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Liberty healthcare students continue serving on front lines of pandemic, begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Liberty University third-year osteopathic medical student Nicolas Du Fayet De La Tour assists a patient at a community clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations at Central Virginia Family Physicians in Forest, Va., on Saturday, Jan. 23. Students helped with patient forms, distributed CDC information, and monitored patients for any post-COVID-19 allergic reactions. (Photos by Chris Breedlove/LUCOM Marketing)

Liberty University’s School of Nursing students and medical students from the College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) have continued to work as front-line healthcare workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, in doing so, are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus. As such, the leadership at Liberty and the medical school advocated that its clinical students be prioritized for the first wave of vaccine rollout to healthcare workers in Virginia, which began this month. The university advocated that its nursing and osteopathic medical students, as well as allied health students, are vital to the healthcare workforce and represent the current and future of healthcare delivery in America and the world.

“We are grateful that our hospital and healthcare partners in the region and beyond Central Virginia recognize the indelible contributions of our students working in community-based settings to contribute to the delivery of clinical care while studying medicine,” said Dr. Joseph Johnson, interim dean for LUCOM.

The School of Nursing faculty are supporting local efforts by volunteering at a variety of places to improve the vaccination rates of the community. Nursing students, once able to, will also be participating in immunization drives that will serve as both clinical experiences and volunteer opportunities. School of Nursing Dean Shanna Akers said that nurses have always been educators of healthy behaviors, and the school is looking forward to supporting its community in this manner.

Liberty University School of Nursing instructor Aimée W. Houghton, MSN, RN, help clears a patient after their waiting period for post-COVID-19 vaccination.

“I am thankful for the community support of our students through the efforts to vaccinate faculty and students as quickly as possible,” Akers said. “The leadership of LU and our clinical colleagues who are supporting the continued development of our nursing students are truly appreciated.”

Liberty’s osteopathic medical students currently in their clinical years of training and education have been guided by their community-based preceptors in multiple healthcare settings across the United States, where they are learning how seasoned physicians, nurses, and allied health staff work in teams to provide compassionate and skilled patient and family-centered care in the midst of the pandemic.

“We are thankful for the partnership and support of LU and LUCOM during these challenging times,” said Shawn Crawford, CEO of CVFP Medical Group. “Vaccinating these healthcare-focused students allows for us to serve them, while also tapping into their potential and skillset to better serve our community.”

While the supply chains for vaccine distribution are opening up nationally, Liberty’s medical school is also working with community-based partners to ensure that additional vaccines are delivered as quickly as possible to Central Virginia to serve the needs of the region.

Dr. Joseph Johnson, interim dean for LUCOM, speaks with volunteers at the clinic.

“We must recognize the extraordinary work of basic and clinical scientists who have developed safe, effective, evidence-based vaccines to combat this disease in America and the world, just months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Chad Brands, LUCOM’s senior associate dean for clinical affairs. “At Liberty, we would like to thank our clinical partners for supplying vaccines to our healthcare professions students and clinical faculty while they continue to work tirelessly to care for others during this challenging time.”

Dr. Scott Hicks, Liberty’s provost and chief academic officer, said the university values the cooperation between the academic departments and the organizations where students serve.

“During this unprecedented time in the field of medicine, we are truly blessed to be surrounded by talented people and community partners,” he said. “Keith Anderson, our executive director of Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives, has worked with our friends at VDH, Centra, and CVFP to ensure that we remain informed and action-oriented concerning the status of COVID-19 and vaccine rollouts. Due to their collaborative efforts, Liberty has been able to mobilize caring students and dedicated clinical faculty in both the School of Nursing and the College of Osteopathic Medicine to assist in meeting the needs of Liberty, the broader Lynchburg community, Southside Virginia, various other states, and countries. It is truly our privilege to be in the position to serve and support.”

Anderson added that Liberty Acting President Jerry Prevo and the COVID-19 Taskforce members are in weekly conversations with the Central Virginia Health District, Centra Health, and CVFP officials to coordinate collaborative efforts in response to the health crisis in the community.

“Liberty University is committed to continuing its diligence in being a resource throughout the greater Lynchburg region and looking forward to our partnership with stakeholders throughout our commonwealth.”

Liberty University osteopathic medical students and nursing students are pictured together outside Central Virginia Family Physicians in Forest, Va., after a morning of volunteering to monitor patients who received COVID-19 vaccinations at a community clinic on Jan. 23.
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