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Students provide flu vaccine to the homeless

By Carole Bartoo
January 2011

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Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and School of Nursing students took the flu vaccine to Nashville's homeless where they all too often eat, sleep and live – under the Jefferson Street bridge.

Jerry Michael Howard, who said he has been living in Nashville since being displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, stepped up to be the first vaccine recipient of the night when the program was implemented in October.

“It's a great idea for people who are living on the street. We don't have a choice and this environment can be tough on your health,” Howard said.

Chelsa Everley, R.N., a student in the Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program, gave Howard his first immunization, while first-year medical student Anupam Kumar filled out the required health information forms. Kumar said the experience is exactly what Vanderbilt students are looking for.

“It's hard to process the environment that many people live in, so coming out to a common gathering spot under a bridge reminds us about the population we want to serve, and reminds us why we are here,” Kumar said.

Nani Kalama, another vaccine recipient, said this helps people who are homeless see that they are not forgotten.

“My life might be on the street, but I care about my health. There are so many things we are exposed to out here, this is great. Coming out here helps keep homeless people healthier,” Kalama said.

The students ran the clinic under the bridge and at other locations until their supply of flu shots — 1,400 vials — ran out.

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