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University of Kentucky College of Medicine Update: Helping Vaccinate the Community as Regional Campuses Continue to Evolve

University of Kentucky College of Medicine Update: Helping Vaccinate the Community as Regional Campuses Continue to Evolve
By Charles H. “Chipper” Griffith, III, MD
Vice Dean for Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted our state, our country, and our world. It changed the way we approached health care, and it forced us at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine to adapt our medical education to ensure safety and efficiency for our students while still delivering the exceptional experience they have come to expect.

Thankfully, we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines being distributed to our frontline workers and most vulnerable populations. Through this process I cannot help but be extremely proud of our learners who have helped ensure this effort of hope reaches more people in Kentucky.

UK College of Medicine faculty, staff, and learners have volunteered alongside other UK colleges to help operations at our COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Kroger Field. Their assistance in this effort helped the clinic expand its Saturday hours and increase vaccination capacity. 

Student Catherine Crawford prepares Robert Elliot to receive the vaccine. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto

In total, UK and UK HealthCare have been able to vaccinate more than 47,000 people – health care workers, first responders, teachers, and those over age 70 – as of Feb. 16. Of course, by the time this letter publishes, we will be well beyond that.

I must say I am not completely surprised that our students demonstrated this compassion. When the pandemic began, they stepped up in a variety of ways: collecting food and toiletry donations for families in need, participating in a blood drive competition, and offering babysitting services for doctors fighting on the frontlines.

The UK College of Medicine is preparing its medical students for the honorable responsibilities they will fulfill as physicians. As our college continues to grow, and more learners arrive here to receive an education, we are increasing our capacity to help the health care landscape.

This year, we began clinical rotations at the UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus, the college’s regional campus that opened in 2018. During this time regional campus faculty have made sure students are safe, but also that they are seeing as many patients as possible. Students have gained experience in every clinical setting: inpatient, outpatient, and in the emergency department.

“We knew that our very first year of clinical rotations would be challenging, but could not have imagined doing it during a worldwide pandemic,” says Todd Cheever, MD, MS, associate dean of the Bowling Green Campus. “I am so proud of our UK College of Medicine faculty, residents, and medical students in Bowling Green for making this year such a success for all.”

Next year, our Northern Kentucky Campus that opened in 2019 will begin this same process, and our first class of Bowling Green Campus students will graduate. UK College of Medicine leadership is excited that we have the opportunity to prepare future generations of health care leaders for the vital clinical experiences they’ll have during their careers.

We also have continued to expand our Rural Physician Leadership Program in Morehead, which provides specialized training in rural medicine, and we are always working to enhance the experience for our students at our main campus in Lexington.

As Dean Robert S. DiPaola emphasizes, our institution is training physicians and scientists “in Kentucky for Kentucky.”

And even during a pandemic, as our limits are tested, we have remained steadfast in our mission to provide excellent education, exceptional clinical care, and transformative research for the good of the Commonwealth.