The New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCOM at A-State) has been working to provide COVID education and vaccines throughout the region.
However, Dr. Brookshield Laurent, chair of clinical medicine at NYITCOM at A-State, has seen one factor make a significant difference in vaccine acceptance: access, to both the vaccines themselves and education surrounding them.
“We’ve diligently worked to bring not only the vaccine to people, but also educational opportunities,” said Laurent, who is also the executive director of NYITCOM’s Delta Population Health Institute (DPHI). It makes a huge difference when people are able to visit with a trusted physician and ask questions. We all know there’s so much information out there – both good and bad – that it’s difficult to sort through it all. We’ve really enjoyed connecting with people to answer their questions and to make the vaccine readily available to them.”
This spring, NYITCOM at A-State brought mobile vaccine clinics to communities throughout eastern Arkansas. The medical school has recently, through the DPHI, partnered with specific businesses such as Anchor Packaging, Nestle and Riceland to provide on-site clinics and education.
“We are grateful to the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce for helping connect us with businesses who need help not only delivering the vaccines but also helping their employees understand the safety and importance of getting vaccinated,” Laurent said.
NYITCOM’s faculty physicians have also hosted a number of educational sessions with area businesses like Jonesboro City Water & Light and Hytrol, as well as several school districts. The sessions allowed employees to ask direct questions to local doctors to address concerns and dispel myths. Like many companies, Hytrol and CWL have offered on-site vaccine clinics. CWL reported that many employees took immediate action following the NYITCOM-led session.
“We received a ton of positive feedback from our employees,” said Nate Schimmel, a compliance specialist with CWL who organized the events. “We had a pharmacy set up on site the same day Dr. (Shane) Speights spoke to them, and we had several employees get vaccinated right after hearing from him. It certainly made a difference, and we’re grateful to NYITCOM for being such a great resource.”
At the vaccine events, the Delta Population Health Institute is able to provide the shots at no cost to the recipient thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Minority Health Commission. NYITCOM and the DPHI are also partnering with Arkansas Blue Cross Blue shield on a number of events. NYITCOM’s medical students administer the shots at the events. Since March, NYITCOM has participated in over 40 vaccine clinics throughout eastern and northeast Arkansas at which approximately 5,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered.
“Health outreach and public health are huge parts of our mission,” Laurent said. “When we launched this campus five years ago, we never could have imagined that would include leading a vaccine effort to address a global pandemic. We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”