Monday, April 19, 2021
Virginia Commonwealth University student Nathan Pal and his parents have more in common than their family tree. All three have ties to VCU — Nathan as a Pharm.D.-M.B.A. dual-degree student and his parents as alums — and all three and are volunteering to administer COVID-19 vaccinations for the Henrico County Health Department, which hit its 100,000th vaccination the first weekend of April.
“We started with 1,000 to 1,500 vaccinations on January 22 and now we are doing around 5,000 a day at Richmond Raceway,” said Shubhro Pal, Pharm.D., Nathan’s father and pharmacy director at Westwood Pharmacy. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the VCU School of Medicine in 1994.
Nympha Dalgado, Nathan’s mother, a pediatric nurse practitioner and pediatric mental health nurse practitioner, helps her husband administer vaccinations at Westwood Pharmacy in Henrico’s West End and Richmond Raceway just north of the city when she’s finished seeing her patients.
“The more people we can vaccinate, the sooner we can get to herd immunity,” said Dalgado, who earned a master's from the VCU School of Nursing in the pediatric nurse practitioner concentration in 1994.
Dalgado also works with the faith community to encourage older adults to get vaccinated. “That is another way to get to the population — in their place of worship — to say how important the vaccine is for saving lives,” she said.
Shubhro Pal enlisted Nathan’s help to ask fellow students at the VCU School of Pharmacy if they would volunteer to help with the vaccination process. “Students are so willing and ready to volunteer when they can,” Nathan said.
His father also reached out to Joseph T. DiPiro, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy, to ask for his assistance.
“He connected us to the right team at VCU to start the volunteer process,” Shubhro Pal said.
DiPiro, whose team at the School of Pharmacy helped set up the VCU Vaccine Corps and other efforts to enlist students as volunteer vaccinators, said he was happy to help.
“We are fortunate that so many of our students are trained to administer vaccines, which has let them step up quickly,” DiPiro said. “Nathan and his family are volunteering their training and experience to help end this pandemic. We couldn’t be more proud.”
Nathan Pal, who is on the executive board for the student chapter of the Industry Pharmacists Organization at VCU, has been speaking to students about vaccination efforts in the state.
“My dad has been one of the most pivotal figures in Virginia as far as extending vaccines to people, especially the older population,” he said.
Shubhro Pal has been doing a great deal of community outreach at the pharmacy, especially with individuals in Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout. “The [Richmond Raceway] clinics help in getting vaccinations to these age groups,” he said. “We also vaccinate people at the pharmacy that couldn’t get to [the raceway] or had trouble getting vaccinations.”
Since January, Nathan Pal’s parents have put in long hours at Richmond Raceway, sometimes working from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“I feel like I have been living there for two months,” Shubhro Pal said.
Nathan helps whenever he can, but his time is limited thanks to a busy schedule at VCU’s School of Pharmacy and School of Business. He also work as an intern for an opioid addiction treatment company and has volunteered at Hope Pharmacy and Walgreens, administering vaccines.
“I’m happy to get experience and to be involved wherever I can,” he said.
The family is proud to be at the forefront of vaccinating the public.
“Looking at people’s faces and seeing their smiles is gratifying. They have a new lease on life. Now they can see their grandchildren and children that they haven’t seen in a year,” Shubhro Pal said. “Everyone is so positive at the raceway. Everyone wants to help and has the same goal. Everyone is working their hearts out.”
People often tell Dalgado they can’t believe they finally got their vaccination.
“They say it’s like a dream come true,” she said.
Nathan Pal said one patient told him that he was one of the first people the patient had seen in a year.
“The feeling of getting the vaccine and knowing they will be able to do something as simple as grocery shopping, it’s almost like being reborn,” Nathan Pal said. “It’s gratifying being on the health care side and being in a family of vaccinators. My parents have been involved with it every day. It’s inspirational for me to see as a son, but also as a student. I can see the passion behind it.”
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