MU | Alumni Notes
Pharmacists in Unprecedented Times
When Raul Morales ’ 20 Pharm . D ., began his pharmacy career at Walgreens , little did he know that within just a few months he would be leading the company ’ s first COVID-19 vaccination efforts in long-term care facilities across a large swath of southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana .
“ I think it had a lot to do with my work ethic ,” said Morales . “ My district manager , who recommended me for the role of lead vaccinator , saw that I was always ready to work and to do whatever I had to do to make things happen .”
Yet , Morales – who was a nontraditional student with a wife and four children – admits that he was hesitant when he was first approached about leading vaccination clinics . As with so many things during the pandemic , travel and vaccine distribution were surrounded by uncertainty .
But , realizing he could really make a difference , he accepted the challenge .
“ I knew I could possibly be saving thousands of lives performing these clinics ,” Morales recalled . “ First and foremost , as far as my profession is concerned , it ’ s about taking care of the patient the best I can .” Morales credits the Manchester University Pharmacy Program with bolstering his natural instinct to help others .
“ One of the big things that came out of my time at Manchester was a sense of leadership – really owning the fact that you ’ re there to take care of the patients ,” he said .
Relying on that sense of leadership and work ethic in patient care , in early January , Morales led the charge in distributing the vaccine to patients in long-term care facilities . For many of the patients , these vaccination clinics were the first contact they had with the outside world in nearly a year .
“ They were very relieved , very excited – especially during that first round of clinics ,” Morales said .
Each Walgreens clinic meant three site visits for him : one visit for the initial vaccine dose , a second visit for the second dose and to vaccinate staff members who may have been absent for the first dose , and a third visit to deliver the second dose to those staff members .
Morales led logistically as the point pharmacist letting other pharmacy staff know where they were going and how to set up at their location .
“ Obviously , I wasn ’ t the only pharmacist vaccinating . Some days we had three or four clinics running simultaneously in different locations ,” said Morales . “ I was responsible for making sure each clinic had enough vaccine , and that the vaccine was transported to them safely .”
Greg Hetrick ’ 05 , M . Ed ., assistant dean of enrollment and community engagement , recalls how Morales successfully balanced his education and family life during his time at Manchester .
“ He had to make sacrifices to meet all his commitments over his four years in the program , so I wasn ’ t surprised to hear about his success and how much impact he had ,” said Hetrick . “ A new graduate being able to take the lead on that type of initiative is impressive .”
He said Morales ’ role in the vaccination efforts ties into Manchester University ’ s mission and its philosophy of graduating people of ability and the conviction to do the right thing .
“ He saw the opportunity to help others and to have an impact on the population , and he was able to run with it ,” Hetrick said .
Morales has since taken on a new role as a Walmart pharmacy manager , but his experience on the frontlines of helping to reign in the COVID-19 pandemic made a lasting impression .
“ The pandemic is going to be spoken about in history ,” said Morales . “ Our names won ’ t be known , but we ’ re going to be able to look back and say , ‘ We took charge , and pharmacists stepped up to fill an unprecedented need in patient care .’ There ’ s a sense of pride and purpose when you think about it that way .”
By Matt Walker
22 Manchester University | ManchesterRx