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How Great Leadership Saves Lives, One Vaccine at a Time

Thursday, March 25, 2021

When we go get our COVID-19 vaccine, we may not think about what goes on behind the scenes of a vaccine clinic. Most of us are just excited to get our vaccine in a timely manner and do our part to stop the spread of the virus. We might not realize the immense amount of time, people, and resources it takes to plan and execute a vaccine clinic.

When news of COVID-19 vaccines spread throughout the world, hospitals across the nation began to prepare for what was to come. While traditionally hospitals and health systems don’t serve as mass vaccination sites, this would be different. But who would lead the charge of such a massive undertaking?

That’s where Larry Pizzorni comes in.

As Vice President of Ancillary and Support Services at Iredell Health System, Pizzorni was used to handling large projects of varying natures and shifting responsibilities on a regular basis. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic first presented in Iredell County, Pizzorni took on the role of coordinating and overseeing hospital visitor and employee screening processes.

When IHS created a COVID-19 vaccine committee in November 2020 that would be responsible for coordinating how vaccines would be administered, Pizzorni was quickly appointed as the logistics chair. Pizzorni was “incredibly honored and excited” to become part of this essential committee, and his role soon transformed into a full-time job of managing COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

“I have a can-do attitude. I don’t look at things as they can’t be done; I look at things as how to get them done,” said Pizzorni. “At the beginning, it was a challenge, but it was exciting to be part of planning something that has never been done before and to see just how well it went.”

Early on, when healthcare providers were submitting applications to be vaccine providers to the state of North Carolina, President & CEO of Iredell Health System John Green had elected to make Iredell Health System an “open-site clinic.” That meant that Iredell Health System would not just vaccinate its employees, but would have a state-obligated commitment to vaccinate its community as well. It’s a commitment the Health System has been more than happy to meet, and one that couldn’t be done with Pizzorni’s leadership, as well as the team working with him.

As of March 22, Pizzorni has led Iredell Health System in vaccinating more than 30,000 people in Iredell and the surrounding counties.

According to Pizzorni, gathering the right resources on a strict timeline was initially a challenge. From the actual vaccine doses, to the scheduling software, to printed papers, vaccine cards, tents, pencils, and sanitation equipment – so many resources go into actually planning a clinic.

“We continued to tweak the clinics as time went on,” said Pizzorni. “We started out being able to do a couple hundred appointments. Now our system can manage 2,500-2,800 appointments a day without a problem.”

While Pizzorni does not actually administer the vaccines during the clinics, he enjoys hearing about the instant gratification, elation, and even relieved tears, of the individuals receiving the vaccine.

“It’s heartwarming, it really is. It feeds who Iredell Health System is and its commitment to taking care of the citizens of the community,” said Pizzorni.

It truly takes a village to plan a successful clinic. Pizzorni referred to himself as “the conductor of an orchestra,” leading a large group of employees, volunteers, and community members.

“I’m simply the conductor, making sure that we’re all playing on the same sheet of music and everyone is playing their part in that role,” said Pizzorni.

Pizzorni expressed his gratitude for all the volunteers, Iredell Health System employees, and community members for helping him get the vaccine clinics up and running and continuing to make them successful.

“I’m just the front man of a big group of people behind me that makes this happen,” said Pizzorni, humbly giving credit to all the individuals who help him each week.

In his time at home, Pizzorni has created what he called the “COVID Academy Award” as a way of saying thank you to several individuals who have helped him with the vaccine clinics. It is a small decorative tree full of empty COVID-19 vaccine vials.

Referred to by some as the “Tree of Life,” it contains more than 100 empty vaccine vials, each of which represents six lives saved from COVID-19.

Iredell Health System employees say they are very appreciative of Pizzorni’s leadership and feel reassured knowing they have a designated individual in charge of the clinics.

“He’s taken charge with a smile on his face, despite the long, tedious hours he has continued to put in,” said Meagan Kowalski, Director Marketing and Community Relations at Iredell Health System. “Our clinics would not be successful without Larry’s continued leadership.”

Despite all of his selfless hard work and long hours, Pizzorni is quick to give credit to others.

“This story is not about me,” he said. “It truly is about community members coming together during a crisis to support the needs of the community as a whole.”