Touro Nevada Student Participates at Unprecedented COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Event

Future physician assistant (PA) Yuriy Shpak details why it was important to volunteer at Nevada’s first--ever drive-through coronavirus vaccine site
May 19, 2021

Although society has been forever changed by the coronavirus, not all these changes have been bad. That’s according to second year Touro University Nevada (TUN) PA student Yuriy Shpak, who has never been prouder to be a Touro student serving the community during this crisis. 

As COVID-19 began to spread rapidly throughout the world last year, Shpak’s daily life began to look drastically different. When TUN transitioned to a virtual learning environment, he was able to spend more time with his immediate family including his new fiancé. Unfortunately, this also meant not being able to see his elderly grandparents, one of the most vulnerable groups affected by COVID, or his TUN classmates for an extended period. 

“From the first day in the classroom, I started building relationships with my fellow students as we were together almost constantly. We formed these deep bonds and then almost overnight started learning remotely and didn’t see each other for six months. When we finally returned to campus, we were able to easily pick up right where we left off. This was important to me as a big reason I went to college was to build key relationships,” said Shpak.  

A positive of the pandemic is that the PA students began to lean on each other even more for support and advice. 

“The word of the moment is ‘flexibility’ and this whole situation is forcing us to adapt to new situations, which is a skill that will prove helpful throughout my career,” said Shpak. 

Helping the Community in a Time of Need 

While many clinical rotations were cancelled due to the pandemic, PA and other medical students got to work helping Nevada’s underserved communities. First, they gave rapid COVID tests to approximately 500 hundred people including construction workers, professors, and students. Next, spearheaded by Dr. Rebecca Edgeworth and in cooperation with the Southern Nevada Health District, students helped to plan and participated in the first-ever drive-through COVID vaccination event in the state. Shpak and his fellow volunteers administered vaccines to frontline healthcare workers on January 17. 

“I had never given a shot before, so it was a bit nerve wracking. Some patients were nervous about getting the vaccine, while others were crying tears of joy and dancing because this meant they would finally be able to see their loved ones. It was a moving event, where I realized that I was part of this heroic group of frontline healthcare workers saving lives. You can’t help but smile knowing your actions are making a difference in fighting this pandemic and I was left feeling empowered,” said Shpak. 

Though a few obstacles arose in the beginning of the event, the overall process quickly became a well-oiled machine. Nearly 400 vaccinations were administered in one day. More of these mass vaccination distributions in the state are planned.   

“With COVID, we’re losing that basic face-to-face communication. When I was giving out vaccines, I was able to talk with different types of people all day. In turn, I increased the confidence I had in my abilities and this experience has made me even more proud to be part of the Touro community. It’s been inspiring to see everyone’s energy and passion for helping others; it’s truly contagious,” said Shpak.

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