A Shot in the Arm for UNC Health

THE BIKE BEAT

By Adam Searing

Over our pandemic year I’ve been lucky enough to mountain bike with a group of five or so friends on a regular basis. One benefit of the many great trails in our area means hundreds of acres and miles of quiet riding. Even the huge increase in popularity of outdoor pursuits hasn’t interfered all that much with our more remote rides.

Maintaining these outdoor connections with friends has been a blessing for many during the pandemic. However, there is a unique issue with my own riding buddies endemic to our community and that has little to do with who is the fastest downhill rider.

Between the broader UNC community and UNC’s hospital, you often can’t turn around here in Chapel Hill/Carrboro without seeing someone who has been helping out to defeat COVID-19. In my riding group alone, we’ve got a couple of doctors regularly seeing patients, another rider whose day job includes working with the coronavirus to help develop treatments and even someone who plays a major role in manufacturing one of the vaccines against the disease. It’s a little intimidating for those of us whose law degrees aren’t much use in curing the sick, whose graphic design skills might win acclaim but not clinical trials and whose skills with statistics reveal trends but not treatments!

In reality, it’s great to be part of a group that includes so many people working so hard to solve the pandemic — and that’s an experience many people in our area can feel with so many institutions working so hard getting us back to normal. That’s why when some of my fellow riders suggested I volunteer at one of the UNC Health mass vaccination clinics I jumped at the chance for a lawyer to pitch in a little as well. I might just be handing out masks or pointing people in the right direction, but it was an opportunity to help.

I’m glad I did. After more than a month of periodic work at UNC Health’s Friday Center mass vaccination clinic — where they routinely are vaccinating around 1,500 people a day against the coronavirus — I am in awe of the amazing effort to make this happen from UNC as an institution, the medical center staff and our community of volunteers. I have never been prouder of our medical center and UNC itself and I’ve lived here all my life.

Why? UNC Health has made this clinic an “all hands on deck” effort where every single person is working together for success. When we think of the hospital we often think of the amazing new heart surgery or the efforts to cure cancer, and that all is important.

A mass vaccination clinic like the one at the Friday Center may not be as ground-breaking, but this clinic is run so well that people I greet to come in for their second shots routinely tell me how appreciative they are at the organization, speed and professional courtesy they receive. In addition, people talk about the friendliness of the staff and their faith in UNC and the university at this most difficult time in the history of our state and country.

The success I observe isn’t an accident: it takes commitment. Start with the folks at the hospital who redesigned the Friday Center from a conference venue to an efficient assembly line where thousands of people can get checked in, screened, vaccinated and safely taken care of every week. Next, think about the UNC housekeeping staff who make sure everything from the medical waste from the injections to the discarded masks near the front door are disposed of quickly and properly.

Then move on to people like the UNC security officer who makes sure older people don’t have to line up outside in the cold and the huge set of volunteers who are organized by other staff to meet, greet, screen and guide people through the process. Indeed, different types of volunteers play critical roles, from giving vaccines alongside UNC staff to helping with duties only a nurse or other provider can perform.

And many folks from UNC who might not directly work at the clinic are pitching in as volunteers as well, along with people across our community. But at the heart of this effort is the commitment to serve of UNC Health as an institution and the commitment to serve of every UNC Health staff member whom I have had the pleasure to meet.

We can see some light at the end of the tunnel after a truly terrible year. It gives me enormous hope to see firsthand the efforts being marshalled in our community to begin to win the battle against this virus. While my few hours of directing patients will never rise to the level of contribution of many — including my good friends and fellow riders — I’m glad they convinced me to help push the effort along a little as well. It’s not something I’ll ever regret.

Now, let’s go riding!


Adam Searing is a lifetime resident of Chapel Hill, a mountain bike coach and attorney. He can be reached at adamsearing@gmail.com.

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