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Community Healthlink

Since 1977, Community Healthlink has been “promoting, restoring, and maintaining the physical health, mental health, and wellbeing of more than 22,000 adults, children, and families in Central Massachusetts.” They provide care to some of the state’s most at-risk individuals, and core to their mission is helping people “recover from the effects of mental illness, substance use, and homelessness.”

When Massachusetts began receiving COVID-19 vaccine supplies, the state created a phased vaccine rollout plan targeting healthcare workers and vulnerable individuals to be among the first to receive the vaccines. For MCPHS alum Kristen Bruzzi, PharmD ‘19 and Pharmacy Site Manager with Community Healthlink’s Genoa Healthcare, this meant that many of her patients would have early vaccine eligibility. “When Worcester Housing Authority had asked us to help vaccinate their 2,000 residents,” says Dr. Bruzzi, “I knew we would need help.” Her alma mater provided it: Community Healthlink and MCPHS formed a partnership where the school would help provide vaccination support.

“I knew that this would be a great opportunity for MCPHS and Genoa to give back to our community, as well as for the students as a learning experience,” Dr. Bruzzi says. “I cannot speak highly enough about [MCPHS Chief Affiliations Officer] Pat Zeller and how streamlined he has made this experience for us." She adds, “My pharmacist, Dan Finn, has been working closely with the student volunteers and has had nothing but praise for them. Dan is also an MCPHS graduate from the year of 1977 and has been MCPHS preceptor of the year twice now and knew to expect nothing less than excellence from the student volunteers. The students were well-prepared, thorough, and most importantly, compassionate.”

The Murray Avenue Apartments building in Worcester is a 209-unit affordable housing complex run by the Worcester Housing Authority. On February 23, 2021, MCPHS students traveled there to run a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. MCPHS COVID-19 Coordinator Sheila Seed was vital in standing up the clinic, where students prepared and administered vaccines.

Among them was Varinder Bhatia, PharmD ‘21, who was there from 12-4 p.m. and says the site really was almost entirely run by students. “There was a pharmacist there,” he says, “but he took a background role to make sure what we were doing was all according to protocol. We did the screening process, drew up the vaccines, and administered them—everything from beginning to end.”

Varinder says during his shift the team administered around 80 vaccines, and he notes that the experience was a taste of independent work and 100% direct patient care. “It was really rewarding, he says. “It felt like it was just us and the public.”