As vaccinations became available to all Maine residents over the age of 16, including Bowdoin community members, students from the Pre-Health Society and Bowdoin Underrepresented in Medical Professions (BUMP) have teamed up to contribute to the historic rollout by volunteering at Mid Coast Hospital’s Brunswick Recreation Center vaccine clinic.
Sarah Chingos, associate director for public service with the McKeen Center, had formed connections with the clinic through coordinating volunteer shifts for faculty and staff, which solidified the partnership with Mid Coast. When Mid Coast reached out to the College asking for more volunteers, Seth Ramus, director of health professions advising, communicated with leaders of BUMP and the Pre-Health Society, presenting Mid Coast’s need as a leadership opportunity.
“I said, ‘Hey, this is something that Bowdoin students can do,’ because in fact we have pre-health clubs, we already have leadership and we have membership, and we can hand this off to the clubs,” Ramus said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “So that’s what we did. I reached out to the leaders of our Pre-Health Society and the leaders of [BUMP] and said ‘Here’s this opportunity. If you’re looking for a leadership opportunity and an opportunity to volunteer, I’ve got it for you.’”
Love Avril ’22, one of the founders of BUMP, helped connect club members with the opportunity and has since worked to coordinate shift times, transportation, t-shirts and other logistical details.
“Having founded BUMP, we created this sort of core network of reliable organizers … we immediately had people to ask if they were interested in volunteering,” Avril said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It was really great that we were able to reward our organizers for their commitment to the club,” he added.
Though much of Avril’s work occurs outside the clinic, other students have been working at the clinic itself, greeting people who come in and asking COVID-19 screening questions. A total of 12 students work two separate shifts on Saturdays.
Thomas Trundy ’23, a member of the Pre-Health Society, said he found volunteering fulfilling in part because he was supposed to volunteer at Mid Coast last summer but was not able to because of the pandemic.
“This opportunity was kind of like the first time I was able to engage with people that I didn’t know,” Trundy said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It felt super awesome to talk to members of the community and engage with them and help them through this process so we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
For Avril, the volunteer effort’s success is reflective of the community created within BUMP.
“The primary goal of BUMP was to cultivate community … BUMP places a lot of emphasis on meetings and working together and collaborating to support one another, especially as underrepresented students interested in health,” Avril said. “Because I spent all this time working with people, I immediately knew who to pick from [as volunteers].”
Ramus expressed his pride and hope that the students’ volunteer efforts have helped to lighten the clinic’s load as they manage the stress of the vaccine rollout.
“One of the great things about the way that we have created this is that the students are really owning this, and I’m really proud of … the Pre-Health society and BUMP,” Ramus said. “They have really taken this on and taken ownership of it, and it’s fantastic to see and it’s really helpful, given how busy everybody else is.”