Sophie Henry

First, questions: 

“How are you doing today?”

“Have you been exposed to COVID-19 recently?” 

“Do you have any allergies?”

Log answers onto laptop.

Next, check that the syringe is filled up to 0.3 ml — no air bubbles. 

Find the target point on the deltoid muscle and sanitize the area. 

Pierce the needle in. Slowly push in the vaccine. 

Swiftly replace the needle with a prepared bandaid. 

Give words of comfort.

Wave the next person over. Repeat for eight hours. 

This is a typical Friday for Christy Zheng ’23, certified Emergency Medical Technician and sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Zheng’s duties usually include giving CPR training and proctoring practicals for prospective EMTs, but this semester, Zheng also finds herself playing a part in the worldwide pandemic recovery effort. Every Friday, she sits in the Lanman Center from 8 a.m to 4 p.m administering COVID-19 vaccinations for Yalies and New Haven residents.

Zheng’s day starts before 7 a.m., when her suitemates and most of the college are still asleep. Her EMT uniform — a blue polo shirt with an EMT crest, and comfy pants — is laid out on her desk from the night before. Breakfast consists of Greek yogurt, one hard-boiled egg and a cup of oatmeal with walnuts and chia seeds.

Zheng emanates an aura of practicality, efficiency and humbleness. It feels good to be able to vaccinate people and offer them a sense of safety, she explains. During her first year, Zheng completed the required 200 hours of EMT training on top of taking five classes. She knew she wanted to become certified long before coming to Yale, inspired by the EMTs who frequented her parents’ Chinese restaurant in New Jersey. “I’ve always admired people who know what they’re doing, who have the confidence to go into situations and be calm,” Zheng explains. A Biomedical Engineering major, Zheng is working toward becoming an interventional radiologist — a surgeon who performs minimally invasive surgeries using robotics. “The kind of procedures they can do through a nick the size of a pencil tip is simply mind-blowing,” she says.

By 8 a.m., Zheng is seated at her station in the Lanman Center, having checked in with the head nurse. She carefully sets out the equipment on her desk — the vaccine box, alcohol wipes and bandaids directly in front of her, the sharps bin behind the vaccine box and her laptop to her right. Each EMT has their own layout, Zheng describes, to make the procedure flow “as smoothly, safely and efficiently as possible” for them. 

Then, it’s vaccinations until 4 p.m., with just a 30-minute break for lunch. But Zheng explains that the time passes quickly because “there are nerves.” 

“There are much more people than I realized who are scared of shots. Whatever you can do to ease their concern is of the utmost priority.” She tells me that some people have covered their eyes, too afraid to see the needle, and others have asked to get it over with as soon as possible. At the end of her shift, she finally returns to her JE suite and gets straight to work on a PSET due Monday. 

Zheng is my suitemate. She is the busiest person I know at Yale, and most importantly, the person who complains least about how busy they are. In fact, the only time Zheng talks about her workload is to explain why she can’t join more of our suite movie nights. Her humbleness is what makes her truly admirable. It was only recently that she told me -and after much prying- that in her free time, she is even working with Yale e-NABLE on building a prosthetic hand for a 10 year old girl so that she can play cello. It’s clear that all the hours Zheng puts in come from a completely selfless place, and I am lucky to be able to watch and be inspired by her.

Mao Shiotsu | mao.shiotsu@yale.edu

MAO SHIOTSU