Since the first COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for use in December 2020, WakeMed Health & Hospitals has been dedicated to vaccinating as many people as we can, as quickly as possible, in accordance with state guidelines. As part of our creative outreach efforts, a number of affiliated physicians have volunteered their time and energy to bring vaccines to many historically marginalized populations — including communities of color, the elderly and homeless individuals.
The Call to Vaccinate
“WakeMed has a long legacy of caring for the underserved in our community,” says Amantia Kennedy, MD, (WakeMed Obstetrics & Gynecology). “When the hospital began collaborating with physician practices and other stakeholders to create teams to lead the vaccination initiative, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I began volunteering by giving shots at WakeMed’s drive-through vaccine clinic at the WakeMed Raleigh Medical Park on Sunnybrook Road.”
The outreach groups, called ‘Strike Teams,’ were led by Rasheeda Monroe, MD, (Pediatric Primary Care). She and a group of five other Black WakeMed physicians — the ‘Sister Circle’ — spearheaded the efforts, expanding their grassroots approach to rally community partners and volunteers to bring vaccine clinics to churches and community centers. Various organizations provided the space and brought vaccine recipients, while volunteers like Dr. Kennedy gave the shots, and WakeMed provided the necessary supplies. More than 150 vaccinators and volunteers — including community providers, WakeMed Key Community Care partners, UNC and Duke, among others — selflessly gave their time to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Our Strike Teams began giving vaccines to members of communities primarily focused in the Southeast Raleigh area,” Dr. Kennedy explains. “Every Saturday for nearly four months, I had the privilege of working alongside people who are committed to the health and well-being of their friends and neighbors. Many others worked long hours coordinating logistics prior to the clinics as well as doing the data entry necessary to ensure successful events. By the time we wrapped up our mobile clinics, we had vaccinated over 14,700 people.”
Now that COVID-19 vaccinations are more readily available and people have access to more locations, Dr. Kennedy has returned to her normal work schedule. However, she says she’ll always remember the incredible experience of coming together with her colleagues and working for the common purpose of making a positive impact on others during a crisis.
“We are so thankful that WakeMed stepped up without hesitation to help our marginalized populations,” says Kennedy. “It’s a lesson that, if you see a need in your immediate community, don’t be afraid to innovate and volunteer. Turn your passion into action and make a difference.”