Tar Heels rally to donate personal protection equipment

Equipment and expertise come from across campus to help UNC Health fight COVID-19.

A man holds a medical face shield.

To help COVID-19 frontline workers at UNC Health, Carolina’s faculty and staff have contributed personal protection equipment and expertise in the form of 3D-printed shields designed by faculty and made by medical students.

PPE such as N95 masks, surgical masks and surgical masks with shields protect healthcare workers and patients from exposure to pathogens like the COVID-19 virus.

A million items

By April 2, UNC Health had collected more than 1 million items from the community and campus units, many from UNC Wellness Center drop-off locations.

“We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of donations to UNC Health from schools, businesses, community organizations and individuals. We’ve been working hard to secure personal protective equipment from various sources, and these donations have been very helpful,” said Christian Lawson, director of emergency services at UNC Health.

Schools respond

As the University moved to reduced operations, the Adams School of Dentistry limited its clinical operations to only dental emergencies and donated 366,000 gloves, 105,000 earloop masks, 1,300 masks with face shields, 42,000 gowns and 600 canisters of disinfectant.

The school also is using an Ethylene Oxide sterilizer to sterilize N95 masks for re-use by UNC Health, which will ease the strain on the PPE supply chain.

A donation drop-off site will be open on West Drive behind the school’s Tarrson Hall on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., and Fridays, 1-4 p.m. The school is asking alumni to make a drop-off appointment and promoting the effort through the North Carolina Dental Society.

The School of Nursing’s Education-Innovation-Simulation Learning Environment lab donated all of its supplies for the remainder of 2020, which included 277 isolation gowns, 2,028 face masks and 16,460 pairs of non-sterile Nitrile gloves.

“Our decision to donate was easy – there was no other option,” said Carol Durham, the lab’s director. “It was the ethical thing to do and was fully supported by the school’s leadership. We were so happy to offer these supplies realizing they would not be enough but knowing that every little bit helps.”

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy donated N95 masks, simple procedure masks, swabs and instruments used during eye procedures.

“It’s important that we all do our part to support health care providers on the frontline. We scoured the entire school and our labs to find supplies to donate to those who need it most,” said Angela Kashuba, the school’s dean. “Now more than ever, we must come together as a community.”

‘There’s work to be done’

A group of medical students and Carolina’s makerspaces — alongside experts from NC State and Duke University — is producing 40,000 face shields that can be used by health care workers.

Alex Gertner, one of the medical students and also a doctoral student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, tweeted at Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, “Thank you @KevinGuskiewicz for visiting and supporting @UNC_BeAM in making face shields for frontline health providers with the help of @UNC_SOM medical students. As you can see we are maintaining physical distancing as we work to keep everyone safe!” Gertner also tweeted a photo of students fabricating face shields.

Homemade masks

Folks with sewing machines like Kristy Ainslie made masks and shared supplies. Ainslie, a professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, tweeted about the work she and her nine-year-old son are doing. Having been trained at an early age by her mother who taught home economics, Ainslie was ready and with a backload of fabric.

Patterns can be found on UNC Health’s website.

The sewing circle standing at the ready includes Jessica Smith, W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor and director of the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab and two pharmacy colleagues, Jacqui McLaughlin, an associate professor and Carla Coste Sánchez, postdoctoral research associate. UNC Health has announced that it no longer needs handmade masks and directed producers to other places that do.

Laboratories come through

Biology professor Gregory Copenhaver dropped off a joint donation of PPE from his lab and those of fellow faculty members Jeff Dangl, Joe Kieber and Zack Nimchuk. Copenhaver tweeted encouragement for others to do the same.

“We donated several cartons of gloves and some boxes of N95 masks,” Copenhaver said. “All four of our labs are plant biology labs. In normal times we use the masks to prevent allergic reactions when we collect seed (which produces a lot of plant material dust), but in these circumstances, we were more than happy to donate them to the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are the real heroes of the day.”

Mark Peifer, Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor in Biology, also donated some PPE — gloves, a face shield, goggles and masks.

The Department of Biology will continue to collect PPE, with drop off in Fordham Hall’s fifth-floor conference room.

The Department of Chemistry is planning to collect items, according to Alice Zhao, the department’s public information officer.

Gloves and more gloves

The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center donated thousands of gloves, showing the boxes in a tweet on March 27.

Read more faculty and staff stories at The Well.