Elon’s Great Cape Race Earns $17,000 for Clinic That Serves the Uninsured

By Katelyn Litvan, Elon University

Superman and Batman couldn’t make it, but there was no shortage of superheroes taking part in the recent Great Cape Escape race at Sullivan Foundation partner school Elon University.

For the seventh year in a row, racers donned capes, masks and costumes and laced up their running shoes. Held virtually across multiple days—instead of gathering runners together to simultaneously run a single route—the Great Cape Escape race kicked off on Sept. 18 and closed on Oct. 10. Participants had three weeks to complete a 5k or 10k run or both.

All the profits from the race went towards the Open Door Clinic, which provides quality health care at no cost to the uninsured of Alamance County. This year’s event raised more than $17,000, enough money to cover all medications for Open Door patients for an entire year.

The hero-themed race took on a virtual form for the second year in a row due to pandemic restrictions. While runners were able to participate at any time throughout the three-week race period, virtual festivities were held on Oct. 9. The online event awarded top runners and celebrated the total amount raised by sponsors and participants.

“We decided to be virtual again this year out of an abundance of caution,” said Morgan Darrow, an Elon physician assistant studies student and member of the Great Cape Escape planning committee. “We thought of ways we could ensure none of the participants would get sick but, with the way things have been with COVID, we hated to risk it.”

Racers were able to log their miles through the ItsYourRace website. Although the Great Cape Escape website provided some pre-measured race routes, racers were encouraged to get creative with their miles by running on the beach, forest or open road.

More than 130 participants took part in this year’s race. “The best thing about having a virtual race was that heroes from across the country were able to support it,” said Darrow. “We even had runners from Vermont and Indiana!”

Despite the flexibility that the virtual race format offers, the race organizers hope to hold the race in person next fall. “We love getting to see everyone in person in their superhero attire and see everyone supporting the Open Door Clinic,” Darrow added.

The Open Door Clinic of Alamance County treats over 600 patients a year. The Elon University Physician’s Assistant program volunteers at many of the clinic’s fundraising events. More information can be found here.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Elon University website.

UVA, MBU Team Up to Expand Healthcare Options for Children With Autism

Sullivan Foundation partner schools University of Virginia (UVA) and Mary Baldwin University (MBU) will lead a collaborative effort to expand healthcare options for children living with autism and other developmental disabilities in a region where such services are scarce.

The UVA-MBU partnership is the foundation of Blue Ridge LEND, a multi-year program made possible with funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The new program will join a national network of 60 Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) programs across the country. The $2.2 million grant establishes a graduate-level training program with an interdisciplinary focus and emphasis on leadership development in the field.

Focused on the rural Blue Ridge and Appalachian region of Virginia and bordering states, Blue Ridge LEND positions training as an effective strategy to expand the field’s workforce, advocate for best practices and innovations, and increase capacity for vital services.

Related: How Clemson’s Coach Dabo Swinney works miracles off the field

UVA and MBU bring to Blue Ridge LEND proven experience in preparing students across multiple disciplines to work together in the field of childhood neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Micah Mazurek, a clinical psychologist and professor of education at the UVA School of Education and Human Development, and Dr. Beth Ellen Davis, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and professor at the UVA School of Medicine, will serve as co-directors of the Blue Ridge LEND.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the potential for this new program to improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities across our region,” Mazurek said. “The Blue Ridge LEND will equip the next generation of leaders and professionals from across disciplines with the skills they need to advance the field and improve systems of care.”

After receiving the grant earlier this summer, work on Blue Ridge LEND training initiatives officially began on August 1 and will be funded for five years.

Lisa Shoaf, dean of Mary Baldwin’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, worked with physical therapy student trainees in the VCU LEND program as a faculty member there before coming to MBU in 2012.

“The new Blue Ridge LEND partnership brings together the talents and expertise of both universities right at the heart of our mission—preparing students to work with professionals in multiple healthcare fields and provide care here in our community,” Shoaf said.

The program will combine faculty expertise in occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) at MBU with nursing, psychology, special education, speech-language pathology and medicine at UVA. Faculty and trainees from family and self-advocacy disciplines will contribute lived experience and expertise.

MBU professors Pamela Stephenson and Carolyn Moore, who both share an expertise in working with children in their fields, will join the Blue Ridge LEND faculty and teach as part of the partnership.

Starting this academic year, second-year students in MBU’s PT and OT graduate programs will join their UVA counterparts in medicine, nursing, psychology, special education, and speech-language pathology as LEND fellows, taking part in weekly interdisciplinary classes and clinical work on all aspects of neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, as well as leadership and research.

Related: Auburn to lead STEM education initiative for students with disabilities

Those students will graduate with a special LEND certificate that will open doors for them in the highly competitive field of pediatric care. In addition to this year-long experience for LEND fellows, the Blue Ridge LEND will offer a wide range of training and continuing education opportunities for students and practicing professionals across the region.

