As the COVID-19 pandemic spread last summer, College of Medicine students Reha Rabbani and Azmina Mohammed were deep in study for their Step 1 boards. At the same time, they were longing to be involved as health care providers-in-training and learn more about the historic pandemic surrounding them.
So when they had the chance to take a new COVID-19 elective for a January 2021 rotation, they said yes. As third-year students they would not work directly with COVID-19 patients; instead, they would learn, on site at the Summa Corporate Health building in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, what goes on behind the scenes to manage and provide health care during a pandemic.
The students spent their rotation in various Summa Health departments involved in the COVID-19 response system, including Employee Health, Infection Control, and Pharmacy. They also assisted with on-site COVID-19 swabbing stations and a vaccine clinic, which was initially open to Summa employees and is now also open to eligible community members.
Each week of the four-week rotation brought something new. By attending meetings by top Summa hospital administrators, the students observed the complexities of setting up and running a new vaccine clinic. They saw how training was developed for those administering vaccines – how they were provided screening questions to ask people who wanted to receive the vaccination; information they needed to provide to those who did receive it; and answers to questions that might be asked.
The students participated in the training of how to actually administer the vaccines, too – what the British like to call delivering “the jab.” They spent a few days swabbing patients for COVID-19, and they conducted telehealth interviews for symptomatic employees.
Being on the inside, even for that brief time, gave Mohammed an appreciation for all the leadership challenges that administrators face.
To her classmates who were frustrated about delays in obtaining their own vaccines, she said, “It’s not that they don’t care. The problem is that the incredible amount of responsibility placed on just a few shoulders is creating backlog in getting the vaccines where they need to be. The public tends to forget that there are real people working tirelessly behind the scenes against obstacles that you’d never even think about.”
Both students have moved on to the next rotation, but Rabbani wrote in an email, “At the very end of our rotation, [course preceptor] Dr. [Michael] Atta was able connect Azmina and me with prominent infection disease administrative members who are currently in the process of analyzing data that they have compiled about COVID patients. We’ve been approved to start a research project with them. We’re still solidifying the exact project, but some things we may analyze include tracking long-term effects that COVID patients experience who were previous inpatients at Summa, as well as determining the ideal quarantine time for employees who test positive for COVID to see how soon they can safely return to work without increasing their transmissibility.
“We also hope to look at vaccine uptake rates and different barriers posed by vaccine administration, taking any challenges into consideration. It was really nice to be given an avenue to be able to take all of the information we learned over the month of January a step further. I hope we can produce research that leads to more knowledge about COVID and vaccines.”