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Pharmacy and medical students from California Health Sciences University (CHSU) are participating in the efforts to vaccinate people across the Valley.

“The call came out to our faculty to see if our students and our faculty could both assist in this endeavor,” Dr. John Graneto, dean of the medical school told GV Wire℠ by Zoom on Thursday.

“They actually came to us and said, we want to be able to tell our grandchildren that we participated in the solution to this pandemic.” – Dr. John Graneto, dean of the CHSU medical school

CHSU has been to Sierra Pacific High School in Hanford to help the Kings County Health Department. They’ve also gone to  Golden Valley Health Centers in Merced, Adventist Health in Reedley, and several employees have served multiple times at the Fresno Fairgrounds vaccination site.

Pharmacy Students Were Ready, Medical Students Practiced on Fruit

CHSU has 140 pharmacy students. As part of their licensing agreement, these students are already in prime position to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

“They were already trained officially as vaccinators,” says Graneto. “Some of the more senior pharmacy students already work in commercial pharmacies, giving flu shots, etc.”

When requests from various agencies and health departments started coming in, more attention was paid to the medical students on campus who didn’t have formal training in giving vaccinations.

“We put together a very robust training program within our simulation center,” Graneto said. “We had the students come and demonstrate their technique first on fruits like oranges, which is one of the more common things to start with.”

After progressing from fruit, the students then started practicing on each other. They had to demonstrate their safety protocols and sterile technique to a faculty member before they could go out into the community.

CHSU student administering vaccines at Adventist Health Reedley Jan. 24 (CHSU)

Accommodating Last-Minute Requests

Graneto says in that an ideal world they’d be able to plan out several weeks of visits to sites. Unfortunately, with the slow rollout of the vaccine some of these calls are coming in last minute when a provider finds out they’ve gotten a supply.

“We have students in Firebaugh today helping out and we got that request on Monday afternoon,” Graneto said Thursday.

He said the Fresno County Department of Public Health requests for help at the Fairgrounds location have come a little sooner than requests from other locations.

Being a Part of History

For the medical students, this advanced portion of their curriculum came much faster than normal because of the unprecedented nature of the pandemic. Some of them didn’t even fully realize how unusual it was and even went to administrators with a request of their own.

“They actually came to us and said, we want to be able to tell our grandchildren that we participated in the solution to this pandemic,” Graneto said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for them and they recognize that.”

Central Valley Location

Graneto says he’s proud to be the dean of a school that can play such a pivotal role at this time in history.

“It’s why we’re here in one of the richest states in the United States. We have some of the poorest health outcomes right here in the Central Valley,” he said.

He says he’s extremely happy with the collaboration the pharmacy and medical students have already shown.

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