In addition to specialized skills, faculty and clinical partners at both universities will help empower LEND trainees to envision themselves as future healthcare leaders who will innovate and advocate for broader systems change in the disabilities field.

Now in motion, a domino effect of benefits stemming from Blue Ridge LEND can lead to eventual improvements in entire systems of care as well as important advances in neurodevelopmental practice, research and understanding, said Shoaf.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Mary Baldwin University website.

Brenau University Students Treat Farmworkers and Their Families in Rural Georgia

By Kathryne Davis, Brenau University

Faculty and students in Brenau University’s Ivester College of Health Sciences traveled to a farming community near Moultrie, Georgia, this summer to provide vital health care to workers and their children.

It marked the third time Brenau’s Department of Physical Therapy has participated in the Farmworker Family Health Program, having previously visited in 2018 and 2019. This year, they were also joined for the first time by students and faculty from Brenau’s Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling.

“Since this was our first year, we were learning about what needed to be done,” said Cindy Grapenthin, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Brenau Center for Counseling & Psychological Services on the Norcross campus.

“We were able to work mostly with the children and provide informal screenings, identify children who may need more counseling or that might need formal assessments due to some learning deficits,” she added. “We provided group activities for the children and worked on self-esteem, cooperation and social skills. The students benefited greatly from the experience, and we look forward to returning next year.”

Related: Brenau University’s pen-pal program helps elderly people with memory problems

The Farmworker Family Health Program is an interprofessional and cultural immersion service-learning experience founded by Dr. Judy Wold during her time at Georgia State University and later Emory University. Other universities in Georgia with programs in nursing and dentistry were involved as well.

“It’s a wonderful interdisciplinary experience,” said Bob Cantu, assistant professor of physical therapy at Brenau, on working with other universities and students in other fields. “At the night camps, we have nurses doing the initial intake and nurse practitioners doing evaluations with our students. They were always discussing and collaborating on different ways to evaluate and treat patients.”

During the day, third-year Brenau PT students went to local elementary schools to assess gross and fine motor skills of the children of the farmworkers. Around 100 children were evaluated this year.

“If we see a child who is falling below average, we can refer them to more services, like the local health clinic,” said Tammy Buck, assistant professor of physical therapy at Brenau. “By doing that, hopefully the children can get those needs met and not have as many delays.”

In the evening, after the farmworkers have completed work for the day, Brenau students evaluated and subsequently treated them for various musculoskeletal impairments or injuries, which can happen after working long hours in the fields.

“I wanted to go to Moultrie to give back to the local farmers,” said Brenau PT student Cayley Gunter from Johnsville, South Carolina, one of the 11 participating physical therapy students, which was a smaller group than usual due to COVID precautions. “I come from an area where farming is a way of life for some people, and I have seen some of the hardships that come with being a farmer. I wanted to be able to give back to them the same way they give to us.”

The Moultrie service trip provided learning experiences for those involved that went beyond treating the physical ailments of the farmworkers. Since the farmworkers primarily spoke Spanish while the PT students spoke English, the language barrier provided a challenge to several students.

Related: How Brenau University helps unseen and forgotten populations survive the pandemic

“Out of the more than 200 patients we saw, only a few of the adults spoke English,” said Brenau physical therapy student Kyle Keepers from Roswell, Georgia. “Learning how to take a subjective history or explain a treatment to each patient in another language was certainly a difficult task. The translators were there to help us, but even communicating to the patient through them added another layer of much-needed comprehension that was difficult at times.”

Like many of her Brenau PT classmates, Dominique Richard was able to pick up on some Spanish through the interpreters and the farmworkers. The Zachary, Louisiana, native welcomed the experience in taking care of people with different backgrounds.

“I was able to interact with a farmworker who was in the process of learning English,” she said. “During his treatment session, we were able to communicate about each other’s backgrounds and families. Being able to hear the instant effect that my classmates and I had on the farmworker’s aches and pains was one of the best things about the trip. Simply taking our time to listen to the farmers about their concerns and doing our best to provide a service made their day as well as ours.”

Cantu said Brenau will continue to participate in the yearly service trip to Moultrie after the positive feedback and experiences from students and people involved with the program. There are plans to have other disciplines from Brenau join as well.

This article has been edited and condensed from the original version on the Brenau University website.


UVA Health Student Nurse Finds Renewed Personal Mission in the Pandemic

By Amy Preddy Hughes

Since May 2020, UVA Health, the University of Virginia’s medical school and hospital, has been providing hundreds of COVID-19 tests per week to members of the local community. Teams of UVA volunteers host events three or four times per week to bring testing to residents who otherwise may not have access.

As of March 31, 8,376 tests had been administered at these events.

“It has brought testing to the community in a way that’s accessible and safe,” said Trisha Durfee, who has been using her nursing skills to combat the pandemic for more than a year. “I think it gives people this sense of calm and comfort in the storm that there’s this resource to go get tested. There are so many communities across the country that have very limited testing.”

