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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

First-year Drake Pharmacy students take on extra training to help administer COVID-19 vaccine

Typically, the immunization certificate is offered in a pharmacy student’s second year, but the university got first-year students on board to help out.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Kristen Giles’ first year in pharmacy school at Drake University has been off to a busy start. She spent her first semester learning online, at her home in Toronto, Canada. 

Then, when she drove 12 hours to Drake’s campus in late January, she had a lot to catch up on.

“It was a super busy week before classes even started,” said Giles. “Because I wasn’t here [in the fall], I had to do my CPR certification, my drug testing— all these things that I hadn’t done in the fall.”

Then, Giles took on extra classes in order to assist with the public health crisis. 

The first-year student was already taking 19 credit hours. Then, she added immunization coursework so she could be qualified to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, which she did for the first time on Saturday. 

“I was really nervous because it was the first opportunity I’ve ever had to do that,” she said.

Giles is also a Drake University Athlete on the women’s golf team, who spends up to 40 hours working out and practicing each week. 

Still, she made time to brave the cold and volunteer on Saturday, joining 40 Drake Pharmacy students who partnered with Hy-Vee, the Boys and Girls Club, and Polk County Health to administer 1,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Iowa educators and childcare workers.

Credit: Kristen Giles
Kristen Giles signs her letter of intent to play Drake Women's Golf.

Drake faculty worked with the healthcare partners to pull off the clinic in less than a week's time.

"We couldn't be prouder of the students that said hey, I want to be a part of the solution— I'm here to help," said Dr. Nora Stelter, associate professor. 

Stelter said Drake faulty worked to offer the immunization certificate in the Spring— a course that's typically not offered to first-year students.

"We have awesome faculty here that are ready to step up and put in the extra work when we see a need, and that was a need we saw in the community," said Stelter.

In three weeks, the students will hold another clinic to make sure the educators can get their second dose. Meanwhile, there's a vaccine clinic at the Harkin Center by appointment only each Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Giles says she's excited she gets to be a part of something this important.

"I think it will be pretty cool to look back and to just see that I was a first-year student, and I was part of the progress to end the pandemic."