From the earliest days of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been a rallying cry for the EVMS campus. The first thought for faculty, students and staff was “how can I help?”

This month, as the country marks the one-year anniversary of the onset of the pandemic, EVMS remains dedicated to serving the Hampton Roads community through strategic, collaborative efforts and a lasting commitment to addressing the health disparities amplified by COVID-19.

Leveraging community partnerships and the expertise, ingenuity and resolve of our students, faculty, providers and staff, EVMS has helped to keep the residents of southeastern Virginia informed and safe through public vaccination events, reliable health messaging from trusted sources, new research efforts and ongoing outreach work alongside area groups.

Coming together to effect change

EVMS’ commitment to protect the community from this new health crisis began in spring 2020. Within a few weeks of the initial COVID-19 surge, students were working alongside faculty to address PPE shortages — sewing masks and assembling homemade face shields. The equipment was shared with EVMS clinicians and surrounding hospitals. 

More recently, as vaccine production ramped up, EVMS faculty with prior experience as public health officials understood the staffing needs for mass vaccination events. Working with student organizers, they have recruited and trained some 325 student volunteers to provide vaccinations and staff mass vaccination events. At last count, the students — working in teams of 12 and under the guidance of a healthcare professional — have helped deliver more than 12,000 vaccines at churches, health departments and other locations across Southeastern Virginia. In just one weekend in March 2021, EVMS students participated in two vaccination events, one at Calvert Square Envision Center in Norfolk and another at the Hindu Temple of Hampton Roads in Chesapeake, helping to administer 2,825 vaccines. 

EVMS has dedicated significant time and effort to help educate the public about the virus. Medical and health experts from across campus have shared their expertise with news media. One physician, Edward Oldfield III, MD, Professor of Internal Medicine at EVMS and Infectious Disease Specialist, has alone given nearly 100 TV and print interviews — often multiple interviews in one day. 

 More recently, EVMS launched a public service campaign to encourage vaccination among communities where people experience the most vaccine hesitancy. Working with partners such as the Hispanic Resource Center of Coastal Virginia and La Conexion Radio, physicians, clergy, community leaders have appeared on screen during the EVMS-produced appeals that are being shared throughout the community. 

Ongoing work continues

Groups across campus have devised their own COVID-related activities. For instance, Minus 9 to 5, which is dedicated to improving the lives of young children and their families, led an effort that collected donations of cleaning supplies and delivered the desperately needed material to daycares across the region.

Another EVMS group is spearheading a project to better understand the pandemic’s impact on individuals and communities. The EVMS–Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute is working with George Mason University and health technology company Vibrent on a recently launched COVID-19 registry project. The registry will provide insight that can help drive future public-health decisions.

EVMS researchers also are invested in finding solutions to challenges posed by the pandemic. In August 2020, for instance, EVMS teamed with Norfolk State University and Hampton University to better understand the mistrust common among resident of low-income housing regarding COVID-19 guidance. The project, supported by a $1.8 million federal grant, seeks to help alleviate the barriers to testing for underserved and vulnerable communities as a way to reduce the burden of the disease.


Read more about how the EVMS community pivoted and responded to threats posed by COVID-19 in EVMS magazine.