Durfee has emerged as a leader in UVA Health’s COVID-19 effort, even as she continued her nursing career in the Medical Center—and wrapped up the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the UVA School of Nursing. On Friday, she walked the Lawn for graduation, fulfilling a childhood dream.

Meanwhile in the background, Durfee has a family at home (a husband, four kids, two cats, a dog, and a bearded dragon).

Related: How a University of South Carolina Business School project could save lives in cancer clinical trials

The Testing Effort
At every testing event, there are at least four UVA volunteers swabbing, accompanied by four to six assistants. Several more volunteers support the effort by greeting, registering, helping with paperwork, explaining the process, answering general questions and directing traffic.

Multiply that crew by three or four events every week, and there are a lot of volunteer hours needed to provide this service to the community. To date, more than 200 UVA Health team members have participated in the community testing events.

The events are designed to primarily provide drive-through testing, but because they take place in neighborhoods, there is often walk-up traffic. Events are regularly held at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church on Lankford Avenue and at the Southwood Community Center on Hickory Street, both in Charlottesville, Va. They also rotate to other locations as needed. These organizations and other community partners have been vital to the operations by offering resources and space.

Durfee said the number of tests completed at a given event ebbs and flows, and usually, the size of the neighborhoods is reflected in the number of individuals requesting tests.

Southwood, for example, is primarily a Hispanic community, and it tends to be busier, with a lot of walk-up demand, she said. In general, the Hispanic community has had higher rates of COVID-19 compared to the rest of the region.

Related: Cancer survivor Haley Tyrrell teaches isolated patients how to write their own fight songs

One Nurse’s Journey
In her regular job, Durfee is the charge nurse in the UVA Dermatology clinic. At the beginning of the pandemic, the clinic suspended appointments and closed down. Durfee became one of the first nurses to volunteer in the COVID Clinic, which opened in March 2020.

As the COVID Clinic operations evolved and more became known about the coronavirus, Durfee was asked to do point prevalence testing, which is testing in congregate living facilities, like dorms, when there is an outbreak.

She embraced the work. Eventually, she found herself knee-deep in the testing environment. The community testing events began in May 2020; Durfee volunteered at the first event at Mount Zion and quickly became a crucial member of the team. Soon, she started recruiting colleagues to assist at the events. She felt there were many team members who wanted to help but weren’t sure how to contribute. She sent out an email to solicit volunteers and received an overwhelming response. Within two days, 70 team members signed up to help out, and all the volunteer spaces were filled.

“It’s been really inspiring to see the number of people helping,” Durfee said. “The whole team has just been working really hard, and I’m proud of them.”

When the Dermatology Clinic opened again and clinic appointments filled up, Durfee worked her regular shifts during the day, then helped at the testing sites a couple evenings a week. “For all of us who are doing the community testing, it really is a labor of love, because we all have our full-time positions and we’re doing this as well,” she said.

As time passed, a core group of team members emerged as regulars at the testing events, and Durfee grew close to them. “The number of people who I’ve met volunteering from the different areas of UVA Health and the community is amazing,” she said. Without COVID-19, “all of these people probably would never have had a chance to talk to each other. The fact that they all came together makes it a very humbling experience. If there is a silver lining to COVID-19 in any way, it’s the way that it has brought the UVA community together.”

In recent months, Durfee’s assistance was needed with the vaccination effort, so she pivoted once more to help at the vaccination clinics.

Related: Hollins University’s “Tick Lady” works to combat Lyme disease

Personal Growth
From the COVID Clinic to community testing to vaccination, Durfee has gone where she was needed most. She admitted she hasn’t slept a lot lately, but, to her, it’s worth it because she knows she is helping her neighbors.

Durfee said things have changed a lot in the past year, and so has she. “My perspective has changed from only patient care to a wider view of how we can—and do—impact health care,” she said. “It also taught me to think like a leader.”

Durfee has grown. She has given a lot of herself, and she is using that to become the best version of herself. She plans to take her whirlwind experience during the pandemic, her formal education and her desire to make a difference and use it all to lead the next generation of nurses, “which is not anywhere I had previously envisioned myself,” she said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Virginia website.

How a School of Business Project Could Save Lives in Cancer Clinical Trials

By Marjorie Riddle Duffie

A team of operations and supply chain students at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business learned during the spring semester how they could save a life—without ever stepping foot in a hospital.

Team members were focused on reducing the time it takes Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to activate industry-sponsored cancer clinical trials. Their recommendations for more efficient processes could get a patient started on a trial before their cancer becomes terminal, and the treatment could be approved faster by the Food and Drug Administration for eligible patients, thus saving many more lives.

“The stakes are really high. If a trial isn’t approved in time, the patient unfortunately could pass away,” said TJ McCoy, a recent operations and supply chain graduate who will work with Bell Helicopter in Dallas this summer. “With our recommendations, we have the ability to reduce the likelihood of the outcome, which is someone dying. The project is one of the coolest things I’ve done in school.”

