MD Students Form Task Force to Collect PPE
April 21, 2020
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has changed the routines of daily life for many, but Drexel University College of Medicine students are working together – and collaborating with new student groups – to make the best of the difficult situation.
Last month, third-year medical students formed the DUCOM Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Task Force to collect unused medical gowns, masks, gloves and the like, to help keep local health care facilities stocked up on PPE amid a national shortage. In a matter of weeks, the coalition of first- through fourth-year MD students has expanded its service areas to meet other community needs as well.
“We are also offering our support to local DUCOM alumnae that may require assistance with needs such as childcare or grocery shopping,” said third-year MD student Edward Guo, a member of the Task Force team.
As of April 22, the volunteers have assisted in the donation of:
- 39,677 exam gloves
- 2,530 procedure masks
- 1,114 sterile gloves
- 723 disposable gowns
- 345 fabric masks
- 283 safety goggles/glasses
- 199 N95 respirators
- 77 face shields
- 45 Tyvek coverall suits
This is in addition to hundreds of other protective supplies such as scrubs, intubation boxes and cleaning supplies.
Student volunteers pick up donations from sources such as nail salons, high school science programs, or DUCOM simulation centers and laboratories, then drop the PPE off at Philadelphia health care facilities and the City’s Department of Public Health. All the while, volunteers practice social distancing and wear their own PPE.
Supplies of single-use protective equipment are so low in medical facilities across the U.S. that many health care providers cannot change their masks, gloves and other protective gear in between one patient interaction and the next. Guo got involved in PPE redistribution to help ensure that more Philadelphia health care providers could access single-use protective equipment, which reduces the likelihood of transmitting pathogens from patient to patient or of physicians becoming ill themselves and infecting members of their households.
"I want to make sure my potential future colleagues will be protected,” Guo said. “That’s what I would want if I were in their position right now.”
Guo and his fellow third-year MD students had recently begun clinical work, and many were disheartened to put the new learning experience on hold in March, when medical students’ clinical work was suspended to best protect their health and safety.
“We’ve spent years training to see patients and participate in their care,” he said. “We signed up to go to medical school so we could be involved with people who need help.”
Guo and his classmates are channeling their drive to help the Task Force and similar initiatives, and balancing volunteer work with virtual medical education.
Some Task Force members are also volunteering with the Philadelphia Organization of Health Professions Students (POHPS), a community service group founded by University of Pennsylvania MD students in response to the pandemic. Through POHPS, Drexel MD students are collaborating with peers from other local MD programs, and with students studying to be nurses, physician assistants and more, according to third-year MD student Christina Chen.
“It’s people from all different schools in Philly, all different professional backgrounds,” she said. “We’ve divided ourselves up based on what our abilities and interests are.”
Chen and fellow third-year MD student Anisha Gopu are passionate about fighting online misinformation and misconceptions, so they have been contributing accurate, easily digestible summaries of the latest COVID-19 news to POHPS’s social media channels. Both women also volunteer as crisis counselors, and Gopu drew on her training to create informational materials about taking care of one’s mental health during the pandemic, which the Task Force shared on social media.
In a stressful time, being part of the Task Force and POHPS provides some hope, according to Gopu.
“It has truly been inspirational. I feel reassured because these are the people who will be my colleagues in medicine,” she said. “When I see that there are so many people out there in the same boat as me, devoting their time and resources to help others, I know we all went into the right field.”
The DUCOM PPE Task Force is accepting large or small PPE donations, and will accept open boxes. Contact student volunteers at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a pick-up, or drop off or mail donations to:
Drexel University College of Medicine
Attn: DUCOM PPE Task Force
2900 West Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Members of the Drexel University community can learn more about helping the Task Force by emailing email@example.com or by visiting its Facebook group.
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