As a first-generation college student, Demi Elrod knew she wanted to be a doctor so she could help people.
Since entering UMKC’s medical school as a second-year student in the six-year B.A/M.D. program, Elrod has discovered an interest in infectious disease and microbiology. So, the decision to volunteer as a vaccinator for Our Healthy Kansas City Eastside was an easy one. The community-wide initiative promotes and delivers COVID-19 vaccinations and other health services to residents on the east side of Kansas City.
“Since the pandemic began, I have learned a lot about COVID-19 and the vaccine in my classes and during my experiences as a volunteer vaccinator,” Elrod said. “These experiences and lessons have shown me how interesting infectious disease is and how I can serve my community to aid in the pandemic.”
Since August, Elrod has served her community through OHKCE. In addition to providing COVID vaccines and information, the events offer services such as pre-diabetic and blood pressure screenings.
While she hasn’t heard much COVID misinformation, when she does, she takes the time to talk people through their concerns.
“I understand hesitancy,” she said. “People in my family are divided and I just encourage them to talk to their health care provider. There is great information about the vaccine available through trusted sources. Also, I remind them that being vaccinated protects not only you, but also the immunocompromised people around you. Even in my family, I am trying to be a bridge.”
Elrod said she’s also seen people at events who said they don’t want to get vaccinated but are there to observe.
“After a while, even though they said they didn’t want a vaccine, they’re sitting in the chair across from me. They thank me for being there and I say, ‘No, thank you.’ It shows how the medical community can take time to make people comfortable and build a bridge of trust.”
And she thinks having events in the communities where people live make a difference.
“Most people tell me they haven’t gotten vaccinated because available vaccines were too far away, or they’ve had trouble taking the time off to get them. Being in the community has been a great help. The events are really fun and lively with lots of people, music and laughter that come with the education.”
Elrod said working with OHKCE has been an unforgettable experience that’s helped solidify her choice to practice medicine.
“It’s shown me a lot about how important medicine is and how important it is to bridge the gap between community and medical services. The message of OHEKC is, ‘You don’t have to come to us – we can come to you to help.’ Getting that message out builds trust between the community and health care providers.”