Related: Cancer survivor and musician Haley Tyrrell teaches isolated patients how to write their own fight songs

The project was part of the new Operations and Supply Chain Humanitarian Initiative to improve operations, business processes and supply chains at nonprofit organizations and, ultimately, make their work more impactful. Students and faculty members partner with for-profit companies, who will sponsor semester- and yearlong projects for the nonprofit organizations.

Led by faculty mentors Sanjay Ahire and Jack Jensen, the student team that worked on the cancer trial project also included Julia “Lane” Herlong, Shang-Yi Peng, Scarlett Pho and Trent Stroup. They recently presented at the 2021 Industry Summit their 23 strategic recommendations to improve the cancer trials’ overall time to activation by about 30 percent—solutions that could ultimately keep patients from dying.

Faster activation of cancer trials at the Medical University of South Carolina could save countless lives.

High Stakes for Cancer Trial Activation
With the current administrative time MUSC invests before trials even begin, about 50 percent of the trials they tried to launch in recent years didn’t have a single patient enrolled in them. By the time they were ready to begin the trial, the patients’ cancer had progressed too far, they had already moved on to a different trial or they had died, said Herlong, a recent operations and supply chain and international business graduate who will begin working with Deposco in Atlanta this summer.

With industry trials, if MUSC didn’t get the trial underway in a more expedited manner, the trial could end up going to a bigger city, which not only takes funding away from the school but also forces South Carolina patients to go farther away to participate in the lifesaving trials.

“The students and our faculty applied the same principles of agile process design on this project that were implemented in the highly effective Operation Warp Speed COVID-19 vaccines development initiative that saw the vaccine development timeline compressed from years to months,” said Ahire, a professor and co-director of the Moore’s Operations and Supply Chain Center.

While the students learned a great deal about analyzing a complex process, the recommendations they made could make a real difference by decreasing the patients’ clinical trial wait time by a third.

“While we have completed numerous process improvement projects with Fortune 500 firms, the MUSC project has been both challenging and valuable to mentor. Students came away with a sense of mission, and we helped with useful recommendations to flow the clinical trial studies quicker through the activation process,” said Jensen, a clinical professor of operations and supply chain management who has led projects alongside Ahire over the past 10 years.

Related: Ole Miss pharmacy professor helps the underserved in the Mississippi Delta

MUSC’s Patrick Flume said he admired the way the students grasped the complexities of clinical trials across several universities. Flume, an M.D., directs MUSC’s Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center and is the Powers-Huggins Endowed Chair for Cystic Fibrosis.

“Helping us improve our processes to speed up the startup time is essential because time matters to everyone: to the study drug sponsor and to our teams where there are financial considerations, but also especially for the patients, where time, and more of it, is what they want,” Flume says.

Learning the Intricacies of Clinical Oncology Trials
Most students who participate in the senior capstone projects through the Moore School’s center must get up to speed with the company’s business challenge. For the MUSC cancer trials project, the students also had to familiarize themselves with the clinical oncology trials that includes an intricate multi-step process to match patients with trials that best fit their situation.

The Moore School team analyzed multiple data sets from various clinical trials and had detailed conversations with MUSC staff and affiliates to inform their 460-point operations data map.

Through interviews with various groups associated with the clinical trials within MUSC and across eight universities—including Dartmouth College, the University of Rochester and the University of North Carolina—the team conducted internal and external benchmarking for MUSC’s current processes.

Pho, a senior operations and supply chain, finance and Honors College student who will graduate in December, said the group learned valuable skills beyond the scope of the project. For example, the team presented a 200-plus-slide report to more than 20 research and administration leaders from MUSC.

Dr. Sanjay Ahire co-led a team of business school students in developing more efficient processes for activating cancer clinical trials.

Ahire and Jensen closely oversaw the MUSC group’s project because of the high stakes for the possible outcomes as well as the organization being one of the first to take part in the center’s Operations and Supply Chain Humanitarian Initiative.

In recent years, Ahire’s undergraduate courses have focused on projects that help socially missioned nonprofits become more efficient.

This service sparked an idea for Ahire to create a pipeline for socially missioned nonprofits to participate in the Industry Summits, which since 2008 have partnered teams of students and Moore School faculty with business executives to increase efficiency. These partnerships have amounted to more than $280 million in recurring cost-savings measures. Companies pay to participate in the projects; with the initiative, some nonprofits are now being sponsored by larger corporations.

Ahire created the Operations and Supply Chain Humanitarian Initiative to give back to community organizations in three ways. A partnering organization or individual donor sponsors a nonprofit of their choice or one chosen by Ahire and his colleagues. Or a nonprofit with a social mission pays for their project.

In each instance students serve organizations that provide vital services like the MUSC cancer trials, Harvest Hope food bank and United Way Association of South Carolina, which has 25 branches that serve vulnerable populations across the state.

Ahire sees these nonprofit projects as an opportunity to give back to the community.

“The capstone course has completed more than 290 projects for the for-profit companies. In the next five years, such an initiative will be even more impactful,” Ahire says. “For nonprofits, it won’t just be savings in dollars but savings in lives and dignity for vulnerable populations, right? That’s the idea.”

