As Belmont seeks to inspire an entrepreneurial mindset for all students, one alumna from Belmont’s College of Pharmacy is setting a prime example of how graduates from any program can use their skills to fill the needs of their communities. Katie Vandenberg, Pharm.D., is the owner and founder of Tennessee Vaccination Services, a mobile, independent pharmacy that provides in-home vaccinations for homebound patients and facilitates community outreach vaccination clinics across Middle Tennessee.
While working as a traditional retail pharmacist for several years, Dr. Vandenberg developed close relationships with her patients, who were also her neighbors. After the birth of her son Jack in 2016, she noticed (and empathized with) something new about her patients with children–how challenging it can be to get kids dressed, ready and into the car…only to then wait for a vaccination at the pharmacy.
“I noticed kids would start to tense up while they waited and I knew that could be prevented,” Dr. Vandenberg explained. “I thought it would be a lot easier if I could just bring the vaccinations home to them. I started asking my neighbors if that would be something they’d be interested in, and a lot of people were adamant that I should create that solution.”
With her background in microbiology, Dr. Vandenberg enjoyed learning about vaccines in school, so the transition was natural and exciting. After several months of consideration, she followed her dream and launched her mobile vaccination pharmacy in late 2019. In February of 2020, Tennessee Vaccination Services became a licensed Tennessee pharmacy.
“During my time at Belmont’s School of Pharmacy, one of my professors, Dr. Thompson-Odom, had a positive impact on my life and instilled in me the confidence to go for it,” Dr. Vandenberg said. “She believed in my abilities to pull through rough times, even when I didn’t. Her support helped me develop a sense of security in my abilities when I faced what seemed like insurmountable challenges.”
Dr. Vandenberg’s business offers all types of vaccines, although the pandemic has kept her busy with COVID vaccines. Her patients range from small children, children with special needs, disabled patients who have difficulty traveling to a clinic and communities who may have limited access to vaccination resources.
One reason Dr. Vandenberg said she wanted to start the pharmacy was to be able to spend more time with her patients than she could in retail pharmacy. “I like to work with the local communities to find the pockets of people who need my services the most,” she said. “Getting to spend one-on-one time with my homebound patients helps me really see the impact I’m making, along with getting to know the community better through the outreach clinics.”
“I find fulfillment in what I do because I love having the control to use my skills and what I have learned to apply it in any direction. I’m really able to find the needs in the community and use my creativity to go directly to those patients.”