Pharmacy, Natural & Health Sciences

Raul Morales

Pharmacists in Unprecedented Times

Portrait of Raul Morales
When Raul Morales ’20 Pharm.D., began his pharmacy career at Walgreens, little did he know that within just a few months he would be leading the company’s first COVID-19 vaccination efforts in long-term care facilities across a large swath of southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana.

“I think it had a lot to do with my work ethic,” said Morales. “My district manager, who recommended me for the role of lead vaccinator, saw that I was always ready to work and to do whatever I had to do to make things happen.”

Yet, Morales – who was a nontraditional student with a wife and four children – admits that he was hesitant when he was first approached about leading vaccination clinics. As with so many things during the pandemic, travel and vaccine distribution were surrounded by uncertainty.

But, realizing he could really make a difference, he accepted the challenge.

“I knew I could possibly be saving thousands of lives performing these clinics,” Morales recalled. “First and foremost, as far as my profession is concerned, it’s about taking care of the patient the best I can.” Morales credits the Manchester University Pharmacy Program with bolstering his natural instinct to help others. 

“One of the big things that came out of my time at Manchester was a sense of leadership – really owning the fact that you’re there to take care of the patients,” he said.

Relying on that sense of leadership and work ethic in patient care, in early January, Morales led the charge in distributing the vaccine to patients in long-term care facilities. For many of the patients, these vaccination clinics were the first contact they had with the outside world in nearly a year.

“They were very relieved, very excited – especially during that first round of clinics,” Morales said.

Each Walgreens clinic meant three site visits for him: one visit for the initial vaccine dose, a second visit for the second dose and to vaccinate staff members who may have been absent for the first dose, and a third visit to deliver the second dose to those staff members.

Morales led logistically as the point pharmacist letting other pharmacy staff know where they were going and how to set up at their location.

“Obviously, I wasn’t the only pharmacist vaccinating. Some days we had three or four clinics running simultaneously in different locations,” said Morales. “I was responsible for making sure each clinic had enough vaccine, and that the vaccine was transported to them safely.”

Greg Hetrick ’05, M.Ed., assistant dean of enrollment and community engagement, recalls how Morales successfully balanced his education and family life during his time at Manchester.

“He had to make sacrifices to meet all his commitments over his four years in the program, so I wasn’t surprised to hear about his success and how much impact he had,” said Hetrick. “A new graduate being able to take the lead on that type of initiative is impressive.”

He said Morales’ role in the vaccination efforts ties into Manchester University’s mission and its philosophy of graduating people of ability and the conviction to do the right thing.

“He saw the opportunity to help others and to have an impact on the population, and he was able to run with it,” Hetrick said.

Morales has since taken on a new role as a Walmart pharmacy manager, but his experience on the frontlines of helping to reign in the COVID-19 pandemic made a lasting impression.

“The pandemic is going to be spoken about in history,” said Morales. “Our names won’t be known, but we’re going to be able to look back and say, ‘We took charge, and pharmacists stepped up to fill an unprecedented need in patient care.’ There’s a sense of pride and purpose when you think about it that way."