A UVM grad is bringing the COVID vaccine to remote communities in her native Alaska

Local News

A former UVM student is working on the frontlines of the coronavirus in Alaska, sometimes traveling by seaplane to reach those in far away places with the vaccine.

Claire Geldhof is a registered nurse in the state, helping communities that don’t have a health center.

“We’ve had to pivot our prevention and health care promotion tools and really work with communities to devise a plan to get vaccines out in an efficient and quickest way possible,” Geldhof said.

A native of Juneau, Geldhof took a road trip with her father and older sister and visited Vermont. She knew then that she wanted to attend the University of Vermont.

“It was in my heart that I wanted to be in Vermont,” she said. ““I would not be doing what I’m doing today without the University of Vermont.”

Geldhof is an itinerate nurse in Alaska, rarely staying in one place for long. Since the vaccine became available, she’s been flying to remote places to administer the shots. She has been on eight of these trips and, on Wednesday, she hosted a drive-thru clinic pod in Cordova, Alaska.

“My work today, we will be vaccinating residents for their second round of Moderna,” she said.  

Claire says her life was shaped by a trip she took her senior year in 2011 with her former professor, Dr. Hendricka “Rycki” Maltby. Maltby created study abroad programs in Bangladesh, Belize, and the Netherlands.

“What we were doing was looking for opportunities for students to go abroad because what we wanted for them to do was to see more than their own backyard,” Maltby said.

She told her students: “What you’re going to do is you’re going there to learn from them. And that’s what we discovered, too — that not only do they learn about the culture that they’ve gone to, but they also learn about themselves as Americans,” said Maltby.

Geldhof said it was a trip to Bangladesh that set her on her career path.

“Working outside of hospitals really interested me,” she said. “Doing those rotations kind of helped understand that there’s opportunity out there to do others things outside of a hospital.”

After the pandemic, Geldhof said she will return to providing prevention and health promotion to underserved communities.

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