Call to Arms
Led by Chelsea Shover (PhD ’18), FSPH students, faculty, and alums rallied behind efforts to get COVID-19 vaccines to oftenoverlooked populations.
ALTHOUGH BOTH EARNED DEGREES at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Edith Hernandez (MPH ’15) and Chelsea Shover (PhD ’18) hadn’t met prior to one Sunday in late February 2021, when their paths crossed at a vaccination clinic held by Clínica Romero at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Hernandez was the public health manager for Clínica Romero, a federally qualified health center (FQHC) serving a largely Latino, uninsured population in greater Los Angeles. Clínica Romero was among the first FQHCs to receive significant quantities of the COVID-19 vaccines, and Hernandez was charged with ensuring that the potentially life-saving shots reached populations that didn’t readily access the healthcare system. At the Mexican Consulate, Hernandez was introduced to Shover, an epidemiologist who had come to lend volunteer support for Clínica Romero’s vaccination efforts that day. Hernandez quickly learned that Shover had the ability to tap into a network of potential volunteers at UCLA, including students and faculty at the UCLA Fielding School. Hernandez had a vaccine event the following Friday in Palmdale, 70 miles north, aiming to draw a particularly hard-to-reach group: the area’s farmworkers. And she needed volunteers — lots of them — stat. “I told Chelsea we needed as many as we could get,” Hernandez recalls. “It was going to be a little chaotic, and we knew that with more volunteers it would make for much shorter lines and a much smoother process.” 24
Using UCLA listservs and her own network of friends and colleagues, Shover sent the word out for both clinical and non-clinical volunteers — Spanish speakers preferred — and assisted at the event alongside students from FSPH and other parts of UCLA, and two UCLA Fielding faculty, Drs. Kristen Choi and Pamina Gorbach. It was neither the first nor the only time that UCLA Fielding volunteers helped get COVID-19 vaccines to traditionally underserved populations. Shover was working as a supervising epidemiologist for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) in the second half of 2020 through a six-month contracting position in which she led data reporting on COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness. As she was coming to the end of her time at the county and preparing to transition to her current position as an assistant professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Shover was approached by her former FSPH classmate, Claire Jarashow (PhD ’16),
U C L A F I E L D I N G S C H O O L O F P U B L I C H E A LT H M AG A Z I N E
then director of vaccine-preventable disease control for LACDPH. “As the vaccines were becoming available, it was clear that a lot of FQHCs and other clinics serving vulnerable populations that were getting vaccine allocation didn’t have the kind of data infrastructure support to fulfill the state’s requirements,” Shover says. “I knew there were many students, including from the Fielding School, who were at home during the pandemic and would be excited to help, so we put out a call for data volunteers and matched a bunch of students with clinics that needed assistance.” Over the ensuing months, as Shover conducted site visits and learned about other needs the FQHCs had, her recruitment efforts broadened. In all, Shover connected some 200 clinical and non-clinical volunteers with opportunities to support the vaccine programs of approximately a dozen FQHCs around L.A. County, as well as supporting the work of Housing for Health, a division of the L.A. County