JONESBORO, AR – As New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCOM at A-State) has worked to provide COVID education and vaccines throughout the region, Dr. Brookshield Laurent 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 serves as chair of clinical medicine at NYITCOM at A-State as well as 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 began hosting mobile vaccine clinics in communities throughout eastern Arkansas. Over the last few weeks, the medical school, through the DPHI, has targeted specific businesses to provide on-site clinics and educational sessions.
NYITCOM’s DPHI has taken teams to area businesses – such as PECO Foods, FMH Conveyers, Anchor Packaging, Delta Peanut, Apex, Nestle and Riceland – to deliver vaccines to their employees.
“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. “We often set up in a break room or another place that’s convenient for the employees, and our faculty physicians can have conversations with people to answer their questions and ease their concerns. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Additionally, NYITCOM’s faculty physicians have 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.
“We know there is a lot of confusion when it comes to COVID,” Hytrol President David Peacock said. “At Hytrol, we also know firsthand how devastating the virus can be and we can see how the vaccine lessens the risk of the worse consequences. Partnering with our medical community is vital so that we ensure our employees have access to the most accurate and up to date information.”
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 the organization received from the Arkansas Minority Health Commission this summer. 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. The clinics have been held at places like businesses, community centers, churches and housing complexes.
“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.”
Image: Adrian Ressing, a second-year medical student at NYITCOM at A-State, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Lacy Gordon at a recent vaccine clinic NYITCOM’s Delta Population Health Institute held at Nestle Foods in Jonesboro.
About NYITCOM at Arkansas State University:
New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, located on the Jonesboro campus of Arkansas State University, is dedicated to improving access to health care for the underserved and rural populations in Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta Region. Arkansas ranks 48th in overall population health status due to low health indicators including obesity and number of adults who smoke. The state also ranks 46th in the number of active physicians per capita and 39th in the number of primary care physicians. NYITCOM at A-State was established in 2016 with the mission of meeting the need for more physicians in this medically underserved area.