Stories & Events

Stories & Newsletters

League of VetaHumanz SuperPower Pack Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy

In mid-January, the League of VetaHumanz in the College of Veterinary Medicine rolled out its latest educational resource for children around the country—the Vaccines SuperPower Pack. This is the third SuperPower Pack created by the League of Vetahumanz and aims to alleviate vaccination concerns among adults and children.

The League of VetaHumanz was founded in 2020 by Dr. Sandra San Miguel and is the college’s SEPA-funded program. VetaHumanz are individuals who use their veterinary superpowers to protect animals and champion public health. The program utilizes the framework of the “Batman Effect” to help fulfill its mission.

 “The Batman Effect happens when you take on an alter ago,” San Miguel said. “If you take on the persona of a superhero, you are more engaged in the activity, you learn more, and you become a better problem-solver.”

Developed in 2020, the initiative began as way to expose under-resourced children to the veterinary profession in a remote-learning environment. The packs are intended to help children develop problem-solving skills, build self-confidence, learn how to stay healthy, and find a sense of belonging within the veterinary profession.

The Vaccines SuperPower Pack includes a book, a mask, four VetaHumanz superhero cards, a letter written by a VetaHuman, and a post-experience survey. The contents of the pack teach children how vaccines are developed, explain how human medical and veterinary medical professionals use vaccines, and describe the ways vaccines benefit animals and humans. San Miguel hopes children take action with what they learn from the Vaccines SuperPower Pack.

“Children could get vaccinated, they could encourage vaccination, and they could even grow up and invent new vaccines that save the lives of people and animals,” San Miguel said.

The League of VetaHumanz partners locally with Riggs Community Health Center and the Tippecanoe County Health department. Children who receive a vaccine at the Tippecanoe County Health Department or attend an appointment at Riggs Community Health Center are given a Vaccines SuperPower Pack on-site. Since mid-January, more than 4,800 Vaccines SuperPower Packs have been nationally and locally distributed.

The effectiveness of all three SuperPower Packs is assessed by the Evaluation and Learning Research Center in the College of Education. The children’s post-experience survey answers are used to measure their attitudes toward veterinary careers, self-efficacy, and the impact of the VetaHumanz as role models.

The League of VetaHumanz also produces a weekly podcast, VetaHumanz Live!, as an additional way for children to access information about veterinary careers. The podcast features interviews with veterinarians, veterinary students, and other medical professionals, like former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

“We have veterinarians who are launching amazing programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession,” San Miguel said. “In the podcast, we get to hear about their ideas and actually see the evolution of those programs.”

The League of VetaHumanz is currently in the process of manufacturing two new SuperPower Packs—Beast Moves and Go Vet! Beast Moves will teach children anatomy as they develop foundational movement skills, and Go Vet! will encourage children to engage with others about the veterinary profession.

For more information about the League of VetaHumanz and the VetaHumanz Live! podcast, visit

This program is supported by the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

CHEqI Events Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access in Immigrant and Minority Communities

Since May of 2021, the Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI) at Purdue has been partnering with Indianapolis-based food banks to bring COVID-19 vaccines to communities who are underserved. What started as an initial pilot effort at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana has since developed into an organized, successful model that has increased vaccine access for those living in immigrant and minority communities in several different locations across the state.

Before the first vaccine events were organized, the food banks were unable to determine the percentage of clients who were interested in receiving a vaccine or who had already been vaccinated. CHEqI stepped into the role, hoping to make even the slightest community impact. Jasmine D. Gonzalvo, the Chris and Theresa Dimos Director of CHEqI, recalls the excitement she felt after working at the very first event.

“That first day, I was hoping to get at least five vaccines administered, and I think we did about 87 during that vaccine event,” said Gonzalvo.

In its first fifteen vaccine clinic events, CHEqI administered a total of 539 COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Sixty-six percent were COVID-19 vaccines, and twenty-six percent were flu vaccines. Eight percent of individuals received both vaccines at the clinics.

“I think sometimes people aren’t impressed by that number, but these are essentially populations who would not have accessed the vaccine had we not been there,” said Gonzalvo.

