Smiling medical students

Students Assist America

Students Assist America graphic

Mobilizing the Future Healthcare Workforce

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

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 vaccination photos

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 was initially launched in Virginia through a partnership between Students Assist America and the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps. Responding to the request by former 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.

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

It’s great to have a vaccine, but vaccines don’t save lives: vaccinations save lives. And that means you’ve got to get that vaccine into people’s arms all over this country. It’s a giant logistical project.

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

Collaborating Organizations

AACOM logo




Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges



Associatio of Schools Advancing Health Professions