U of I: WWAMI medical students assisting with COVID-19 vaccinations

Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 09:43:21-05

IDAHO — The University of Idaho's WWAMI Medical School, like every school, was largely affected by the pandemic.

From remote learning to changes in their clinical, it hasn't been an easy year.

“Interestingly enough, medical schools really shut down for the first time in the history that I have known," Jeff Seegmiller, WWAMI Medical School Director, said. "The first time that we stopped clinical training and things like that really to preserve PPE and not overburden the hospital system.”

But, the people going to medical school go to help others, and not being able to do anything was hard for the students and faculty.

“It has been really frustrating in the sense it is something that I want to help with and I think all of us want to be able to make a difference and be useful, but we are just one step short of being able to really do something about it,” Rory Cole, WWAMI first-year medical student, said.

"One of the hardest things was to watch students not be able to do things," Seegmiller said. "And you know how do you train a physician if they can’t be in the setting and be doing things, so we were all worried nationwide what is the product going to be at the end when they graduate if we cant do some of these things?"

Faculty and students worked together to find a way to get the students more experience and out helping on the front lines.

The medical students were properly trained and are now giving the COVID-19 vaccine to patients in clinics.

"It was an exciting time to see the students fulfilling their dreams," Seegmiller said.

"As a first-year med student, everything is exciting," Cole said. "So learning how to give vaccines and being competent in that skill is really important and a really fun thing."

"Students really were driven to do it and we really wanted to support them," Seegmiller said. "We have to train them to do that, but we don’t have to have them out there volunteering their time during their busy busy schedules so it is something they really wanted to help with.”

Even though this year wasn't what they planned, he said it made them more resilient. With medicine constantly changing, physicians have to be able to adapt quickly.

“This pandemic really created an opportunity to see that 'OK this isn't exactly how I planned and guess what, when I graduate, it’s not going to be exactly how I planned.' There's always going to be something else and they need to be prepared to think on their feet, to critically analyze things, to adapt, and adjust," Seegmiller said.

A silver lining to going to medical school during a pandemic.

“There are opportunities for us to see how it has strengthened us, and I think it is going to make a greater, and a better, and more knowledgeable, and resilient physician in the end because they went through this experience in their training,” Seegmiller said.