Although CHEqI aims to vaccinate as many individuals as possible, Gonzalvo says the organization respects the reasons why individuals visit the pantry and tries not to hinder the process.

“People are there because they’re picking up food,” said Gonzalvo. “Our presence in the background has always been secondary to food insecurity.”

CHEqI volunteers, mostly comprising Purdue public health and pharmacy students, listen to clients and address any questions or concerns they have about the COVID-19 vaccine. CHEqI has also hired several Haitian-Creole interpreters to work the events.

“It’s just been so great to have the food banks’ support in terms of identifying space for us, Walgreens support in terms of providing and administering the vaccine, and just the good-natured students who are volunteering their time to help the effort,” said Gonzalvo.

CHEqI has also recently expanded their local outreach by hosting vaccine events at FISH Food Bank in Crawfordsville and the Latino Center for Wellness and Education in Lafayette.

CHEqI’s next vaccine events will take place at FISH Food Bank on December 16, John Marshall High School with Gleaners on December 18, and at Wheeler Mission Homeless Shelter on December 22.

Dr. Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez Wins National Jefferson Award

On September 30, Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez received one of the 49th Jefferson awards from Multiplying Good for Outstanding Public Service by an Employee. Nicoletti-Martinez is the founder and program director of Multicultural Efforts to end Sexual Assault (MESA).

MESA is a statewide program founded in 2008 that works to eradicate sexual violence in underserved and traditionally marginalized communities. Throughout her nearly 20 years at Purdue, Nicoletti-Martinez has consistently strived to empower these communities and individuals through educational sessions about mental health, sexual assault, and resource access.

“I like making a difference, but for me, it’s really more about seeing people live improved lives,” said Nicoletti-Martinez.

Long before she was a recipient of a national public service award, Nicoletti-Martinez was a farmworker herself, waking up at four in the morning each day to harvest cucumbers and tobacco until the late hours of the evening. Nicoletti-Martinez has a lifelong history of serving and empowering farmworker communities, but she doesn’t enjoy taking too much of the credit.

“I didn’t want it to be too much of a focus on me because the farmworkers are the ones really doing all of the hard work,” said Nicoletti-Martinez.

Her dedication to serving others is met with positive outcomes. When she reflects upon the impact of her work, she recalls the time when a farmworker spoke to her about his work environment during an educational session about mental health, violence prevention, and sexual harassment.

“He told me that things were going pretty good, and they weren’t experiencing as much harassment now because they knew their rights,” said Nicoletti-Martinez.

By helping organizations and institutions understand their effects on the farmworker population, advocating for better norms and policies, and creating access to a wider variety of resources, Nicoletti Martinez serves as an advocate for farmworkers. Over time, she hopes more people will continue to learn about the impact farmworkers have on local communities.

“There have been times where people from Indiana will say to me, ‘I didn’t know we had farmworkers here,’” said Nicoletti Martinez. “But there are a lot of farms in Indiana that can’t harvest or plant their crops without the help of farmworkers.”

Since August, Nicoletti-Martinez has been working with Purdue AgrAbility to expand her outreach to farmworkers with disabilities. Her long-term goal is for all farmworkers to have access to drivers’ licenses, health care, and equitable pay. This is her second national-level award in her career, and she hopes the recognition can eventually help her team make these goals a reality.

“I’m hoping that this award allows us to increase our impact on underserved communities,” said Nicoletti-Martinez. “I’d like to use this moment to amplify our work and focus on the sustainment of the MESA program.”

Multiplying Good is a national nonprofit dedicated to powering and celebrating public service. Purdue participates in Multiplying Good’s Champions program, joining various businesses and educational institutions nationwide who partner with the organization to engage in meaningful public service and celebrate their communities with Jefferson Awards.

Purdue Kenya Partnership Receives Engagement Award

After a national review and selection process, four faculty members in the Purdue College of Pharmacy have been awarded a 2021 Community Partner ESC Award of Excellence in Engaged Scholarship for their work with the Purdue Kenya Partnership (PKP).

