LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 28, 2021) — National Volunteer Month has taken on a new meaning this year as the world continues to face challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Within the university community, volunteers from across campus have donated their time and talent for the health and safety of others. One individual in particular, UK alumnus Sean McCarthy, has demonstrated what it means to step in and serve where his skills were needed.
When McCarthy began working in the Emergency Department at UK’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital after graduation, he didn’t realize his time there would be so short. Just 18 months into his career, COVID-19 swept across the globe, and McCarthy needed to put different skills to work.
McCarthy transitioned to working on the operations team within UK Health Corps in 2020. This unit has been critical in meeting the needs of UK students, faculty and staff during the pandemic.
“UK Health Corps has been instrumental to UK’s coronavirus response efforts,” he said. “Health Corps is responsible for everything ranging from COVID-19 testing to ensuring student wellness throughout their isolation or quarantine periods. Health Corps has also been able to engage in various student retention and wellness projects. And recently, Health Corps has been a tremendous help in staffing the Kroger Field Vaccine Clinic.”
Like so many health care workers, McCarthy has repeatedly demonstrated the value of adaptability during this pandemic. After working at Health Corps for four months, he became the logistics coordinator for UK’s COVID-19 vaccine operation. McCarthy oversees the Kroger Field vaccine clinic as well as mobile clinics run by UK throughout Lexington. He describes his transition as “diving in headfirst.”
“In my position, I’ve had to adapt to ensure that UK is able to serve Kentucky safely and efficiently. We serve about 20,000 Kentuckians each week, and we are working to ensure that every Kentuckian who wants a vaccine will receive one as soon as possible,” he said.
At the clinic, McCarthy’s first priority is to ensure adequate staffing. Next, he makes sure volunteers know where to go and what to do.
“I float around the clinic and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. My clinical background also allows me to jump in and assist any patient that may be experiencing an adverse reaction to their vaccination.”
Because he deals firsthand with volunteers every day, McCarthy recognizes the value of what these individuals are doing.
“Our volunteers are absolutely instrumental in our vaccine efforts,” he said. “From immunizing patients to helping guide patients through the facility, we simply could not do what we do without their fantastic talents. Without our large quantity of volunteers, our trajectory to put this pandemic behind us would look very different.”
McCarthy describes how proud he is to be a part of the vaccine effort because he is inspired by the “renewed in person human connection” he gets to see at work every day.
Volunteers have the opportunity to participate in and witness the joys of human connection at the vaccine clinic, which is something the world has been missing for the past year.
Being apart from friends and loved ones has been the challenge of a lifetime. As our community continues to approach some sense of normalcy, our volunteers have a critical role in helping us get there.
A number of clinical and non-clinical roles are available to anyone interested in volunteering. Those looking to volunteer by themselves or with a small group of friends (10 or less people), can go to http://ukvaccine.org, click on the “Volunteer at Kroger Field” header at the bottom of the page, then click on the “Volunteer Form” button.
Once the completed form is filled out, individuals will be sent a link to SignUpGenius within one to two business days. Once individuals have access to the SignUpGenius, they can sign up for any open shift. If any UK-affiliated organization or group is interested in volunteering, email our team at email@example.com.
As the University of Kentucky marks the end of the academic year, we’re reminded of our promise to the Commonwealth and each other. Every corner of our campus — from UK HealthCare to Athletics, from our Emergency Operations Center to volunteers in our health colleges and across this university — has united for a common purpose in the battle against COVID-19. And, when members of our community come together with the heart to step up, there is almost no challenge too large, no obstacle too daunting, to overcome. Because of this community – its resilience, compassion and expertise – we have experienced — even in the face of a global pandemic — what is wildly possible.