play key roles in vaccination efforts across country
Victoria Hetherington saw something different on a patient’s COVID-19 vaccination form and realized it was an opportunity to provide a sense of comfort.
“One patient had written the word ‘scared’ on her form,” says Hetherington, ’17, who works on the vaccination team at Gamecock Park.
“I talked with her and walked through all the interactions and allergic reactions she experienced in the past and helped her understand none of those would be in the components of the vaccine. We kept her for a bit longer during the monitoring phase to make sure she was doing well.”
Leadership is a significant component of education at the College of Pharmacy. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to provide opportunities for students to gain related experience and for alumni to excel.
I am extremely proud to be a part of a profession working to help so many people ...
Nicole Bookstaver, Pharm.D. Prisma Health–Midlands
In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities as manager of the Ambulatory Clinical Pharmacy and as director for the PGY1 Pharmacy Residency Program at Prisma Health–Midlands, Nicole Bookstaver, ’09, oversees the pharmacy portion of the vaccination clinic at Gamecock Park.
“In January, I was asked to be the pharmacy lead for a mass vaccination site that was to open in addition to the four hospital-based clinics. My response was, ‘Yes, of course!’” she says.
The drive-through clinic is a streamlined effort coordinated between Prisma Health, South Carolina National Guard, University of South Carolina and hundreds of volunteers from across several health care professions.
“What I admire so much is the different disciplines coming together — pharmacy, nursing, medicine, athletic training, disaster operations, process engineering and many others,” Bookstaver says, “and the number of students who are volunteering their time. I am extremely proud to be a part of a profession working to help so many people.”
Hetherington vaccinates patients and supports required daily prework for the clinics. Vaccines must be reconstituted, measured and drawn up into individual syringes, and then administered into patients’ arms within a six-hour window.
Most rewarding is the ability to provide comfort to patients, Hetherington says.
Gabby Pierce, ’20, works as a PGY1 specialty pharmacy resident at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Pierce volunteered to help with the hospital staff vaccination clinic by supporting related tracking and administrative requirements, as well as precepting pharmacy students who were helping in the effort.
“This was a unique opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself and learn more about resources, data and handling patient questions,” Pierce says. “There is truly something to be said in volunteering as a learning opportunity.”
Yvette Van Seters, ’90, also has a passion for volunteering. As a pharmacist with Walgreen’s, Van Seters is part of a team providing vaccinations for long-term care facilities and nursing homes in South Carolina.
“I’ve always been a service-oriented person, and it’s a way to help meet the needs of our community,” Van Seters says. “So many people have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I see the joy on patients’ faces, and that makes my day more than anything.”
There is a need all over the community, so we determined that we would take the vaccination clinics into the community ...
Eddie Seijo, Pharm.D. Atrium Health
Eddie Seijo, ’11, understands what it means to see the joy. Seijo is the director of Acute Care Pharmacy Operations with Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because of his experience with centralized medication distribution, he was tapped to help with mass vaccination clinics at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bank of America Stadium, among several others being held throughout the area.
“There is a need all over the community, so we determined that we would take the vaccination clinics into the community,” he says, “including roving clinics that go into historically underserved communities, working with churches, schools and community centers.”
Running multiple clinics requires significant time and effort, but Seijo remains focused on what is most important for him.
“It’s a lot of nights and long days, but for me, it’s hope,” he says. “It’s getting back to life as we used to know it. I remind myself of what we’re doing, and seeing the joy and hope in the eyes of those we are vaccinating is what keeps you going.”
Photo courtesy of Atrium Health, Charlotte, North Carolina