Three UNLV Medicine professionals are on the front lines of distributing a vaccine against a virus that’s already taken more than 400,000 American lives.
Gabriella “Gabby” Benitez, Tina Galindo, and Delicia Sullivan are assisting coronavirus vaccination efforts for those in health care, public safety, public health, and emergency first response. All three have been working long days vaccinating people at the student union, but the labor has had an energizing effect.
“I’m not tired after giving vaccinations,” said the 31-year-old Sullivan, who normally works as a medical assistant in the department of internal medicine. “I feel like I can run a marathon afterward. It’s such an honor to meet and help first responders, health care workers, police officers — so many people who are always helping our community. They thank me for being on the front lines helping them and I thank them for doing what they do for our country.”
Not long ago, however, Sullivan wasn’t feeling well after work. She sat outside the UNLV Student Union crying. Colleagues gathered around her. She learned in a phone call that her mother had died.
“It was totally unexpected,” she said. “A blood clot came loose and filled her lungs with blood.”
Sullivan, who’s taking prerequisite courses at CSN to become a nurse, said her mother, who suffered from lupus, had helped her care for her two young children, Jayden, 12, and Journie, 9.
Three days after her mother died, Sullivan was back vaccinating people
“My mother, who I cared for after she got lupus, was my rock. My mom said my biggest problem is that I didn’t believe in myself like I should. Hey, I’m scared. I admit it. But I’m going to show my mother that I can make my dreams come true with her help," she said. "I still talk to her every day. I found a babysitter for my kids. It’s going to be harder. But I’m going to go on and become a registered nurse and then I’m going to be a doctor. I told my mother when she got lupus in 1997 that I was going to be a doctor and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Like Sullivan, Benitez, who’s also a medical assistant in the department of internal medicine, has found purpose in vaccinating people against COVID-19.
“It’s really remarkable to be part of something that can help so many people,” she said. “Every time I give a vaccination I know this person will always remember it. To be one of the first people doing this, I feel special and honored. People are so excited. They know this is history. They take selfies.”
Not a serious student in high school, Benitez says that once she took a desk job at a medical clinic she knew health care was for her. She became a medical assistant and is now studying to become a nurse.
For Galindo, a senior clinic manager in the UNLV Medicine's department of obstetrics and gynecology, vaccinating people has given her “overwhelming satisfaction.”
“One lady started crying. She told me how thankful she was that I was doing this. I told her how thankful I was that she came in for her vaccination. Because of her and others, I told her that we can get this pandemic under control,” Galindo said.
Galindo also helped with UNLV Medicine’s curbside testing program.
The mother of two sons, ages 29 and 13, Galindo is also a grandmother. While her 13-year-old studies at night, she does, too. Galindo is earning an online degree in health care administration from Purdue University.
Originally, Galindo thought about becoming a lawyer. But babysitting for an OB-GYN who used to tell her stories about delivering babies, coupled with a part-time medical records job in high school, convinced her that health care was the way to go. She became a medical assistant, and she’s moved up to supervision roles in both the clinical and operational sides of medicine.
“I drive in now at 6:30 in the morning and don’t get home until 7 at night," Galindo said. "I’m very tired afterwards, but I wouldn’t want to change anything. I feel an overwhelming pride in what I’m doing. I want to save as many lives as I can.”