One team, one fight

April 6, 2021 - Susan T. Burtch

One team. One fight. That has long been a truism in the business world, but perhaps nowhere more so than at the VCU School of Business during the recent pandemic. That’s why you’ll find Melany Ferreira Da Silva, Robert Hana and Elizabeth Fields hard at work in vaccination clinics throughout the Richmond area.

 Ferreira Da Silva and Hana are both dual degree Doctor of Pharmacy and MBA students, scheduled to graduate this May. Ferreira Da Silva was already working a part-time job in the Kroger pharmacy when she was called upon to start administering shots. Hana stepped up to volunteer in a small independent pharmacy. There he not only created a framework to streamline the vaccination process, but also administered the shots himself. Fields, a Thalhimer Scholar in the MS Business program -- also graduating in May – heeded the call through the VCU Vaccine Corps website.  She underwent training on the software program that facilitates tracking and now sits beside the vaccinators to record patient information.

Though the workload was intense, all three students echo the same sense of satisfaction. Between Saturday and Sunday on the weekend after the ice storm, Ferreira Da Silva personally gave over 100 shots. Hana’s pharmacy administered 1,500 shots in three weeks. “I felt it was my duty to step up as a leader,” he says. “I am very humbled to be able to help as much as I could in such extraordinary times.”

Ferreira Da Silva tells of joyful reactions in patients as she gave them their long-awaited COVID shots. “I loved seeing how excited everyone was,” she grins, “especially older adults, who are so grateful now that they can see their grandchildren.” Fields remembers.

Thankfully, these altruistic efforts have practical ramifications for all three students as well. Says Ferreira Da Silva, “I think, looking back, not a lot of pharmacists had the opportunity as a student to figure out what to do during a pandemic. Now I feel better equipped to deal with a health crisis if it occurs in the future. – how to handle a higher volume of patients, expect the unknown, be a little bit better prepared.”

Fields is pursuing her MS Business degree in global marketing management while holding down a full-time job as project manager for an educational marketing company. She works with different partners around the country on recruitment and retention campaigns – not dissimilar from meeting all the different kinds of people coming to receive their COVID shots. “The volunteer experience has been great for me,” she says. “Everybody has a part to play.”

Hana feels his business training was particularly useful during the PharmD clinical management rotation at Kroger. There he created an Excel supply model that helped the district manager distribute the vaccine and allocate supplies for over 8,000 doses at stores in the Richmond and Virginia Beach area. “This gave me the chance to express my passion,” he explains. “That is the intersection between healthcare and business.”

Yet ultimately, it’s Fields who best sums up the shared VCU Business volunteer experience: “To see those COVID shot numbers go up, that’s what we all want.”