Getting Personal

School of Medicine

“I lived through WWII. A little needle is not going to hurt me,” said Ms. X as I screened her for vaccination contraindications.

In years past, Ms. X saw Lakeshore Family Medicine Center’s medical assistants for her flu shots. This year, I welcomed her into our medical student-led vaccination program within the Lakeshore center.

As a part of the new Bridges curriculum’s longitudinal clinical experience, my Clinical Microsystems Clerkship (CMC) group is spearheading a quality improvement project to increase flu, HPV, and childhood vaccination uptake.

Our five-membered group identifies barriers to access, reaches out to patients overdue for vaccinations, and invites them to our weekly vaccination clinic.

After we began seeing patients independently, I gained a better understanding of what it meant to be a physician.

As I became more comfortable with vaccination, the process became a routine of screening questions and needle pokes.

What remained rewarding is the backstory that each patient brings to the encounter.

As I listened to Ms. X’s stories of surviving through WWII, my act of vaccination became an act of protection of what Ms. X described as one of her few remaining possessions, her health.

Knowing the patient as a person gave meaning to my care.

Without knowing Ms. X’s narrative, the only satisfaction of the patient encounter would be the successful delivery of 0.5 mL of antigenic material through layers of skin, fat, and muscle.

I must admit that the simple act of injection is not very rewarding after going from deltoid to deltoid and vastus lateralis to vastus lateralis.

Our vaccination program’s dedicated hours allow us to enjoy longer one-on-one interaction with patients, a luxury that many providers do not have.

Medical students, too, grapple with short appointment times and increasing responsibilities during rotations.

I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with patients through CMC.