The PKP was created in 2003 to help address the needs of underserved populations in western Kenya and respond to the country’s HIV epidemic. At the time, no other college of pharmacy in the United States had a program dedicated to responding to the problems that HIV presented in other parts of the world. The PKP is a member of AMPATH and works alongside Moi University, the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, and the Kenyan Ministry of Health to bring care to Kenyan communities.

During the PKP’s conception, the founding faculty members made a conscious effort to veer away from a program model centered solely around research or education. The outcome was a care-based approach that utilizes research and education and demands a deeper focus on the needs of Kenyan communities and individuals. Current PKP faculty members Rakhi Karwa, Sonak Pastakia, Monica Miller, and Ellen Schellhase believe this long-term emphasis on care is the foundation of the program’s success.

“You can’t go to an underserved population and prioritize your privileged needs above theirs, and that’s a common flaw that we see in a lot of other programs that are doing similar work,” Pastakia said.

The uniqueness of the program extends beyond its dedication to patient care. Rather than limiting themselves to the traditional focus areas of health care, such as setting up clinics and working in hospitals, the team also makes an effort to respond to all of the social determinants of health. By setting up educational programs, addressing wealth and livelihood needs with microfinance, and attempting to improve neighborhoods, the PKP strives to enhance the well-being of underserved populations in Kenya.

“To be honest, I think clinical care is a very, very small piece of the puzzle for underserved populations,” Pastakia said. “All of these other areas have long been neglected by the health care system, so we’re trying to reemphasize that focus on these other areas and address these other social determinants of health.”

Each year, the program attracts an average of 24 Purdue pharmacy students who each participate in an 8-week, in-country experience. This large time frame provides a more impactful student experience and offers the pharmacy care unit on-the-ground coverage for 10 months out of the year. Over the past 18 years, the program has worked with a total of 315 student pharmacists from the Purdue College of Pharmacy. Since 2008, the program has worked with 135 Kenyan learners, as well.

“It’s definitely grown bigger than I would have anticipated, but it’s been very organic and grown in ways that are meeting the needs of the people that we’re working with and meeting the needs of the patients,” Miller said.

Between 2003 and 2019, the PKP served an estimated total of 457,833 patients in Kenya.

Although the program has reached new heights and served thousands of individuals abroad, program leadership aims to replicate their success in underserved areas of Indianapolis and rural Indiana.

“We’re far from accomplishing what we truly envision, which is spreading effective and impactful services wherever they might be needed and with all the populations we can reach,” Pastakia said. “We’re pushing along that path and trying to show that these overarching principles and strategies that we use are effective in overcoming a lot of the challenges that underserved populations face.”

The award from the Engagement Scholarship Consortium highlights the team’s emphasis on engagement—an area in which Purdue often emerges as a leader. A monetary prize of $3,000 will be awarded to the team, as well as an engraved commemorative award. The ESC Awards of Excellence Program and Panel are scheduled to take place virtually on Monday, September 13 from 3:30-4:30 ET. 

PNW Nursing Students Alleviate Health Disparities

For most of us, access to medical care is taken for granted, but for others, access to quality healthcare at a reasonable cost is a challenge. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a nonprofit organization, based in Rockford, Tennessee, whose sole mission is “to alleviate pain and suffering by providing quality healthcare to those in need at no cost.” RAM staff members schedule clinics based on a community’s needs and once a venue is secured by the community, set up begins. No government funds are utilized to keep RAM going, and the organization is powered by private donations and foundation grants only. Since its founding in 1985, the organization has provided care worth over $135 million in over one thousand clinics.

Bailey Regier, a Purdue Northwest nursing graduate, has personally assisted in past RAM service weekends and has seen everything that RAM has to offer communities. “RAM”, according to Regier, “is a fantastic resource for people facing health disparities.”

RAM offers a variety of healthcare services like chiropractic alignment, dental care, general medicine, immunizations, massage therapy, podiatry, vision screening, women’s health, and even veterinary referrals for pet neutering. Involvement of both lay and healthcare professional volunteers is encouraged by the organization.