This article has been edited and condensed from the original version appearing on the University of South Carolina website.

Cancer Survivor Haley Tyrrell Teaches Isolated Patients How to Write Their Own Fight Songs

By Lynn Adams Wilkins

When it comes to facing life’s battles, Haley Tyrrell, a senior at the University of Mississippi, knows everyone needs their own fight song. And she helps them write it.

Tyrrell’s journey began in Ridgewood, N.J., where she grew up, and took her through a battle with cancer before leading her to music and to Ole Miss, a Sullivan Foundation partner school.

At Ole Miss, Tyrrell’s opportunities expanded to match her boundless spirit. From solo recitals to choral performances to her work with Pi Beta Phi and the Living Music Resource, Tyrrell has used each experience to end up right where she wants to be: teaching in the classroom with the Fight Song Project, which uses music to connect students who are isolated—by hospital stays, as she once was, or even by COVID19, as everyone has been.

Related: This Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient beat breast cancer and helps other black women do the same

Tyrrell said she created the Fight Song Project to help people connect and stay strong by writing their own fight songs. “Fight can mean many things,” she said. “We all have obstacles we need to battle, things we need to overcome.”

A fight song expresses those battles and energizes the singer to keep going. “I am a cancer survivor and an amputee,” said Tyrrell, whose experience taught her a lot about staying strong. “I lost my leg to cancer in 2009, and music played a huge role in my recovery.”

A serious athlete as a child, Tyrrell discovered she had bone cancer when a broken leg took her to the hospital. The hospital ward was a pretty lonely place, she learned, but music was always an escape. Afterward, she got involved with theater and discovered a love for music and for performing. “That’s why I’m a music education major today,” she said.

Haley Tyrrell launched the Fight Song Project, which uses music to connect students who are isolated, in the Oxford and Lafayette County, Miss. school districts.

Tyrrell piloted the Fight Song Project this spring. Children met via Zoom to express themselves and socialize with others in a nurturing and creative environment. They worked together with Tyrrell to develop content, write lyrics, compose music and record it.

“All the lyrics came from poems that they wrote,” Tyrrell said. The resulting song celebrated the love and support the students get from their families. “Now they have a song they can return to, to empower them to get through whatever they’re dealing with in their own lives.”

The idea for the project crystallized when Tyrrell learned about Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, a songwriting initiative that pairs pregnant women and new parents in correctional facilities, foster care and homeless shelters with professional artists to write and sing personal lullabies for their babies.

“That was a huge inspiration for me,” she said. “I thought how helpful it would have been for me to be able to express myself through music during my experience with cancer. This process of expression is great for kids because they are dealing with so much. Through the Fight Song Project, they get to take control and create their own song.”

Related: Furman University professor co-creates mobile app for parents of children with cancer

As a student, Tyrrell worked as an undergraduate assistant for the Living Music Resource (LMR), which connects students to real-world experience in music professions and arts-based community service. She learned about the Lullaby Project when LMR participated in the 2018 International Teaching Artist Collaborative Conference hosted by Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Dreamyard.

“Through LMR, I was also able to gain professional experience in the music industry, collaborate with my peers and take ownership for projects I was a part of,” she said. “One highlight was being the student director of LMR’s first-ever cabaret competition. I coordinated auditions, selected acts, created a program and arranged rehearsals for performers.”

Being part of the cabaret competition gave Tyrrell skills she needed to start the Fight Song Project and the confidence to know she could do it. She was supported by her voice professor, Nancy Maria Balach and assisted by LMR colleague Alexis Rose and UM music alumnae Hannah Gadd Ardrey.

“Students absolutely loved participating in the Fight Song Project,” said Ardrey, choral director at Lafayette High School in Oxford, Miss. “They enjoyed working with Haley because she was funny and personable. She made the project easy to understand and a fun process.”

In the future, Tyrrell sees herself teaching music and continuing to develop the Fight Song Project, eventually taking it to pediatric hospitals, where she has been volunteering on and off since she was a patient herself. After graduation, she’ll start working right away in New York City, teaching with Teach for America and attending graduate school.

Tyrrell (right) celebrates completing her senior recital with Nancy Maria Balach, her voice professor.

“In creating the Fight Song Project, Haley drew on her personal background, her music education training and career development opportunities to create something unique,” said Balach, professor of music and artistic director of LMR. “She even successfully adapted her idea to a virtual formal due to the pandemic. Her ability to connect with people helped build trust with her Fight Song students.”

“Haley is an inspiration because she embodies how you define who and what you want to be, and she demonstrates that in all areas of her life,” Balach added.

Thomas Ardrey, choral director at Oxford High School, agreed. Tyrrell did student teaching in his classroom during the spring 2021 semester. “Haley’s vibrant, outgoing personality allowed her to quickly build a relationship with our students,” he said. “I know that, with her personality and high level of musicianship, she will become a valued member of our profession.”

Student teaching provided valuable experience and feedback, Tyrrell said. “The students are so excited to learn and make music,” she said. “Everyone welcomed me with open arms, and I am definitely going to miss them when I graduate.”

