UCI faculty, staff, students and alumni came together on short notice in the winter of 2021 to provide COVID-19 vaccines to eligible community members. Photo: Erin Knox

Pharmacy Alumni Answer the Call to
Vaccinate Orange County

Pharmacy Alumni Answer the Call to Vaccinate Orange County

January 2021 was a race against time, as newly developed COVID-19 vaccines became available just as new cases were peaking. UCI needed to quickly establish and staff clinics to vaccinate large numbers of elderly and at-risk individuals.

With just 36 hours’ notice, Erin Knox, Pharm.D., B.C.P.P., in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, put out an urgent request to UCI alumni pharmacists asking for help administering vaccine doses that would be arriving imminently. UCI’s doctor of pharmacy program enrolled its first class just this year, but a number of Anteaters already work as pharmacists, and many stay connected through the Alumni Association and Anteaters in Pharmacy. More than a dozen alumni answered the call within the first day.

“It was truly impressive to see that the alumni were willing to drop their weekend plans on short notice and go volunteer at the Bren Center vaccine clinics to work towards ending the pandemic.”

- Erin Knox, Pharm.D., B.C.P.P.

“It was truly impressive to see that the alumni were willing to drop their weekend plans on short notice and go volunteer at the Bren Center vaccine clinics to work towards ending the pandemic,” says Knox, who is also the director of experiential pharmacy education for UCI. “This overwhelming turnout from Anteaters amid these unusual circumstances speaks to the passion and dedication of UCI alumni, not only to their alma mater, but to their community.”

Pam Lincoln-Giang ’06, Pharm.D., B.C.G.P. was one of the first alumni to volunteer. UCI’s pop-up vaccine clinic at the Bren Events Center was primarily serving elderly patients.

“This was a way for me to get out there and feel like I could actively and materially help fight COVID-19,” says Lincoln-Giang, who works primarily managing pharmacy operations and staff. “Wearing my white coat and doing patient care was deeply gratifying.”

Similarly, Nicole Quang ’14, Pharm.D. cherished the opportunity to volunteer in a clinic setting — something she did as an undergraduate and graduate student, as well.

“Throughout my entire undergraduate experience at UCI, I was surrounded by people who wanted to give back to the community,” says Quang. “My experiences as a student showed me how rewarding it is to help others, so I was happy to help with whatever they needed me to do at the vaccine clinic.”

Pam Lincoln-Giang ’06, Pharm.D., B.C.G.P., volunteered her professional expertise and Anteater spirit at some of UCI's earliest COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Photo: Erin Knox

Many volunteers say they enjoyed being back on campus, looking out from the Bren and seeing new buildings amid the familiar landmarks they remembered from their time as students. For some, the clinic fostered a deeper connection with their alma mater. Lincoln-Giang, for example, has since supported the inaugural class of doctorate of pharmacy students by helping underwrite the cost of their white coats, and she helped set up rotation opportunities with her employer.

As the vaccine clinic became better established, and the flow of vaccines more predictable, UCI transitioned from volunteers to paid temporary staff to power the clinics. Over the course of five months, 75,000 vaccines were administered to more than 45,000 people.

“What we accomplished with this huge collaboration is nothing short of amazing,” says Knox. “And we couldn’t have staffed the pharmacy portion of the clinic without the help of alumni, friends and family of UCI.”

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