2020 Pharmacy Grad Leads CARES MVP Campaign to Big Numbers
Program, Reception Honor Dr. Fatima Hernandez, Note Key Accomplishments of Touro Mobile Vaccination Program
The numbers are impressive, but they tell only part of the story. It’s the people who make the Touro CARES MVP program so special. And that’s the message that came through March 28 during a celebration of program participants in the Farragut Inn ballroom.
252. 530. 7,980. 9,840. 11,600. 1 million.
Dr. Tami Hendriksz, Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University California, led the program and provided the stats for a program that was built quickly from the ground up in response to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
The program at the latest count had conducted 252 vaccination clinics, given more than 7,980 Covid vaccinations and more than 530 flu shots, served more than 11,600 people, accounted for more than 9,840 community service hours and garnered more than $1 million in grant funding.
Touro Provost and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Sarah Sweitzer described the significance of the Touro Child and Adult Resource Education and Support Mobile Vaccination Program both to the university community and for the greater Vallejo and Solano County communities.
“It has been a truly amazing journey for more than two years now,” Sweitzer said. She said the Touro CARES MVP program “was about showing up for the community, in the community,” to establish trust and to build relationships with those in need.
Hendriksz described the Touro CARES MVP program as “one of those beautiful things that came with a not-so-beautiful thing,” in reference to the pandemic.
The celebration recognized program participants at all levels, from health care partners Solano County Public Health, Partnership HealthPlan of California, Kaiser Permanente and the MOBEC Team, to the near-dozen community partners, to Touro CARES MVP volunteer ambassadors as well as student and staff volunteers.
Those involved in the program came together to recognize Dr. Fatima Hernandez, a 2020 graduate of Touro’s College of Pharmacy, who was tapped by Dr. Lucinda Chan, formerly of the College of Pharmacy, to lead the fledgling Touro CARES MVP effort.
Hernandez was the star of the evening, recognition that came as a surprise. She said Kathy Hahn, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, told her they were going to dinner in Benicia but that she needed to stop by the Provost’s office first.
“I thought I was in trouble,” Hernandez said.
Far from it: She was the guest of honor.
Praise for Hernandez’s work with the program came from campus officials and community partners alike.
Hannah Chen, who has been with Kaiser Permanente for nearly 20 years, the most recent four-plus years serving as Regional Community Health Manager for the Napa-Solano service area, spoke of the vaccination program's inception and how, once funding was received, the program grew and expanded to meet the community need.
"It is something magical … the way community health should always be, the way public health should be, the way that people should feel that they are being taken care of in a really tough situation," she said.
“People would come and bring their neighbors. People would come and bring their parents, in the pouring rain, whether we have one person being vaccinated or hundreds,” Chen said. “It was always just like that: The most perfect experience and even being inspired knowing we're doing it right.”
The program has now hit its stride with Hernandez at the helm.
"I think it's a lot better than what we even imagined," Chen said of the mobile vaccination program.
Mitchell Romao, Assistant Superintendent of Operations at the Vallejo City Unified School District, described Hernandez as one of those rare, extraordinary people someone meets over the course of a lifetime. He praised Hernandez’s positive attitude during the more than 100 vaccination clinics the program has conducted at the Vallejo schools.
“She’s going to get up tomorrow and do it again,” Romao said.
And she will inspire others to do the same.
Madison Kim, a second-year College of Pharmacy student with the Class of 2025, said Hernandez saw her working with a resident to explain the vaccination process at her first clinic as a volunteer and offered her an ambassador position.
“It was such a good experience that I had to keep volunteering,” Kim said.
She now has more than 60 clinics to her credit.
Ben Gammon, Solano County Public Health’s Emergency Medical Services Coordinator, spoke of working in the trenches with Hernandez and of how people like Hernandez help others rise to meet any challenges they may face.
Gammon said the Touro CARES MVP team was a much-needed component of Solano County’s response to the pandemic, helping to augment an overtaxed Public Health staff as they sought to provide vaccines to as many Solano County residents as possible, as quickly as possible.
“When you surround yourself with good people like Dr. Hernandez and her volunteers, it allows your people to shine,” Gammon said.
Former faculty member Chan, for her part, knew Hernandez was the right person to lead the charge. Chan had known Hernandez since Hernandez was a first-year pharmacy student at Touro.
“We saw this amazing need,” Chan said of the pandemic and the subsequent arrival of vaccines. “I knew she was the best person for the job, but I had no idea how good she would be in that role.”
“We have been through it all,” Chan said.
Hernandez, for her part, shies away from the recognition and instead credits those around her for the program’s success.
“I was the Covid generation,” Hernandez said. “It’s been very rewarding to study here and then to come back and share what I learned with other students.”
“It’s been an amazing experience in my life, personally and professionally,” Hernandez said. “I really appreciate all of you. I’m nothing without my team.”