With a college career packed with rehearsals, performances, music classes, studio lessons, recitals, special projects in music through LMR and, in the spring of 2021, student teaching, Tyrrell still had energy to spread across campus. She served as a team captain for RebelTHON, a College of Liberal Arts Student Council member and an active member of both Lambda Sigma and Order of Omega honor societies and the American Choral Directors Association.

“As part of my Miss Ole Miss campaign, I hosted Ole Miss’s first-ever ‘Gold Out,’ where I encouraged the student body to ‘Go Gold’ in order to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research,” Tyrrell said.

“All of these organizations and experiences enriched my college career, but the most memorable and impactful experience was serving as chapter president of Pi Beta Phi fraternity for women.”

As president, Tyrrell met the responsibility of leading 400 women, ensuring positive and productive chapter life, and overseeing all aspects of the chapter. “Leading through the uncertainties of the pandemic taught me important communication, problem-solving and team-leading skills,” she said.

“From implementing COVID-19 protocols to coordinating socially distanced and virtual events, my term was not what I expected, but I learned more about myself and grew more than I had in my entire college career,” she added. “I wouldn’t change it for the world and would do it over again in a heartbeat.”

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the University of Mississippi website.

UA Nursing Student Focuses on Taking Care of the Underserved in Birmingham

For LaDarryl Banks, a nursing student at Sullivan Foundation partner school University of Alabama, being a nurse is more than caring for individual patients—it’s about serving the community.

“We need people who are passionate and invested in our communities and making positive changes in health care,” Banks said. “We are making progress, slowly but surely.”

Banks will graduate from UA’s Capstone College of Nursing RN Mobility (RN to BSN) program in May. As an RN and office manager at Cahaba Medical Center’s West End location, a nonprofit healthcare center in Birmingham, he not only provides care to historically underserved populations but also works to improve their community, which he, too, calls home.

Related: Ole Miss pharmacy professor helps the underserved of the Mississippi Delta

One of his biggest areas of impact has been assisting his colleagues in securing grants for school-based health centers and COVID-19 mobile clinics in west Birmingham.

“One of my favorite parts of being a nurse is going beyond providing someone the healthcare resources they need and teaching them how to manage or treat their condition,” Banks said. “By going to our schools and using the mobile clinic, we can reach those who can’t come to us.”

Banks said he decided to pursue a career in nursing because he has always been a natural empath and caregiver.

“I learned compassion as the middle child in my family and also watching my grandmother and her nurses during her time in hospice care,” he said. “Nursing is my calling and my passion—it’s always my goal to not make my work about me, but, rather, the impact that we can all make when we work together.”

Banks began his nursing education at Lawson State Community College, where he received his Associate of Science degree in nursing. After obtaining his registered nursing license in Alabama, he knew he wanted to attend UA’s RN to BSN program, he said.

“I always recommend the UA program to my colleagues. The faculty and staff at CCN understand the challenges we have faced in health care throughout the pandemic and beyond,” he said. “They understand the stress related to our jobs, and they go above and beyond to help students be successful.”

Banks recently received the 2021 Outstanding RN Mobility Student award given by the CCN Epsilon Omega Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society. This award recognizes a student who demonstrates outstanding achievement and ability in scholarship, professional involvement and leadership.

Related: Dr. Sarah Imam of The Citadel teaches the human side of medicine

In addition to working fulltime and being active in the community, Banks adds home health visits on the weekends and plans to pursue advanced nursing education.

“I plan to continue my education and apply to UA’s Master of Science in Nursing degree program with a specialization in the Dual Nurse Practitioner Concentration in Psychiatric Mental Health and Family Nurse Practitioner,” said Banks. “I realize I am just a dent in the universe, but my calling and focus remain to learn more about how to not only treat but manage addictions and diseases continuing to plague our area.”

Banks added, “I am a firm believer in treating a patient’s mind, body and soul for recovery.”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Alabama website.

These Mercer University Student Volunteers Have Administered Thousands of COVID-19 Vaccines

By Jennifer Falk

Students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University are playing a major role in administering COVID-19 vaccines to the Atlanta community.

Over the past three Saturdays, March 6, 13 and 20, students in the physician assistant program in the College of Health Professions have given thousands of vaccinations at a site located at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Being part of the vaccination site was like being part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” said Sara Kaplan, a second-year student in the physician assistant program. “Every shot that goes in an arm is, hopefully, one less person that ends up in the hospital … This disease has really torn the fabric of America, and it’s just really, really powerful to be part of the process that is helping end this pandemic.”

Related: Mercer University partners with Real Impact Center to get girls excited about STEM

As of March 15, Georgia had administered nearly 2.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with about 16% of the population receiving at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.

Many Mercer students have wanted to help since the beginning of the pandemic but were unable to do so, said Arlene Salmon, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. “They were just in a unique position because they were getting all this medical training, but there wasn’t an opportunity because they weren’t fully qualified,” she said.

