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Lipscomb’s own bring crisis and health expertise to bear on health crisis

Lipscomb draws on its own faculty and students to protect campus during the fall semester.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

Student giving a flu shot

The College of Pharmacy & health Sciences students provided more than 1,000 flu vaccinations for faculty, students and staff in September during Bison Flu Fest.

This spring as COVID-19 took over the thoughts and lives of Americans, as well as the world, Lipscomb University looked to its own to prepare for operating safely with new expectations, new challenges and a new worldview.

Faculty and students in the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences have played a crucial role in not only allowing students to return to in-campus classes in August in a safe environment but also continuing that protection this fall as flu season begins.

READ ON to see how resources from the College of Pharmacy have helped make the fall of 2020 a safe and healthy semester for the entire Lipscomb community.

Kevin Eidson with students at flu clinic
Pharmacy professor uses past experience preparing for statewide disasters to help Lipscomb open safely this past fall.

As COVID-19 took hold this spring, Lipscomb University’s president decided to hire a full-time director of health and wellness to oversee efforts to keep the campus community safe and well. The man he turned to for such a critical role was an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy.

Kevin Eidson, Lipscomb’s director of health and wellness since June, worked eight years with the State of Tennessee Department of Health and part of his time at the state was spent as the state strategic national stockpile director and the director of pharmacy. 

During his time at the state, Eidson developed many plans to address disasters, both man-made and natural, including bio-terrorism and pandemics. He worked in that public health role during the 2001 anthrax scare across the nation, and under his watch, Tennessee became the first state to deploy Mark 1 antidote kits to be used for exposure to nerve agents. 

At Lipscomb, under Eidson’s direction, an on-campus COVID-19 rapid testing laboratory was established, and alternative care sites were built and outfitted on campus for use when a student needs to self-isolate and has no other alternative housing options. The Lipscomb’s Health Center developed a system for contact tracing potential cases of the virus, as well as systems for care checks, food and exercise for students in self-isolation. 

“What this situation has really highlighted for me is that Lipscomb is a community that cares” said Eidson, well into the fall 2020 semester after Lipscomb successfully returned students to on-campus classes and living. “Our students really want to be here, and to make that happen, they are following the guidelines we have set up. When I see students who really want to be here that badly, it makes me want to make sure we can stay here.”

Pharmacy was the logical career choice for Eidson as he was growing up in White House, Tennessee. His cousin was a co-owner of JP Brown Drugs, and his family encouraged him to go into the field. He obtained his degrees at Middle Tennessee State and at Mercer universities.

 

Kevin Eidson in the university Health Center

He worked in independent pharmacies in Atlanta and in Fort Myers, Florida, before moving back to Tennessee after 9/11 to work in emergency preparedness and as the state’s director of pharmacy for Tennessee’s public health department, addressing the state’s emergency preparedness and responses to bioterrorism.

“The logistics of getting medical assets like ventilators, medications and bandages out to workers and patients on the front lines of any crisis, uses the same logistical skills that pharmacists use on a daily basis,” Eidson said. “I was the first pharmacist to be employed at the Tennessee Department of Health's central office in Nashville. The state saw real value in those logistical skills. So when I left those roles, I was replaced by other pharmacists.”

During his time with the state, he helped recruit 30,000 volunteers who could dispense medications in the event of a crisis, similar to Lipscomb’s recent flu vaccination clinic, when more than 1,000 members of the Lipscomb community were provided vaccinations in the span of three days.

Part of Eidson’s job at the state was also to review pharmacy and medical laws and rules, and how they related to the needs faced during a bioterrorism or any crisis in the state. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. health professionals are working under executive orders that waive telehealth regulations to allow providers to see more patients without putting themselves at greater risk.

Prior to joining Lipscomb’s faculty 10 years ago, he served as the executive director of the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy and was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam as a board member for the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy.

As College of Pharmacy faculty, the assistant professor teaches courses on pharmacy law and ethics, leading Lipscomb’s student pharmacists to top scores in the state and nation on the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination.

“I have had the most rewarding career as a pharmacist, but being here—in the Lipscomb community—this is a good fit for my training and everything I have done in the past,” Eidson said.

Flu vaccine in syringes
Nation’s top immunizers put their skills to work to protect campus community during unprecedented flu season

The College of Pharmacy’s Academy of Student Pharmacists (ASP) chapter provided more than 1,000 flu vaccinations for faculty, students and staff in September during Bison Flu Fest, a three-day clinic in Allen Arena designed to immunize as many people on the Lipscomb campus as possible before the 2020 flu season hits in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The student pharmacists involved in ASP have given thousands of flu vaccinations on the Lipscomb campus and throughout Middle Tennessee for the past decade. In fact, the group was the national first place winner for the American Pharmacists Association’s Operation Immunization campaign in 2018-19. Giving more than 7,100 flu shots in that year, Lipscomb beat out 119 chapters across the nation for the honor. 

Recognizing the health situation in 2020, the university committed to provide free flu vaccinations for every Lipscomb employee and all university students this fall, said Kevin Eidson, Lipscomb’s director of health and wellness. Lipscomb’s Health Services and ASP are continuing to offer additional opportunities to obtain flu vaccinations throughout the semester, vaccinating another 200 people by the end of October, he said. 

The university secured 3,600 doses of flu vaccinations for this flu season.

“This event was the biggest undertaking we have ever had enlisting 156 volunteers to help with the clinic,” said Sarah Uroza, associate professor of pharmacy and faculty sponsor for the student group. Health science students and staff from the nursing and physician assistant studies programs helped staff the clinic, which also included a drive-up option on Saturday for employees and students working from home.

A open-air flu shot clinic

In addition to protecting the campus for this flu season, the Bison Flu Fest immunization clinic serves as a trial run for providing a future Covid-19 vaccine to the campus community, she said.

Each year ASP coordinates and participates in numerous flu shot clinics throughout the fall, resulting in thousands of flu shots provided throughout Middle Tennessee.

Prior to 2020, Lipscomb had provided free flu shots for faculty and staff, but the cost of shots for students needed to be covered by their personal insurance. Despite various opportunities to obtain flu shots on campus, less than 350 people took advantage of the on-campus flu shots last year. That compares to more than 1,000 by the end of Bison Flu Fest in September this year.

“At Lipscomb we are strongly committed to playing an active role in our community, and in 2020 that means keeping as many people on our campus healthy as is possible this fall,” said Eidson. “For the good of not just our students, but for the good of the entire Nashville community, Lipscomb has invested in making sure the threat of infection is minimized on our campus.”

The Bison Flu Fest design was based on Vanderbilt University’s Flulapalooza, which annually immunizes 14,000 employees in 12 hours, said Uroza. Lipscomb’s APhA-ASP students and faculty have participated in Flulapalooza for several years.