On October 19th, 2016, the Harold Alfond Center at UNE’s Biddeford campus was converted to a Point of Dispensing (POD) site, and influenza vaccine was administered to over 160 students, employees, and the public. UNE students from a variety of professions learned some of the basic principles of preparedness planning from emergency preparedness officials, and medical students administered vaccines.
UNE has been registered as a Point of Distribution (POD) with Maine State Government for a number of years. This means in the case of an emergency, UNE’s Portland and/or Biddeford campuses would be used to administer vaccine or other supplies to its students, employees, and the public. “Many health professions students came to UNE to learn to care for their community, and the POD exercise allowed us to do that” says Frank Jackson, a second year medical student at UNE. “We got organized on the spot to efficiently distribute influenza vaccines and got to work on a scenario with students from other programs. After the exercise I found myself knowing more about addressing an emergency in southern Maine and signed up for Maine Responds, the program that organizes emergency response volunteers.”
Nancy Bobyrsh, another second year medical student reflected on her volunteer experience at the October 19th training “I really enjoyed the POD exercise. Not only did I get to learn the skills of large-scale emergency preparedness, but I also learned how to administer vaccines in an efficient manner. Due to this exercise, I feel like I am more likely to volunteer in real life emergency situations both as a medical student and future physician.”
“For several years UNE has registered to be part of a volunteer network of Points of Distribution, or PODs, that will serve as centers for administering medicines, vaccines, and/or necessary supplies for the public in the event of a large-scale emergency”, explained Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, FAAP, vice president for clinical affairs and director of UNE’s Center for Health Innovation. “To fully prepare for such an event, UNE faculty, staff, and students worked in collaboration with state and community partners to simulate such an event, and offered free influenza vaccines to the public as part of the exercise.”
When state and county emergency preparedness officials asked Dora Anne Mills if they could conduct an exercise to test the POD system, she agreed and thought that UNE’s health professions students could also benefit. The exercise was done in collaboration with a number of partners, including: Maine CDC, York District Public Health Council, York County Emergency Management Agency, the City of Portland’s Maine Cities Readiness Initiative, Maine Responds (Maine’s emergency health volunteer system), and Southern Maine Regional Resource Center for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. Adam Hartwig, the York District Public Health Liaison, commented “This exercise represented an innovative way to allow public and private partners to share resources and learn from one another. The relationships developed have added value and should serve as a model for the York Public Health District during future public health emergencies.”
“As part of this initiative, UNE’s Center for Health Innovation is working collaboratively with our health professions programs as well as state and community partners to provide learning experiences for our students. A number of medical, public health, pharmacy, and other students are attending some sessions run by emergency preparedness experts and assisting in administering vaccines, “ said Dr. Mills. “As a result, southern Maine will be better prepared for an emergency today, and tomorrow’s health professionals will also be better prepared.”
FMI on the Center for Health Innovation: http://www.une.edu/academics/centers-institutes/center-excellence-health-innovation