Vaccine Fairy

Michelle Semins (MD ’05)

Remember that eternity of waiting back in early 2021, when the senior set was desperate to get vaccine appointments, but just couldn’t? When the parents of Michelle Semins (MD ’05) found themselves in that boat, the millennial took to social media for help. 

Thanks to a few Facebook groups (Getting Pittsburgh Vaccinated, Physician Moms Group and a subgroup thereof for Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania), Semins learned all the tips and tricks for our region: When to refresh which pages. Where the last vaccine-drop had hit. Which pop-up vaccine clinic had more vaccines than arms to put them in at the end of the day—"Send any eligible adult to Heinz Field, right now!"

Semins, associate professor of urology and director of the UPMC Kidney Stone Center, got her folks fixed up with Fauci ouchies in January. Then she started offering to do the same for every vaccine-eligible patient in her care. And every nurse she worked with—and their families. And everyone in her parents’ orbits. 

And then, she kept going. 

“My mother-in-law [connected me with] a little old lady who was eligible really early,” Semins recalls. “She was on the computer for three hours a day and couldn’t find anything.” Semins got her a date with a jab at a pharmacy, post haste.

For more than three months straight, Semins spent several hours every night glued to her smartphone, obsessively refreshing pages. Through it all, she connected—and tag-teamed—with a whole cadre of fellow MD moms with the same healthy addiction, including Pitt alumnae Shana Miles (MS ’20), Kristin Ondecko Ligda (Res ’12), Anna Marie White (MD ’10, Res ’14) and Crystal Wong (Res ’10, Fel ’11). 

Those who know Semins may be familiar with a pattern of very personal outreach. In recent years, Semins has provided some 15 gallons of breast milk to families in need.

Semins estimates that by the time the first vaccination rush had passed, she had personally scheduled 300 appointments—most of them for total strangers who heard about her as her hobby went, well, viral.

“Some people kept coming back” with more requests: Can you help my uncle? My neighbor? My mail carrier?

“My answer was always ‘Yes.’”