For the past six years, Laura Friedland, senior specialist in the Department of Nursing, has traveled with students to Athens, Greece, for an educational outreach program providing healthcare services to Greek refugees.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on those plans when international travel came to a halt and the group could not take its July service trip. Despite these challenges, Friedland found new ways to engage her students in community outreach—she launched the New York Tech Medical Outreach Program: COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance Group.
While vaccination is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19, the process of registering for a vaccine can be confusing, especially for non-English speakers and those without access to technology. That’s where the group’s volunteers come in.
Mentored by Friedland, students assist New York residents and some New York City workers who live out-of-state with registering for vaccine appointments. The volunteers are responsible for interviewing patients and are trained to answer questions regarding the advantages and side effects of all available COVID-19 vaccines. They also assist people in choosing the best vaccine for their circumstances based on existing health issues, work and school time constraints, and other common challenges.
During the last weekend in April, some volunteers assisted underserved communities in Port Washington, N.Y., not far from the Long Island campus. In collaboration with the office of New York State Assembly Member Gina Sillitti, students went door-to-door, registering residents for an upcoming pop-up neighborhood vaccination event.
“We help people who do not have access to computers, non-English speakers, hearing and visually impaired, and people who are not tech-savvy,” says Friedland. “For people with language barriers, we’ve helped with translations, and for those who cannot afford printers, we’ve printed numerous tickets. We’ve also raised money to provide transportation for families who cannot afford transportation to the site.”
To date, the New York Tech Medical Outreach Program: COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance Group has registered more than 6,200 people across all five boroughs of New York City, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County. The group has also assisted New Jersey residents who work in New York City.
Throughout their time in the community, the group has been met with open arms. Some grateful residents have even offered to send students gifts. Of course, students are not permitted to accept gifts, so they instead advise people to donate to the group’s non-profit partnership, Love Without Borders: For Refugees in Need. So far, donations total over $3,500. Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte also thanked the group publicly at a news conference held by her office on April 29.
“The most rewarding part about volunteering is the fact that a little help goes a long way,” said Emily Dooknah, a student volunteer enrolled in the Health Sciences, B.S. program. “Whether it’s making a phone call or looking up vaccine openings, just being able to do something during this horrid time right now gives a little bit of hope.”
- Maria Carpenter (B.S., Nursing)
- Melissa Chattergoon (B.S., Nursing)
- Cynthia Chavez (B.S., Nursing)
- Haroon Dar (B.S., Health Sciences)
- Joanna Delice (B.S., Health and Wellness)
- Bruna Ferreira (B.S., Health and Wellness)
- Ashley Flores (B.S., Health and Wellness)
- Rena Haynes (B.S., Health and Wellness)
- Laura Lee (B.S., Nursing)
- Rena McRae (B.S., Health and Wellness)
- Daniella Nanous (B.S., Health Sciences)
- Christopher Peterson (B.S., Nursing)
- Julia Pinto (B.S., Health Sciences)
- Kassandra Plantin (B.S., Nursing)
- Harshul Singh (B.S., Health and Wellness)
- Trinity Small (B.S., Nursing)
- Alexander Suh (B.S, Health and Wellness)
- Sabrina Taranis (B.S., Life Sciences)