Student pharmacists on COVID-19 testing in Pullman


When Misty Lefler and Shayne Fontes got the urgent call from Associate Dean of Professional Education Jennifer Robinson that volunteers were needed for COVID-19 testing at WSU’s main campus in Pullman, the third-year pharmacy students scrambled to organize their peers over one weekend. Only one week into the fall semester, and Pullman was already experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases despite going to virtual learning for the semester.

“I get really excited saying ‘I get to help out with this and I get to help our community,’” said Lefler. “As health care providers all we want to do is educate, immunize, and help provide those services.”

“As health care providers all we want to do is educate, immunize, and help provide those services.”

The students volunteered in the mobile unit operated by Range Health, the nonprofit academic health care network led by executives from the colleges of Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Lefler and Fontes share what it was like to administer COVID-19 vaccines in an interview with the college and how it has impacted their perspectives as future pharmacists. Fully garbed in PPE (personal protective equipment) and working alongside faculty, the students administered nasopharyngeal swabs on WSU students who were experiencing symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus. Between COVID-19 testing, they would tuck themselves away to attend virtual class and labs in the President’s Suite.

“It was cool to apply some of the stuff we learned in school and having students ask us basic questions about signs and symptoms and false negatives and what not. So I thought it was cool to have that hands-on experience,” said Fontes.

The Washington National Guard has since taken over COVID-19 testing in Pullman. The increase in COVID-19 cases in Whitman County has been primarily traced by authorities to off-campus gatherings in privately owned housing in the Greek Row area. Students who fail to follow state mandates, whether on or off campus, not only risk potential law enforcement action but can face disciplinary hearings under WSU’s Community Standards process.

In the meantime, Lefler and Fontes will be working with their student organizations to help administer flu vaccines around Spokane in partnership with the Regional Health District.