Students at the Georgetown University School of Medicine have spearheaded a national initiative to direct personal protective equipment to medical professionals and hospitals fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global personal protective equipment shortages and price increases caused by panic buying, rising demand and misuse have left health care workers unprepared to safely treat COVID-19 patients. The student-led MedSupplyDrive seeks to bring together health professionals, researchers, lab workers, health science students and others to collect supplies and steer them to health care workers in need. Some of the equipment in short supply includes N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields and face goggles, according to Zuby Syed, the communication, outreach and media relations coordinator of MedSupplyDrive.
Students involved in the drive work together to contact businesses that use medical supplies like nail salons, construction sites and tattoo parlors to request equipment donations. After donors are advised on how to package their equipment or supplies, a volunteer then takes the materials to a local hospital without direct contact with donors.
Debjeet Sarkar, an emergency doctor, initiated the effort, according to Washingtonian. Sarkar reached out to GUSOM student Hannah Day (MED ’22) to describe shortages of personal protective equipment in hospitals, according to Syed.
“My classmate Hannah Day had received news from an emergency medicine physician of how severe PPE shortages were in hospitals across the country,” Syed wrote in an email to The Hoya. “After hearing this, Hannah Day, and a few other classmates and I decided to help organize a way for students to collect PPE and redirect it into the hands of healthcare workers in need.”
As of April 23, the virtual initiative has managed to collect 25,819 masks, 2,631 gowns and thousands of other protective items for medical professionals combatting the virus, according to the project’s website.
The students involved in this initiative have brought pride to the school, according to Stephen Ray Mitchell, professor of medicine and pediatrics.
“These students and their embodiment of the cura personalis spirit are why we’re all so proud to be a part of Georgetown,” Mitchell wrote in an email to The Hoya. “They represent the best in all of us. We salute this 100% student-led effort and commend their dedication to those on the frontlines during this terrible outbreak.”
Since its founding in mid-March, MedSupplyDrive has rallied over 1000 volunteers across the country and has expanded operations to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
MedSupplyDrive hopes to become an official nonprofit, according to Syed. The legal and financial barriers to becoming a nonprofit organization, however, have posed challenges for the initiative, according to Syed.
Despite the hurdles, witnessing volunteers from all across the country mobilizing together for the common good is rewarding and makes the challenges worth the fight, according to Syed.
“It has been an incredible journey – We started small at Georgetown and have grown into a national initiative to get PPE into the right hands,” Syed wrote. “It has been so profound to bear witness to the interest of volunteers across the nation. It is comforting to know that this grassroots movement has built a community nationwide.”