The COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives.

July 01, 2023 | /

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed lives, but we saw a way out when a vaccine against the deadly virus was released less than a year later. From the time the COVID-19 vaccine became available to the public, it has been our mission here at Mountain Park Health Center to vaccinate as many people as possible. Thanks to a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), we were able to hire a group of Vaccine Outreach Specialists to help us do just that.

In October of 2022, we celebrated a year with our Vaccine Outreach team! Over the past year, this team has helped us reach thousands of individuals and provide them with lifesaving medical care. By going door-to-door the Vaccine Outreach team has been able to bring information directly to our community. Through their conversations, they have scheduled countless COVID-19 vaccine appointments helping add to the administration of more than 110,000 vaccines at Mountain Park. The team has also connected the community with our providers and other services, giving individuals the resources and confidence to take their healthcare into their own hands. 

“Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do and how to help, but the time that I’ve spent on this team made it so easy to help in the Phoenix community,” said Baldo Barron, who was recently promoted to from vaccine outreach specialist to vaccine outreach supervisor. “I’ve learned so much this past year and I can really say I’m better for this experience.”

Our food distributions at our clinics are just one of the ways we responded to the challenges of the pandemic and our vaccine outreach specialists continue to attend every distribution, helping get the community food while educating them on the COVID-19 vaccine and all of Mountain Park’s resources. One of our vaccine outreach team members shared that they have been on the other side of the food distribution, receiving food. Now being able to help, that experience has brought an important perspective to the work they are doing.

The pandemic has created many challenges for all of us. But from those challenges, we were able to create opportunities, not only for our patients but for our employees, and the individuals who joined our Vaccine Outreach team.

“Before I joined this team, I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really know where to go next,” said Cynthia Ecker, vaccine outreach specialist. “It’s been such a blessing and humbling experience and I’m really motivated by seeing the team and their desire to help. It seems so small, but it makes a huge difference.”

While the team changed significantly over the year, one thing that stayed the same was their ability to motivate and support each other.

“I’m so thankful for everyone on this team and who they are as people,” said Savannah Cordova, vaccine outreach specialist. “I’ve learned so much from everyone and received a lot of support along the way.”

When the pandemic first started, there was a good amount of misinformation resulting in distrust of healthcare facilities. By being out in the community, our vaccine outreach specialists have been able to help the public determine what is fact and what is fiction. Many of our vaccine outreach specialists are also bilingual, helping them bring correct information to our community members who don’t speak English. Their work has helped us build trust not only in the COVID-19 vaccine but also in Mountain Park.

“Every day I get to show up to work and know we’re making a difference,” said Yvonne Rubino-Urbina, vaccine outreach specialist. “We get to go out into the community and meet people and hear their stories and share our stories with them and let them know what Mountain Park can do to help.”

Over the year that our Vaccine Outreach Program has been running, the Vaccine Outreach team has been to more than 100 events and reached thousands of people talking to the community about Mountain Park and our services. Their work was even highlighted in a PBS NewsHour that aired nationally. It’s easy to see this team’s impact on the organization and the communities we serve, but the individuals on the team have also felt the effects of their work in their personal lives.

“We should really be thanking Mountain Park for this opportunity,” said Luis Olandez, vaccine outreach specialist. “I’m always looking for ways to impact communities like the one I came from, and this team helped me do that. I was able to reach goals I never could have accomplished on my own.”

Marian Sanchez, now a community partnership specialist on the Equity, Diversity & Engagement team, was among the first group of vaccine outreach specialists we hired. “I really love every single one of the vaccine outreach specialists,” she said. “When I first joined the team, I didn’t think I would be here beyond a year, and now here I am, a part of the Equity, Diversity & Engagement team.”

We’ve seen a lot of tragedy over the last several years with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vaccine Outreach team has helped show us there are people in our community with the will and desire to help.

“When I first came onto the project, I was really scared I was going to fail,” said Joseph Silvia, the initial vaccine outreach supervisor. “This team and the individuals on it are the reason we didn’t fail. Leadership is only as good as its team and this team is great. I can’t put a monetary value on this experience.”

We can never thank you all enough for everything you have done for Mountain Park and our community. You truly are saving lives. Thanks to a new grant, the vaccine outreach team will get to continue their work until the end of May!

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