PORTLAND, Ore. — Dr. Ryan Thrower graduated from the School of Dentistry at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) last spring.
"I wanted to be a dentist to have someone that little girls and little brown boys could look up to and could say, ‘O.M.G. that’s attainable. I want to do that one day,'" said Dr. Thrower.
Last year, The Oregon Dental Association (ODA) pushed lawmakers to allow dentists to administer any vaccine to any age. Oregon is now the only state in the nation that allows dentists to administer vaccines other than the flu shot.
Dr. Thrower received her vaccination training at OHSU when she was still a dental student.
"We were able to actually give injections to a plastic arm or plastic portion of an arm," said Dr. Thrower. "Then at the end of that training, we were actually able to do our flu clinic on one another.”
She gave a flu shot to the dean of the School of Dentistry at the time. So she came to mind when OHSU needed a dentist present for Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Dr. Thrower gave her first COVID-19 vaccine during Gov. Kate Brown’s press conference on Dec. 16.
"The first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at OHSU will be given by Ryan Thrower. Remarkably, she is the first dental resident in the United States and to our knowledge the world to administer a COVID-19 vaccine,” OHSU Chief Medical Officer Renee Edwards said.
Dr. Thrower said she thought getting the dental vaccine training was a great way to expand her skills, but never dreamed or imagined that she could play such a vital role in administering a life-changing vaccine in the year 2020.
She gave the shot to Ansu Drammeh, a cardiovascular intensive care nurse and the first person at OHSU to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Thrower considers the moment historic.
"Not only because both of us are people of color, but because we are health care workers in completely different fields of health care working together in tandem to do some good that could potentially be life-saving.”
Right now, some of the only dentists in Oregon giving COVID-19 vaccines are OHSU dentists. They are administering the vaccines to OHSU health care workers and other frontline staff.
About 100 community dentists have also completed the dental vaccination training, but there’s no timeline yet for when they will administer the COVID-19 vaccine.