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Health - Society & Culture

Drexel Collects Coronavirus-related Supplies for Donations

March 30, 2020

Third-year medical student Edward Guo after collecting PPE supplies. Photo courtesy Estefania Alba-Rodriguez and Kira Smith.
Third-year medical student Edward Guo after collecting PPE supplies. Photo courtesy Estefania Alba-Rodriguez and Kira Smith.

Please visit the ‘Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus’ website for the latest information on campus preparations and responses regarding COVID-19.

Drexel University faculty, staff and students are currently working to compile much-needed supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) from around campus and throughout the community to give to local health care providers and hospitals in Philadelphia. There is a serious shortage of important supplies that health care professionals desperately need to treat patients with COVID-19 without the risk of becoming sick themselves and transmitting the disease to patients and family members.  

Dragons from the College of Medicine and College of Nursing and Health Professions are seeking and are donating surgical masks, N95 masks, isolation gowns, disposable or washable scrubs and gowns, glasses and face shields, bleach, aprons, patient gowns, EPA wipes, hand sanitizers and other materials. Of note: some hospitals and health care facilities will also accept open boxes, expired or handmade PPE.

They’re asking for Dragons who might typically have access to those items — like scientists and those with medical research interests — to consider donating, especially as Drexel has closed its campus and suspended in-person classes, as well as non-essential research, and they might have less need for those supplies during this time.

“As we wound down our research and simultaneously became aware of the rapidly growing need for these supplies, my research team and I decided we should donate what we could,” said Michael Lane, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy in the College of Medicine. “In reaching out to people in our department, and the Spinal Cord Research Center, we found that others were thinking the same thing, so we quickly started to collect what we had together.”

Supplies collected by the College of Medicine's Department of Neurobiology, Marion Murray Spinal Cord Research Center and faculty from medical education, as compiled on March 29. Photo credit: Michael Lane.
Supplies collected by the College of Medicine's Department of Neurobiology, Marion Murray Spinal Cord Research Center and faculty from medical education, as compiled on March 29. Photo credit: Michael Lane.

Lane’s team; Haviva Goldman, PhD, a professor, and Theresa Connors, a lab manager, both from the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy; contacts in the Marion Murray Spinal Cord Research Center and a group of medical and nursing faculty and students have been working together in the last week or so to donate and collect. As of March 29, they have received about 16,600 exam gloves, 743 sterile gloves, 197 disposable gowns, 550 masks (including 23 of the much-needed N95 isolation masks), 150 Safety Glasses and a large box of Lysol wipes.

Around that same time, the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) had been fielding calls and emails from area partners asking for supplies. Senior Associate Dean of Nursing and Student Affairs Kymberlee Montgomery, DNP, set up a virtual meeting on the morning of March 24 to collect and inventory available PPEs to donate. 

“We have a duty to our fellow health care professionals and to our patients to keep them as safe as possible while providing the highest quality of care,” said Montgomery. “This is not just important, it’s critical!”

Director of Research Labs Arun Ramakrishnan, PhD, who has been designated essential personnel to attend to any possible emergencies in CNHP’s labs, spent that afternoon collecting and mobilizing stored supplies like cover, blue, surgical and isolation gowns; various surgical and N95 masks; and liquid and foam hand sanitizer. He called Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Clinical Simulation & Practice Jon Cornele and Keith Kalbach, department administrator at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies at the College of Medicine, to guide him to closets in the Simulation Labs and Emergency Medical Services suite on the first, third and fourth floors of New College Building. He also grabbed unused supplies in various CNHP labs at the Three Parkway Building.

“Due to the ramp-down of research activities to only ‘critical research’ at Drexel, we realized that our stocks of surgical supplies could better be utilized to help health care workers in hospitals within Philadelphia,” said Ramakrishnan. “I believe that in every way we can help, it counts — we are all in this together to flatten the curve!”

Arun Ramakrishnan took a selfie while safely collecting supplies. Photo credit: Arun Ramakrishnan
Arun Ramakrishnan took a selfie while safely collecting supplies. Photo credit: Arun Ramakrishnan

All in all, CNHP donated about 700 face masks (including surgical masks, masks with face shields and N95 masks) and about 200 gowns (including surgical gowns, isolation gowns and cover gowns) to several local hospital donation sites and other critical organizations that evening.

“Arun has been completely amazing — he has given so much of his personal time and effort,” said CNHP Associate Dean for Research Deborah Clegg, PhD. “We are so fortunate to have people like Arun in the College — he is personally making a HUGE difference!”

Around the same time that winter break was winding down at the University, some Drexel medical students joined the Philadelphia Organization of Health Professions Students - COVID Response Facebook group to learn how they could help out. First-year medical student Kira Smith also encouraged others in the Facebook group to ask their anatomy professors for extra PPE, after she did the same at Drexel and was put in touch with Lane to help coordinate the student effort of the College of Medicine’s PPE drive.

Besides Smith, the group includes third-year medical students Rachel Yoo, Edward Guo, Anisha Gopu, Stephanie Anciro and Estefania Alba; and fourth-year medical student Des Lee. Some are staying with their families at home while most remain in Philadelphia; Smith is currently staying with a fellow student and that student’s family, as she decided not to return home to Seattle, Washington, where her grandmother lives with her family.

According to Alba and Smith, the students have collected items from local construction companies, biotech companies, skin treatment centers, museums, hardware stores, auto shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, veterinary hospitals and neighboring universities. The group is continuing to reach out to businesses in the area for donations.

Some of the supplies from the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Photo credit: Arun Ramakrishnan.
Some of the supplies from the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Photo credit: Arun Ramakrishnan.

So far, the students have distributed a donation from Broomall Animal Hospital. Additionally, Lee and Gopu sent two boxes of N95 respirators (20 each), 10 boxes of nitrile gloves (100 each) and four boxes of gowns (50 each) to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, which is  jointly owned by Tower Health and Drexel.

“As rising medical and nursing students we have a deep desire to help people,” Alba and Smith said in a statement on behalf of the group. “We have been feeling helpless, disoriented and unsure of how we can be of help from a distance. We realized that even though we were unable to help in clinics or hospitals, we could still play a role in combating this pandemic.”

Looking to donate supplies? There is no deadline for donations. Here’s what these Dragons recommended:

  • Contact Michael Lane for more information and to be directed on the best way for your items to be collected by the College of Medicine.
  • If you are near Drexel’s Queen Lane Campus, you can drop off donations at the front security desk.
  • Student volunteers can drive to you to pick up your donations. Contact drexelcovid19@gmail.com for more information.
  • If you have extra masks and would like to donate to Temple Hospital specifically, you can fill out Philly Mask Brigade’s form, and someone will pick them up without contact and deliver them to Temple Hospital.
  • You can also donate to the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, which is collecting and distributing PPE to local hospitals with the greatest need.