This past December, a few medical colleagues, including We’am Hussain, M.D., ’18, a third-year internal medicine resident at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine (BSOM), were enjoying a cup of tea together. They were discussing how they could give back to the community.
During that same time, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna began announcing the release of COVID-19 vaccines. Hussain, her sister Anam Hussain, M.B.A., a third-year medical student at BSOM, and others they knew in health care began fielding questions from friends and hearing a lot of misinformation concerning the vaccines. This situation helped Hussain and Anam realize that sharing what they learned about the COVID-19 vaccines with the community, was their opportunity to help.
Hussain and her colleagues recognized there was often a delay regarding accurate health care information getting to the general public. Hussain said, “By first getting information to health care professionals, we believed that it would trickle down from provider to patient.” With this realization, the idea of formally sharing information about the vaccines with the Dayton area health care community grew from concept to reality.
Hussain and Anam, with assistance from Glen Solomon, M.D., BSOM chair of internal medicine and neurology, began reaching out to others in the BSOM community and finding experts in other medical specialties who were interested in becoming involved, and formed a COVID-19 vaccine task force.
“We wanted to provide knowledge from a diverse group of medical experts,” said Hussain. The COVID-19 vaccine task force included BSOM faculty, residents and students, representing various disciplines and specialties, and was supported by BSOM and the Department of Internal Medicine and Neurology.
Along with Hussain and Anam, the vaccine task force included the following BSOM clinicians: Glen Solomon, M.D., professor and chair of internal medicine and neurology; Cynthia Sheppard Solomon, B.S.Pharm, R.Ph., FASCP, registered pharmacist and clinical assistant professor of internal medicine; Steven Burdette, M.D., division director of infectious disease and professor of internal medicine; Jonathan Miller, M.D., resident physician in psychiatry; and H. Bradford Hawley, M.D., professor emeritus with the BSOM internal medicine department, and past president of the Infectious Diseases Society of Ohio.
The focus of the task force was to provide information about the vaccines and techniques to help providers talk to patients about them. “Often times the way we present information to patients is just as important as what we are saying,” said Hussain. “We saw two aspects to communicating with patients, first, understanding their concerns, and second, having the appropriate knowledge to share,” Hussain added.
When talking to patients about the COVID-19 vaccine, the task force recommended providers understand their patients, concerns and recognize that people may have been hearing contrasting information. The team suggested health care professionals educate themselves as much as possible about the vaccine, so they could better explain it to patients. The task force also recommended using motivational interviewing to discuss the vaccines. Motivational interviewing is a type of communication that involves collaboration and good listening. It requires engaging with patients as equal partners and empowering them to make decisions, while refraining from scare tactics, warnings or confrontation.
In an effort to share information with the Dayton-area medical community, the task force held a free virtual symposium in January of 2021. Nearly 150 people attended. Those invited to the event consisted of members of the BSOM community and providers at the hospital systems in the Dayton area, including Dayton Children’s Hospital, Dayton VA Medical Center, Kettering Health Network, Premier Health and Wright-Patterson Medical Center.
The virtual event opened with Valerie Weber, M.D., BSOM dean, who spoke about addressing vaccine hesitancy as just one part of BSOM’s goal of supporting the community. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also spoke and provided information on vaccine roll-out plans and goals for the state and the Dayton area. Several physicians and medical professionals from BSOM and the Dayton area presented on topics including COVID-19 virology and management, COVID-19 vaccine misconceptions and unanswered questions, vaccine distribution, and how to communicate with patients about the vaccine. The event ended with a panel discussion to answer questions.
The vaccine task force also compiled information, creating a library of resources to share with the Dayton area medical community, including recording the virtual symposium and making it available online. It can be viewed on the BSOM website, medicine.wright.edu, as well as on the Wright State University YouTube channel. Search for COVID-19 symposium.
The goal of this task force was to help the community by helping local clinicians partner with their patients, to inform them and instill confidence in the vaccines, and get vaccinated. Hussain added, “Ultimately vaccines are only beneficial when they are appropriately distributed and used. This is our vision for the Dayton community.”