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February 23, 2021, Watsonville, California – During a time of growing concern over the inequity of COVID-19 vaccination distribution, Dignity Health-Dominican Hospital of Santa Cruz took special care to reach out to essential workers who might otherwise have been overlooked. The hospital oversaw the vaccination of roughly 1,100 agriculture workers in Watsonville, California.

Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz, President and CEO of Dominican Hospital, said the hospital received vaccine from CommonSpirit Health, its healthcare system. After vaccinating its healthcare partners and employees, Dominican Hospital was directed to use the excess vaccine within seven days. 

The hospital’s Director of Community Benefits, Dominique Hollister, reached out to the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and the California Strawberry Commission. “They had been working on a plan to prioritize vaccinations so that when they became available, it would be easy to distribute them,” Nan said. “We decided to try from an equity standpoint to get [the vaccine] to the county. We’ve seen a disproportionate number of people who got COVID-19 from here because of the close quarters.”

Much of the groundwork had already been laid by the Farm Bureau and the Strawberry Commission, who had compiled a list of people in Watsonville who needed to be vaccinated. “We got them all in our computer system, as many as we could,” Nan explained. 

“It was an amazing outpouring of service,” Nan said. A crew of volunteer physicians and nurses went to Casserly Hall in Watsonville to vaccinate the agriculture workers during a two-day clinic, she explained. In addition, 13 volunteers from the community registered the patients outside of the hall. While the agriculture workers stayed in the hall for 15 minutes after being vaccinated, doctors and nurses monitored them for possible reactions to the vaccine. 

The volunteers who ran the vaccination clinic were also attentive to the special needs of the agriculture workers. All of the information on the vaccines was in Spanish as well as in English, and some volunteers were able to communicate with patients who didn’t speak standard Spanish. Volunteers also helped those who couldn’t read. 

During the clinic, participants were also given appointments to receive the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In most cases, Nan said, the agriculture workers were brought to the clinic by their employers, who will make sure that they return for their second dose. 

The agriculture workers are not the only special group that Dominican Hospital has vaccinated. Recently, volunteers from the hospital also vaccinated 600-700 pre-school to first-grade teachers at the request of the Superintendent of Schools, who approached Nan during the clinic for the agriculture workers. 

Vaccination of the teachers in the lower grades would allow the schools to be opened up, Nan said. “It would be amazing to have children back in school,” she said. “We have a lot of employees who left the work force or took a leave of absence because they had to teach their children at home.”

Nan, her husband, and other physicians from Dominican Hospital also spent New Year’s Eve vaccinating about 100 residents of Dominican Oaks, a retirement apartment complex behind the hospital. 

“We are trying to be targeted in our approach,” Nan explained. “We work with the health officer to make sure we don’t get too far ahead.”

Dominican Hospital has been using the Pfizer vaccine. “Pfizer is very challenging because of the temperatures that are involved,” storage at about ­-70 degrees Centigrade, Nan explained. “Our goal is to wind down our vaccination efforts in the next few weeks and pass the baton on to doctors’ offices.” The doctors’ offices will use the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t require storage at such low temperatures, she added.

Nan said the hospital’s efforts in vaccinating populations such as the agriculture workers are very consistent with its mission. “We’ve been here 80 years,” she said. “Our mission is always to take care of the community, including our disenfranchised community members. That’s why we wanted to do outreach – to get to people who might not necessarily have access to the vaccine.”

Nan said she is especially gratified by the attitude of the physicians and other employees. “They want to keep this going,” she said. “They believe in the mission.”

Founded and long sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Dominican Hospital is now a part of the CommonSpirit Health, a Catholic healthcare system created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. The Adrian Dominican Congregation is now one of 16 participating congregations of women religious with connections to CommonSpirit.


 

Feature photo: Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels


By Tracy Carlson

January 12, 2021, Atlanta, Georgia – Two of the nation’s leading health organizations are responding to the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and racial injustice with a 10-year, $100 million partnership to develop and train more Black physicians, helping address the underlying causes of health disparities. 

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), a historically Black medical school and one of America’s leading educators of primary care physicians, and CommonSpirit Health, one of the largest U.S. health systems with locations in 21 states from coast to coast, are creating a joint undergraduate and graduate medical education program to educate and train the next generation of culturally competent health clinicians and researchers. 

A nonprofit, Catholic health system, CommonSpirit was created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. The system includes St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada, and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California – both founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

“As legacy sponsors of Dignity Health and now, as a Participating Congregation with CommonSpirit, we are so proud of CommonSpirit’s partnership with Morehouse,” the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters wrote in a letter to CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean. “This initiative promises to have a major impact on positively addressing the critical underlying causes of racial health disparities. Given our growing resolve as Adrian Dominican Sisters to address racial inequities and white privilege, we are grateful to you and CommonSpirit for making this long-term commitment to lay a foundation for patients to have more access to Black clinicians, physicians, and health care providers across the nation.”
 
Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, explained that “of the 21,863 students entering medical school in 2019, only 1,626 were Black – and only 619 were Black males. This statistic is alarming for many reasons, not the least of which is the impact on patient care. Studies show that Black patients have better outcomes when treated by Black doctors.” 

MSM and CommonSpirit are uniquely positioned to impact health equity through education and training opportunities and improved access and care delivery. Of the 155 accredited medical schools in the United States, MSM and the other three historically Black medical schools produce the majority of the nation’s Black physicians. 

As one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the nation, CommonSpirit serves some of the most diverse communities in the country and cares for more Medicaid patients than any other health system in the United States. 

The partnership will help develop more Black and other minority physicians by ensuring that a minimum of 300 additional underrepresented providers complete their residency training annually and support a pipeline of students who will be recruited from communities that are historically short on healthcare providers.  

MSM and CommonSpirit will establish five new regional medical school campuses and graduate medical education programs in at least 10 markets in partnership with CommonSpirit healthcare facilities, to be announced in spring 2021.
 
“We are laying the foundation for patients to have more access to Black clinicians and for Black medical students and graduates to gain community-based experience that they need to be successful in their work,” said Lloyd H. Dean, President and CEO of CommonSpirit. “Our initiative also will create a pathway for healthcare organizations across the nation to follow and share our learnings, a vital part of our work.” 

The collaboration will extend to addressing cultural competency and developing research programs to impact illnesses that disproportionately affect minority and underserved communities. 

“We’re immediately leveraging our partnership to address health inequities magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, as Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Dean said. “Together, we will foster a culturally competent system of care that includes testing, care delivery, and vaccine allocation, directed at the most vulnerable populations to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in racial and ethnic communities.” 

MSM and CommonSpirit will contribute $21 million in seed money in the first two years, with a goal of spearheading a 10-year, $100 million initiative that invites the support of individual donors, industry partners, and philanthropic organizations. 

“This partnership is the perfect combination of two healthcare organizations that are devoted to the creation and advancement of heath equity in underserved communities,” Dr. Montgomery Rice said. “Now, more than ever, we believe society needs a unique partnership like ours that can help show the way to reducing health disparities in vulnerable communities, and, in turn, make all communities stronger.” 

Promising their support and prayer for the success of the initiative, the General Council added that the partnership “aligns fully with the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. We are delighted, through our participation in CommonSpirit, to be a part of this extraordinary healing initiative.”

Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor.


 

 

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