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Mobile Clinics Help UNC Pembroke Deliver Vaccine To Rural Residents

UNC Pembroke nursing student Antwanette Smith gives a COVID-19 vaccine to her instructor Kathy McAllister at a mobile clinic hosted by the university in Parkton, NC on  March 5, 2021.
Liz Schlemmer
UNC Pembroke nursing student Antwanette Smith gives a COVID-19 vaccine to her instructor Kathy McAllister at a mobile clinic hosted by the university in Parkton, N.C. on March 5, 2021.

A line of cars snakes around First Missionary Baptist Church in Parkton, North Carolina, a one stoplight town in Robeson County.

About 35 people have come on a Friday to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots, administered by trained nursing students from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Soon-to-be-graduating senior Antwanette Smith carefully puts an injection in her instructor Kathy McAllister's arm.

"I give her an A+ for the day," McAllister said afterwards.

A number of UNC System schools are helping facilitate clinics that are inoculating people in under-served communities. Federal funding has been funneled especially to the UNC System's historically minority-serving institutions, including its five HBCUs and UNC Pembroke, which was founded as a school for Native Americans.

The UNC Pembroke School of Health Sciences used federal CARES Act funding allocated by the North Carolina General Assembly to purchase two mobile health clinics. The trailers are equipped with a mini doctor's office that can transport healthcare workers — and vaccines — to where they're needed most.

mobile COVID clinic outside Baptist Church
Liz Schlemmer
One of UNC Pembroke's two mobile health clinic's came to Missionary Baptist Church in Parkton, North Carolina to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Next in the drive-thru line is Sharon Jones, a pre-K teacher in Parkton and member of the Lumbee Tribe.

Jones heard about the vaccine clinic from her sister and decided to go for it. She had been debating whether or not she felt comfortable getting the vaccine.

"Then I'd say, 'Well, if the Lord permits me to take the shot, it's meant for me to take the shot.' He made it oh, so much easier. I mean, it's just two, three minutes down the road," Jones explained.

That's a common sentiment among those getting vaccinated at the mobile clinic — the location made an uneasy decision a little easier, or a trek to a vaccination site a lot shorter.

That's the kind of community impact School of Health Sciences Dean Todd Telemeco said the university hoped for.

"This is really us living our mission," Telemeco said. "If you just look at the rich tradition at UNC Pembroke, we are a service institution; we started as educational leaders for American Indians, and that carries through every college and school that we have."

Liz Schlemmer
UNC Pembroke nursing student Alexander Coates brings instructions to a patient receiving a vaccine. Coates said he enjoyed also being able to answer patients' questions about their prescriptions and about precautions patients should take after being vaccinated.

Nursing professor Jennifer Jones-Locklear regroups with her students after the last car goes through. They talk about what it means to serve the community, to be a trusted entity, and to help patients outside a doctor's office.

"The first lady who was in line this morning, she said, 'I'm so nervous. But when I saw UNC Pembroke was giving it, I felt better,'" Jones-Locklear said.

Nursing student Alexander Coates recalled helping explain a patient's prescription medicine to them while they waited in line for a vaccine.

"In something as quick, and as quickly moving as a drive thru, there is still that opportunity for education, to educate the public about their medicines," Jones-Locklear said.

Now that UNC Pembroke owns two mobile clinics, professors are dreaming up ways they can bring students out into Robeson County to lead other public health initiatives.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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