Twenty one Purdue Northwest nursing students are also contributing to support RAM service weekends in the 2018-2019 academic year. Students gave their time to volunteer during their fall semester at a RAM service weekend in Johnson City, Tennessee. While there, they were able to apply their extensive knowledge in order to help those who needed medical care. This goes in the Ashtabula trip.

Regier was able to triage the first person in line, a man who was waiting to receive dental care. “This man waited 18 hours in his car to see a dentist. I get frustrated with my dentist if I’m waiting for more than 30 minutes,” she emphasized. “The smile on his face when he told me this revealed that he didn’t realize how broken our system is.”

Purdue nursing students didn’t stop with just one service weekend. Spring semester saw them participating at another RAM service weekend in Ashtabula, Ohio. During their time in Ashtabula, students and other volunteers served 1,650 patients and provided $917,949 in free service to patients. This goes in the Johnson City trip  As volunteers, students did initial vital sign triage, provided pre-screenings, offered flu immunizations, helped in autoclaving dental instruments, gave post-procedure dental extraction care, and assisted with visual screenings.

Students went into these service weekends wanting to answer what these communities needed in order to improve the amount of care being provided. Needs centered around a lack of adequate health insurance, access to healthcare in general, a lack of income and job opportunities, and a lack of medical and general education levels.

“Dental and vision are simply too expensive even with insurance and waiting in line for close to 24 hours is easier than navigating our conventional healthcare system,” Regier clarified. “These people are not asking for a handout; they are asking for a hand up. They are not asking for free health care, but easier health care. RAM and its volunteers can provide that.”

More information about RAM and the service weekends can be found at Information about Indiana Campus Compact, the organization which facilitates the community engagement of Purdue Northwest within the state, can be found at

Dr. Sandra San Miguel Wins National Jefferson Award

What started as a dream of becoming a veterinarian led Dr. Sandra San Miguel to pursue a passion for broadening diversity in the veterinary medical profession. And now she’s being nationally recognized for her work.

San Miguel received an Outstanding Public Service award on June 18 at Multiplying Good’s national Jefferson Awards Gala for the creation of an after-school program named This is How We “Role.” The program shows grade school children what veterinary medicine is like to inspire their interest in sciences.

“When I was kid and messed up, there was always someone — a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, physical therapist — who showed me how to be a better human being instead of giving up on me,” said San Miguel, associate dean for engagement in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “We created This is How We ‘Role’ to serve as a way to continue this type of mentoring.”

The program was developed in conjunction with a longstanding relationship between Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Hanna Community Center in Lafayette, Indiana.

“We started out by helping Hanna kids with their homework,” San Miguel said. “Then we started giving some veterinary lessons. The kids would get excited about the lessons and not want to go home. We didn’t want to go home either because it was so much fun. The idea was to show the kids that they could be anything they wanted.”

This is How We “Role” was launched in 2015 with support from the Science Education Partnership Award program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health. The funding allowed the Purdue team to develop a science and math curriculum for kids that would be delivered by veterinary student role models.

The long-term goal of This is How We “Role” is to diversify the veterinarian-scientist workforce. The program has reached hundreds of children and will continue to reach more. Already, This is How We “Role” has expanded across the country as 19 other U.S. veterinary schools and colleges have adopted the program with the support of the SEPA grant.

The program’s effects continue to motivate San Miguel.

“I see the impact on the kids when they solve problems and talk about things that they learned during vet lessons, months after the lessons happened,” San Miguel said. “I see the impact on our veterinary students when they are able to explain complex health concepts in ways the kids can understand. Also, I see our impact in all the smiles.”

Multiplying Good is a national nonprofit dedicated to powering and celebrating public service. Purdue participates in Multiplying Good’s Champions program, joining various businesses and educational institutions nationwide who partner with the organization to engage in meaningful public service and celebrate their communities with Jefferson Awards.

Writer: Madison Sanneman, 317-903-5642,
Sandra San Miguel, 765-494-8052,