By Rebecca Roybal Jones

Answering the Call

UNM Community Steps Up to Volunteer at The Pit Vaccine Clinic

It takes more than 100 volunteers each day to keep the UNM Health COVID Vaccine Clinic at The Pit inoculating the masses.

Volunteers spend their shifts greeting, guiding and observing visitors after they receive the shots. Other volunteers are charged with checking people in, administering the shots, directing traffic, rounding up wheelchairs for those in need, and other tasks that keep the operation running smoothly. 

Melissa Martinez, MD, professor in the UNM School of Medicine’s Internal Medicine and medical director for the UNM Health COVID Vaccine Clinic at The Pit, says hundreds of faculty, staff and students from the UNM community have volunteered their time since the clinic opened last month.

“It’s being a part of history,” she recently said. “There are people coming over and over again to help us out.”

A few of the volunteers who pitched in on a recent morning agreed to share their experiences:

Nicole Allen of Corrales is a physician assistant with the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps who has been volunteering at The Pit on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as an observer. She also served two-week tours in Gallup over the summer.

“COVID hit and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what can I do?’” says Allen, who graduated from UNM in 2001. “I’d just refreshed my license. I thought, ‘I can’t just sit there.’”

Allen is inspired by the other volunteers. “There’s really so many amazing people,” she says. “I think we all need to come together when there’s a crisis that hits us all.”

Martin Jones, professor of educational psychiatry in UNM’s College of Education and Human Sciences, says he decided to volunteer because his schedule is flexible. On a recent Thursday, he was a runner assisting vaccine stations with supplies and other tasks.

“If I can do anything to help people get the vaccine, I will,” Jones says.

Michelle King works as a patient care tech at UNM Hospital. She volunteered for three weeks as a greeter and a patient observer. Working as a greeter gave her the opportunity to talk to people coming to the arena to get vaccinated.

“A lot of people come in happy or scared,” she says. After she chats with them, they’re more at ease.

“It’s a great experience to work somewhere where you get to be a part of history,” King says. “I’ve been encouraging my family to get (vaccinated), too.”

Roger Simmons, who works for Facilities Management at UNM, recently volunteered as a greeter, guiding folks standing in line at The Pit. He calls it being part of “organized history.”

“This is a very important project and it’s important to help,” he says. “I’ve heard lots of people say this is great, that it’s so organized. So, we’re able to be part of … giving the vaccine, especially in these crazy times.”

He’s also encouraging his co-workers to volunteer. “This was one of our major projects,” he says. “We hung banners and signs and I saw the call for volunteers. I figured if I could give a little bit, why not?”


Categories: Community Engagement, Health, News You Can Use, School of Medicine, Top Stories