“I was an OB GYN for 30 years and had recently retired when Covid hit,” says Dr. Rima Goldman, 68. “All of a sudden, I’m stuck at home with all this medical expertise and the desire to help. I would have started volunteering earlier, but I wanted to get vaccinated first.”
Since March, Goldman has been showing up two days a week to help administer Covid-19 vaccines at La Clinica, a community health center that established a pop-up vaccine clinic in a metro station parking lot in Oakland, California.
“It’s been a phenomenal experience,” she says. “At first, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy being back in a clinic setting. But now I’m like, as long as they need me I’m there! And the fun part is that we’re an intergenerational group.”
Goldman is part of the Encore Intergenerational Vaccine Corps, a pilot program that brings retired medical professionals together with non-medical volunteers of all ages to boost vaccination rates at health centers in low-income communities throughout the Bay Area. The Corps brings organizations together, too; it was launched by Encore.org, AmeriCorps Seniors and California Volunteers.
“Rima is easily one of our most exuberant characters,” says Benjamin Ward, 24, the site’s acting volunteer coordinator. “She’ll be singing and dancing at the station. It’s an exciting moment, when someone is making the decision to get vaccinated.”
Ward joined La Clinica as a VIP-AmeriCorps member and is receiving a stipend to complete a six-month service term. He says the time he’s been able to spend observing and talking with Rima has been invaluable.
“She’s firm, but also understanding and interested in supporting me,” Ward says. “She could tell that I’m a little socially anxious, and she’d come up to me and tell me that I seem to be getting more comfortable, and that she used to be quiet, too. She establishes trust. I’ve seen her do it hundreds of times now, when asking people how they’re feeling about getting the vaccine.”
That’s something the clinic’s manager, Daisy Berrospe, 30, has noticed, too. “Rima will make sure the patient is well-informed before being vaccinated,” says Berrospe. “She’s one of our fastest shot givers and she’s very knowledgeable — it gives peace of mind to know she’s there.”
Goldman has been so impressed by Berrospe that she’s been encouraging the clinic manager to attend nursing school.
“Rima is my motivator and my cheerleader,” says Berrospe. “Before, I didn’t really believe in my capability or that I could go much further. But Rima kind of gives me that extra push. She’s helping me believe in myself more.”