My name is Mahmoud Amr, and I am a 4th year Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate in the joint program between UTSA and UT Health San Antonio.
Since the pandemic started and throughout 2020, I kept on doing my part, wearing a mask, washing my hands all the time, and maintaining a six foot distance from people outside of my household. Like everybody else, I worked from home March to May. When as a graduate student we got called back to the lab to keep the wheels of science moving, I continued working in the lab safely.
One of the best blessings of 2020 was the fact that my mom stayed with me; but as she is at an age where she is considered a high risk, I have always had to be extra careful. When the vaccines clinical trials started, I saw a glimpse of hope. I kept following their updates with anticipation, and when the vaccine was finally approved I couldn’t hide my excitement.
COVID-19 is a very serious virus that causes a great deal of damage in the human body, and I have witnessed that unfortunately firsthand with family members that got hospitalized without having any preexisting conditions! Most of my family members have tested positive for COVID-19, their symptoms ranged from mild (loss of taste and smell) to severe pneumonia!
When I first watched the Town Hall held at UT Health San Antonio about the vaccine rollout and plan, I felt proud to be part of an institution that values science. The vaccination started rolling out giving preference to frontline workers and students in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.
The graduate school sent out a survey to ask students what their thoughts on the vaccine were, I filled mine and reached out to Dr. Nicquet Blake, senior associate dean at Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and expressed my concerns about the fact that graduate students were not considered part of the plan for Tier 1 (even though we have been called back to the labs during the pandemic), while some of us live with high risk parents, she was very understanding of my concerns. A few days later, we received an email inviting graduate students to take the vaccine, I couldn’t be happier receiving an email than I was at that moment.
I scheduled my appointment through MyChart and went in and got my first shot of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. After the shot, I was asked to stay in a room with other people (safely distanced) for 15 minutes, with a physician present to monitor any reaction to the injection. I had no side effects aside from a sore arm that went away within two days, my second dose was scheduled in three weeks automatically.
I took the vaccine because I trust science, I took the vaccine to protect the people I love and to protect myself, I took the vaccine to do my part.
The vaccine itself is pretty simple, a piece of the virus’s mRNA is injected in your arm, your cells take that, and translate it into a protein, that your immune (T-Cells) detect then your (B-Cells) remember for future references, so when you ever get the virus your body recognizes it as an enemy and fights it!
I am very fortunate to have had the chance to get vaccinated, and thanks to UT Health San Antonio for that great opportunity.
About The Author
Mahmoud’s research is focused on fabricating scaffolds that are biocompatible, biodegradable, and structurally relevant to recapitulate native Articular Cartilage using 3D printing. We then grow chondrocytes -both human from total knee replacement surgeries and bovine- in vitro and characterize the resulting tissue using histology, immunofluorescence, biochemical assays, mRNA, and atomic force microscopy. For osteoarthritic chondrocytes, we also studied the effects of nutraceuticals on the environment and chondrogenic biomarkers (Nutraceuticals are naturally occurring reactive oxygen species scavengers that exist in everyday diet). See his student profile >>