Mobilizing the Future Healthcare Workforce: Students Assist America

For more than two years, the United States was in crisis due to the continued spread of COVID-19. One of the areas of vulnerability in the public health infrastructure became clear: an overwhelmed healthcare workforce could not manage the complex vaccine distribution challenges on its own. We needed to adopt an all-hands-on-deck approach – as quickly as possible - and Students Assist America answered that call. 

An Interprofessional Approach

All hands on deck for COVID vaccinations. Students Assist America

An Interprofessional Approach

Students Assist America (SAA), an interprofessional initiative of 12 associations spearheaded by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, is asked federal and state leaders to give hundreds of thousands of students the opportunity to help vaccinate the public and assist with the related tasks necessary for an effective and efficient vaccine roll out. After months of advocacy, SAA was able to work with policymakers to do just that.

By changing regulatory language and capturing the attention of the White House, future physicians, physician assistants, nurses, social workers, veterinarians, dental professionals, public health experts, optometrists, pharmacists and psychologists joined together as an interdisciplinary safety net to ensure that the weight of the COVID-19 emergency did not crush the daily operations of the healthcare system and put individuals and communities at further risk.

To this day, health professions students continue to serve their communities by helping to provide COVID-19 and other vaccines as part of a public health emergency response. Though formal SAA activities are dormant, this group’s work is now a permanent part of the nation’s response arsenal in times of crisis.

Providing Relief, Ensuring Safety

As they have for many years when participating in flu vaccination efforts, students providing COVID vaccines are supervised by licensed professionals and are given all necessary PPE to ensure their safety. SAA also advocated for students to receive the COVID vaccine along with all healthcare providers working on the frontlines.

The goal of Students Assist America was two-fold:

  • Create meaningful opportunities for students with valuable skills and knowledge to help during this pandemic
  • Enable students to continue moving forward on their educational path while traditional methods of learning are disrupted

Osteopathic Medical Students on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Osteopathic medical students across the nation have been helping with vaccination efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read stories about how these students have set up vaccination clinics, provided life-saving vaccines, served their local communities and more.

LMU-DCOM students receiving their first dose of the Pfizer, Inc. COVID-19 vaccine. KCUCOM students serve their community at a vaccine clinic. WVSOM medical students assist at multiple vaccination clinics throughout WV. VCOM Carolinas Campus students provide vaccines at community clinic. VCOM-Auburn discusses COVID-19 vaccination efforts with radio audience. PCOM Georgia professor gives students an introduction to giving vaccines. Fourth-year NYITCOM medical student Niki Shah administers a COVID-19 vaccine. OSUCOM students help vaccination efforts in Tahlequah and Tulsa, OK. UNTHSC/TCOM students receive vaccines while on rotation. TUCOM-CA students Nick Huerta, Ruby Gilmor and Hashir Qamar take a quick break from their volunteer work at a vaccine event at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. LUCOM students working on the front lines of vaccination efforts.

Media Coverage

Case Study: Students Assist America Partnerships

Virginia Medical Reserve Corps


I started volunteering with MRC in 2018 as a new student of public health, and they make it very easy. They are very organized. After COVID, it has exceeded my expectations and I love working with students from other health fields.

Sarah Work, Virginia Tech MPH Graduate 2020


This flagship approach initially launched in Virginia through a partnership between Students Assist America and the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps. Responding to the request by Governor Ralph Northam to bring students into the fight against the pandemic, academic institutions across the state are working to ensure their students have the opportunity to help their communities now, during  future vaccination efforts, and well into the future once the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

A similar model is operating now in Arizona and more states are coming on board.

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Connect with Students Assist America

For more information on the Students Assist America mobilization effort, please contact Virginia Bader at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine at vbader@aacom.org.


Ron Klain, Chief of Staff to President-elect Joe Biden
Nov. 15, 2020

Collaborating Organizations





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