PCOM Georgia students are volunteering to secure protective gear for local hospitals and assist Gwinnett County residents with food shopping.
Students pursuing degrees in the health professions often feel a calling to care for others. Two groups of students at PCOM Georgia are pursuing this passion and have found themselves with two full-time endeavors.
They’ve transitioned to either taking classes or participating in rotations virtually, while also spending multiple hours volunteering their services during this season of COVID-19.
Under the leadership of osteopathic medicine (DO) student Kathleen Bridges (’21), Medical Students for Masks – Atlanta, got its start just over a week ago. In a short amount of time, more than 50 students have raised over $5,000 to purchase masks and other PPE for healthcare workers. The students have placed their first order and are expecting a delivery soon.
Drawing on her fundraising skills honed in college at the University of Florida, Bridges decided to launch the project after learning about the efforts of students at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia. “They gave me guidance and let us use their material to get started,” she said.
Bridges then reached out to her classmates and was “overwhelmed” by their response. “Every single day, people are being added to the team,” she said, including students from every program on campus and others. Kayla Thomas (DO ’21) developed a website “in a matter of hours.” Donations can be made via Go Fund Me, PayPal or Venmo.
The team has several point people. Kylie Alberts (DO ’21) is in charge of a team that researches and contacts suppliers and ensures that these companies are following FDA and CDC guidelines. They are concentrating on American-based companies that have switched over to creating and securing PPE such as N95 masks and sanitizer.
“We’re using a different avenue of purchasing than a hospital would conventionally use,” Bridges said.
Olga Vacariuc (DO ’21) leads a team that is contacting Georgia hospitals to determine their needs and donation policies. “Every day, hospital needs change and we want to make sure we’re allocating appropriately,” Bridges said. The students are also working to supply gloves, gowns and hand sanitizer.
“We’re running a business out of our living rooms,” Bridges said, relying on Excel spreadsheets to inform them. “Everyone is so passionate about this. I’m really proud of our school,” she said.
Second-year DO student Hiral Patel (’22), along with Amy Tran (DO ’22) and Manali Desai (DO ’22), searched for ways to contribute and decided to develop COVID Captains, a team of students who grocery shop for the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
The team developed an email address, a Facebook page and a survey and began to spread the word about their service with Publix and Kroger distributing flyers. The City of Suwanee and the Lawrenceville Police Department shared the information via social media and soon newspapers and a local TV station carried the story.
With students living across Gwinnett County, the team provides services within a 30 minute radius of the PCOM Georgia campus. Working in teams of two, usually roommates, they either pick up online orders or shop for those not able to.
COVID Captains has received about 20 interest emails in the past week. Patel explained, “We respond with the survey and then match them with a volunteer. The volunteer then completes the delivery.”
Patel graduated from North Gwinnett High School before earning a degree at the University of Georgia. She said, “This is the community where I grew up and I want to help.”
Learn more about the College's response to COVID-19.
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine which has a storied history as a premier osteopathic medical school. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500.
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