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VUSM volunteer efforts led by students

Posted by on Monday, March 30, 2020 in Student Spotlight .

by Ayesha Muhammad (G2)

As people undergoing undergraduate medical and predoctoral scientific training, we are in a unique position: we have the know-how to appreciate the magnitude of the COVID-19 problem, while also being unable to join our mentors, loved ones and people who were once our peers (looking at you class of 2020! – Congratulations on your recent match!) on the frontlines to help out. We are motivated individuals by nature: we chose to spend our first summer break doing a graduate school rotation, we prefer our Wednesday lunches in the ambiance of MSTP seminar, even our hobbies require hard work and endurance (shout out to Joey El-Sakr and his recent run in the Olympic trials). So, for most of us, “merely” engaging in social distancing is not enough; we want to do more to help out.

Thao Le, a G2, was perhaps having similar thoughts that she decided to turn to action. In what seems like almost overnight, Thao got together with Catie Havemann (VUSM M3, wife to Kelsey McNew G3), to coordinate a med student volunteer effort that began with providing baby-sitter services to medical providers as businesses closed down and healthcare worker burden increased. This effort has now burgeoned into collaborations with the TN department of health to staff the COVID-19 hotline, contact tracking, telehealth set-up, PPE drives, among others. Just the babysitter opportunity has logged more than 120 hours since its inception. However, as I mused in an earlier piece above, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so we need to pace ourselves and be prepared to help out in any way we can. As a result, here is a list of opportunities available for medical students to help with, some of which we might be uniquely qualified for: 

VUMC/VU-coordinated efforts

Medical student led efforts:
Childcare/household support for VUMC healthcare workers (Status: Up and running)
Details: Student-driven, voluntary participation only! No VUSM, VUMC, or peer to peer pressure. All student-physician household pairings will be tracked, and the student will not be paired with that physician, or be able to receive assessments from them, in the future. Students can only care for the children from a single family at a time. Students should strongly consider potential exposure consequences of taking care of different families at different times. Decisions around receiving payment for babysitting versus volunteering is entirely up to the student and the person they are assisting.
Special skills needed: none 

PPE shortage drive: (Status: in progress)
Details: Drive on the VU side to collect reagents and PPE as needed by VUMC. Can also help with mask-sewing if you have sewing skills.
Special skills needed: possible contacts in the community, or sewing

Please sign up for above volunteer opportunities here:


TN Department of Health (Status: Up and running)
Details: In-person phone interviews with patients who have positive COVID19 test results to determine contract tracing, patient plans for isolation, etc.
Sign up:
Special skills needed: Medical students only (Vanderbilt or Meharry) 

Telehealth Set-Up
Details: Your role is to contact patients the day before their appointment and make sure they are ready for a tele-health visit, thereby helping VUMC provide quality care while reducing COVID exposure to patients. Training materials will be provided to you. Commitment will be flexible as you sign up whenever you are able to volunteer. You are able to work remotely.
Sign up:
Special skills needed: Vanderbilt University Medical School students with Epic access

Second Harvest Food Box Delivery (Status: up and running)
Details: picking up and delivering food boxes to families in need in the community
Sign up: and select Second Harvest Food Box Delivery.
Special skills needed: Vanderbilt University Medical School students only


Through the VI4

If you are a VUMC employed PhD trained scientist who would like to help with efforts to support the clinical microbiology laboratory and COVID-19 therapeutic development, please contact Eric Skaar (
Special skills needed: Need to be a VUMC post-doc

Volunteer with research and non-research related tasks to support the VUMC mission during the COVID-19 pandemic. Details are not given, but they will contact you when volunteers are needed and will provide more details on the tasks that need to be performed. You can then evaluate and choose to participate if you would like to. Sign up here:
Special skills needed: none 


Supporting our own community

Graduate Student Council has set up a support network where Vanderbilt graduate students can provide and receive support from one another. Sign up if you would like to extend an act of kindness and help make grocery/medicine deliveries or offer other forms of support to another member of our community.
Sign up:
You can also register your own needs here:

Edge for Scholars
Edge for Scholars – a blog geared towards generating candid discussions about life and academics – is seeking individuals who can commit to getting oriented and working anywhere from a few hours a week, to full-time. They are looking for individuals interested in science communication, social media outreach, medical education or career development work in academics later in their careers to help bolster their online presence. Please reach out to Dr. Katherine Hartmann with questions or to get involved!
Special skills needed: a pulse 


National medical student efforts

Harvard’s COVID19 Health Literacy Project  (Status: Up and running)
Details: Find more information here, and sign up to contribute here
Please consider whether there are Nashville-area or TN organizations, community centers, or social services that might benefit from these translated information sheets once they are completed!
Special Skills needed: knowledge of other languages


Nashville wide opportunities

Blood drives
Details: Donate blood if you are healthy! There are drives in Light Hall, at the Nashville Red Cross, and other locations, which are fully compliant with social distancing guidelines. See our very own Chris Williams (MSTP Director), Maggie Axelrod (G3) and Kim Rathmell (PI: Aaron Lim (G4), Brad Reinfeld (G3), Avery-Cohen Faculty Advisor) involved in these efforts in our Life in the MSTP section!
Sign up: Red Cross
Special skills needed: none  

Food delivery to vulnerable populations
Details: If you are able, please consider donations to the vulnerable populations at this time. You can also volunteer to drop off supplies at different resource locations.
Sign up: Homeless Nashville
Special skills needed: none

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Details: sorting and packing food donations from grocery stores, food drives, and farms for distribution across middle and west Tennessee – volunteers are sorely needed to keep up with the increasing demand from our communities due to the March 3rd tornadoes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sign up: HERE to donate and volunteer
Special skills needed: older than 12 years old 

Details: Heathy Nashvillians offering no-contact porch drop-offs for our #HighRiskCovid19 citizens. We offer grocery/supply shopping, med pickup or other errands. HELP REQUEST? Call 615-447-8260 or email
For more information and to sign up:

Poison Center Hotline
Details: In-person, answering phone calls from the public and responding to general questions about COVID-19. Every effort is being made to have volunteers at least 6 feet apart, and no more than 10 volunteers at a time. Most core Poison Center employees are currently working remotely, so interpersonal contact is minimized in that regard as well. Training takes place in the first 20 minutes of your shift.
Sign up: click HERE for more instructions and sign up.
Special skills needed: Bachelor’s degree and above