Then, when the vaccines came out, they were “uniquely positioned” to be able to administer them, said Salmon.

Arlene Salmon, a clinical assistant professor in the Mercer University College of Health Professions Department of Physician Assistant Studies, shows Sara Kaplan, a second-year student, how to prepare a COVID-19 vaccine.

The students already knew how to give intramuscular injections, which is required for the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S., as it was a core lab skill that they learned during their first year in the physician assistant program.

Salmon reached out to Fulton County officials to see if the students could help. In addition to giving shots at the mass vaccination site, plans are in the works for students to go out in mobile units to vaccinate underserved populations.

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“Our program is very service-oriented, and we felt a little bit like a fish out of water when we weren’t able to go out there and help with the pandemic,” said Dr. Jill Mattingly, chair and clinical associate professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. “We supported from behind the scenes, but now, with this, the students feel empowered to be part of the effort across the country.”

Students jumped at the chance to help, quickly filling the 20 volunteer slots available each Saturday at the mass vaccination site. They work 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at tables of two set up in the concessions area of Mercedes-Benz stadium.

“It’s just a stream of people coming in, and it’s really like one after another after another,” Kaplan said.

Not only do students give the shots, but they also prepare the vaccine for injection. This involves bringing the main portion of the vaccine from frozen to room temperature, reconstituting it with a diluent and drawing single doses of the vaccine out of the vial, said Tyler Fredlund, a second-year student who helped with the process.

“It just feels really rewarding to be able to know that the vaccine that you’re giving these people is really going to make a big difference,” Fredlund said.

The students have met all sorts of people at the site, from the grandfather eager to see his grandchildren for the first time in a year to the hesitant woman whose daughter made her come.

“I’ve given so many shots, but I’ve never given a shot that made me feel like I was actually, really changing lives,” Kaplan said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Mercer University website.

Ole Miss Pharmacy Professor Helps the Underserved of the Mississippi Delta

By Patrick Smith

For Meagan Brown, a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at Sullivan Foundation partner school University of Mississippi, serving the underserved has been the driving force in her career.

Since joining the UM School of Pharmacy faculty in 2011, Brown has been involved in the Mississippi Delta Health Collaborative. The project, funded through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focuses on providing clinical pharmacy services in the Mississippi Delta.

Many residents in the Mississippi Delta face high levels of chronic disease, exacerbated by high poverty and health disparities in the region. Brown and her colleagues sought to improve health outcomes and show that pharmacists can make a difference for patients dealing with cardiometabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia.

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Meagan Brown

Brown, in particular, conducted her work at a federally qualified health clinic in Yazoo City. The work has made her a better pharmacist and educator, she said.

“Being in the Mississippi Delta, there were a number of socioeconomic barriers that existed,” Brown said. “It really teaches you the balance of what we teach our students in school versus what they’re really able to do when they’re out in the real world. Ideally, we would pick the best therapy for a patient. But if it’s an expensive drug and the patient doesn’t have insurance or even a ride to the pharmacy to pick it up, that presents another set of challenges.”

Brown said this work has been invaluable to her students as well. Ole Miss students and residents working alongside her not only get hands-on experience, they also receive preparation for a future in serving patients who may be facing challenging circumstances.

“It has helped them experience and navigate those socioeconomic barriers that patients have,” Brown said.

According to the researchers, significant improvement in the health of patients was observed over the course of the grant. And though the funding ended in 2019, Brown has continued her work in the Delta, working at the clinic two days a week.

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Her work extends to other areas. In 2020, Brown and Justin Sherman, an associate professor of pharmacy practice at UM, received one of the university’s inaugural Achieving Equity Grants. Brown is serving as co-principal investigator with Sherman, exploring health inequities stemming from the use of vaping and other electronic nicotine delivery systems.

She and Sherman will seek, through a series of focus groups, to get thoughts from students about their perceptions of the dangers associated with tobacco products, particularly around vaping.

Brown pointed out that there is a disproportionate health burden on disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups for smoking-related diseases. However, not much literature exists focusing on usage by youth and young adults, particularly for vaping. Her research will seek to remedy that.

Besides her work as a faculty member, Brown also has served as a member of the National Pharmaceutical Association since 2017. She was asked to serve on the organization’s board of directors and previously served as the clinical initiatives chair. As the association’s convention chair, she is planning the group’s national convention set for July in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1947, NPhA is an organization that seeks to elevate the voices of minority pharmacists and bring attention to issues facing underserved communities. Brown said the organization aligned perfectly with her career goals.

“We’re a small but mighty group,” Brown said. “I think, especially this year, NPhA has risen to the top as an organization that really can help folks identify some areas for improvement and serve as a resource in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Lakesha Butler, immediate past president of NPhA, praised Brown’s work for the organization. Butler pointed to Brown’s work as the clinical initiatives chair, where she led the collaborative efforts between NPhA and VotER.org as the organizations celebrated Civic Health Month by providing members with resources to assist in signing patients up to vote.

