Student Spotlight: PharmD Student Lisa Wan Reflects on Her Experience Volunteering on the Frontlines of the Pandemic

As we pass the one-year mark on the COVID-19 pandemic, there continues to be a high demand for qualified healthcare workers, especially those with a pharmacy background whose extensive training allows them to fill many roles at vaccination and medical clinics. Many of those stepping up are pharmacy students, eager to gain clinical experience and use their skills in a real-world setting. One such student is second-year Lisa Wan who has been heavily involved in volunteering at places in need of people like her.

“I feel privileged to be in a position to be fully vaccinated and have a flexible schedule where I can spare time in my week dedicated to other things,” Wan said. “In a sense, I recognize that I am in a unique position and I want to take advantage of that to give back to the community.”

In addition to the extensive immunization training Wan received as part of her pharmacy curriculum with the College, her time volunteering has allowed her to gain hands-on experience in administering vaccines to real-world patients, an opportunity that has been difficult to come by in the time since the pandemic has started. Her prior training combined with her time volunteering has made both her and her fellow pharmacy student peers the perfect candidates to help with this process.

“By now, I’ve done hundreds of vaccinations so I definitely feel much more confident with that skill, compared to just a year ago where I was shaking as I gave out my first flu shot to a real person. As the vaccines become available to more and more people, clinics will be needing a lot more people to help out. That’s where pharmacy students are able to come in,” she explained.

Her peers have taken vaccination volunteering opportunities in stride as well, jumping at the chance to put their skills to the test. 

“I know for a fact that a lot of my classmates are already volunteering to help with vaccination efforts, which is awesome. I am so proud of all of us for helping as much as we could. With our educational background, we’re also able to mentor members of the public who are hesitant about getting the vaccine. I think it’s so important to get out there and do something about it,” noted Wan. “I feel I’ve grown confident in talking and communicating with patients. You get a lot of questions about all types of things when you give out the vaccines. Especially with the massive amount of misinformation out there. I’ve learned a lot from these clinics on how to address such ideas and it helps with my confidence.” 

Although volunteering is rich in clinical experience and beneficial to the places that need help, Wan recognizes that the experience has offered her even more than just hands-on training.

“The most rewarding experience I’ve had was at the Saddlebrooke vaccination clinic with DesertLife pharmacy. The clinic was dedicated to the elderly and at-risk population. I noticed they were especially thankful for receiving their vaccines,” she explained. “They would say things like ‘I’ve been waiting so long for this vaccine’, or ‘I can finally visit my family and grandchildren thanks to this,’ and overall being very thankful for our service.”

Most of all, Wan finds that her position as a pharmacy student makes her volunteering experience even better. It brings her a lot of pride to be studying something that is providing assistance to those in immediate need. Vice versa, when she sees the real-world application of her skills, it is easy to find the value in the career field she is pursuing. She is able to go from the classroom to the clinic and provide invaluable knowledge to help on the frontlines of the pandemic. Her efforts and schooling are being put into immediate effect by protecting her peers and fellow citizens from a pressing, lethal issue.

“The most important thing I’ve learned about myself is that I really like what I’m doing. Recognizing that my career is rewarding to me and that I can probably do this all day reassures me that I’m passionate about what I’m doing and I’ve made the right choice. Emotionally, I just feel fulfilled, satisfied, and happy when I volunteer. Not only do I feel like I’m helping the community, but I also feel like I’m representing pharmacists.”

Story by: Gracie Lordi