Riley pharmacist’s worlds collide in vaccine effort




While Michael McGregory handles the logistics of COVID-19 vaccine supply at Riley, he also works with the Civil Air Patrol to get the shots to remote, underserved areas in the country.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

Since mid-December, Michael McGregory, director of pharmacy at Riley Hospital for Children, has been hustling to ensure the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Riley.

Simultaneously, he has worked with the Civil Air Patrol to see to it that vulnerable populations in remote areas of the Midwest also have access to the lifesaving vaccine.

Talk about worlds colliding.

Capt. McGregory joined the CAP as a volunteer pilot in 2016 and is now director of aircraft operations for the Indiana Wing. In this role, he was called upon to ready an aircraft based at Indianapolis Executive Airport in Zionsville for a flight to Minnesota, where pilots were standing by to deliver a load of vaccine to Indian Health Service locations from Sault Ste. Marie to Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Civil Air Patrol, which serves as the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force, is a volunteer organization that supports American communities during times of emergency.

While you may have seen footage of large-scale vaccine transport by the likes of FedEx and UPS, those large aircraft aren’t suited for more targeted drops in remote locations. The small general aviation aircraft piloted by professional volunteers with the CAP is one of the most cost-effective ways to distribute the vaccine, particularly with the speed required, McGregory said.

“The drive time for a vehicle to go from a major airport hub to some of these locations isn’t feasible with the temperature storage conditions these vaccines require,” he said.

His efforts earlier this month, alongside others within the organization, were extraordinary, said a CAP spokesman, but McGregory is low-key about his role.

“It was more of that worlds collide kind of moment where over the weekend I’m switching between computers trying to get supplies and make sure everything’s running smoothly in our Riley clinic, while at the same time in my volunteer work trying to do our small part to make the CAP mission a success,” McGregory said.

“I’m just really proud to be a part of two organizations on the front lines of the COVID response.”

McGregory joined the CAP in 2016 after earning his private pilot’s license. He was looking for a way to use that skill while also helping his community, and CAP was the perfect opportunity.

He soon learned about its cadet program for young people and encouraged his daughter to join.

Last spring, Capt. McGregory and his 13-year-old daughter, C/MSgt. Emma McGregory, worked with the CAP, National Guard and Gleaners Food Bank to help distribute groceries at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of a massive food giveaway for Hoosiers in need after the coronavirus led to business closures and high unemployment.

CAP’s Indiana Wing helped in the distribution of 1,467,720 meals to Hoosiers over the spring and summer.

Back on the front lines at Riley, McGregory said the hospital’s vaccine response has been “fantastic.”

“Our team has really come together, and it has been inspiring to see everybody work to provide that service both for our team members and now for our community. It’s a really positive energy in the clinic,” he said.

“Everybody’s been working additional shifts to help make it possible, and they’ve done an amazing job to make sure it’s a safe environment with proper distancing and minimizing waits in line. I just can’t thank them enough.”

Currently, the Riley vaccine clinic and others throughout IU Health continue to vaccinate team members, as well as residents 70 and older. McGregory said Riley is vaccinating about 300 people per day for a total of nearly 10,000 shots so far.