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Brown also took the lead in NPhA’s initiatives on chronic kidney disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“I have known Dr. Brown for close to 10 years as a mentee, colleague and friend,” Butler said. “Her passion for underserved communities, work ethic, leadership, tenacity and overall great personality made her the ideal candidate as I identified individuals to serve on the NPhA board of directors during my presidency.”

“I wanted individuals who would be ready to work hard and be committed to the vision I set forward,” Butler added. “Meagan was all of that and more.”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Mississippi website.

Nursing Students at Tennessee Wesleyan University Volunteering to Boost Vaccination Efforts

As the coronavirus pandemic continues and demand for vaccinations rises nationwide, Dr. Kellee Vess, an associate professor of nursing at Tennessee Wesleyan University’s Fort Sanders Nursing Department, has never seen a time like this. Recognizing the need and a unique opportunity to help, Dr. Vess, her colleagues and TWU Fort Sanders Nursing students have volunteered in recent weeks to administer COVID-19 vaccines all over the Knoxville, Tenn. area.

According to the National Council of State Board Nursing (NCSBN), high volume in populated areas and nurse shortages in rural areas have created a problem for the COVID-19 vaccine. There simply aren’t enough nurses to administer the vaccine at the rate that is needed. As a result, partnerships with nursing education programs are being encouraged so that nursing students who have been taught the principles of the COVID-19 vaccine can help administer it.

TWU Fort Sanders Nursing, in its ongoing partnership with Covenant Health, answered this call. To this point, the nursing school has provided more than 30 student and faculty volunteers who have given more than 250 hours of service at five different Covenant Health locations. And the numbers keep climbing as Covenant Health, a network of hospitals in Knoxville, continues to utilize TWU volunteers.

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“It was a great experience,” said Dr. Vess of her time volunteering at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “It was just humbling. And I was so proud to be a nurse. I’m so proud to be a nurse [and] that I could go into the hospital, help give the immunizations to people that are caring for COVID patients day in and day out. It felt like such an honor to be able to help them in that small way.”

The vaccines are largely being administered to Covenant Health’s frontline workers.

Nursing student Michael Dalton administers a COVID-19 vaccination.

“How many people are actually frontline that we don’t think of as frontline?” said Michael Dalton, a senior nursing student at TWU Fort Sanders. “Of course, we think of the ER and ICU. But what about the people that are actually behind the scenes that we’re helping? It was just amazing. I had such a great experience with that. It made me proud that I’m continuing on with this career.”

“We gave 700 vaccines in three hours,” said senior Carol Stiles of one of her shifts at Parkwest Medical Center. “Those 700 people were almost all Covenant Health employees. Everyone seemed to know everyone and were all genuinely happy to see each other. People were saying, ‘Happy Vaccination Day,’ as if it were a celebration. There were smiles all around. I got a sense of pride, unity, and family being around this bunch.”

Members of the TWU Fort Sanders Nursing family have worked as teams in Covenant Health facilities in Roane County, Morristown, Loudon, Oak Ridge, and Fort Sanders Regional in downtown Knoxville. No matter the location, the students and faculty have seen the impact of the vaccines.

“I really felt like the people were hopeful,” added Dr. Vess, when asked about the morale at Fort Sanders. “People were very energized getting their vaccines. Lots of people talked about what the future is going to look like after they get their second vaccine.”

“I have volunteered three times so far and plan to continue as my crazy schedule will allow, because it is the most important and rewarding thing I have done in a long time,” Stiles said. “I am part of history in doing this. I am literally helping to stop this terrible pandemic.”

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Outside of the service opportunity, the experience has also served as an invaluable learning opportunity for the TWU Fort Sanders students. Despite the pandemic, students have been able to remain in clinical settings, providing a chance for hands-on training in an unprecedented situation.

“This is a rare opportunity for students to directly learn about population health, participate in a public health program, gain clinical experience and ultimately save lives,” said Dr. Maryann Alexander of the NCSBN in a letter sent to nursing programs.

“Any opportunity that students have to practice their technical, communication and patient teaching skills is beneficial to forming their identity as a professional nurse,” said TWU Assistant Professor of Nursing Dianna Vermilyea. “It also allows students to network and interact with other nurses and managers at Covenant and to showcase the knowledge and abilities gained through our nursing program.”

“[The Covenant Health employees] had open arms for us nursing students, they were so excited for us to come and help them,” Dalton added. “That alone, just everyone working together, let me know in my heart that this is the path that I need to be on, to have that group effort. And for everyone working together as a team, it touches you inside to let you know that this is what God is wanting you to do.”

“Just being in the hospital setting and practicing a hands-on skill is very beneficial to my education,” Stiles added. “We gave so many vaccines in such a short period of time. I am very comfortable talking with clients and confident in giving IM (intramuscular) injections now. During my time volunteering, I made some connections that will help my future career too. The experience was pretty incredible. Everything about it was positive. I felt truly proud to be part of making a difference.”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Tennessee Wesleyan University website. TWU is a Sullivan Foundation partner school.