It reads like a very long grocery list, except that the items on the list have nothing to do with groceries. The list includes more than 23,000 items of personal protection equipment (PPE), which medical students from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine have collected and donated to health care workers throughout Palm Beach County. The medical school’s FAU COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, which includes four committees, spearheaded this project. The college-wide pandemic outreach is led by Jacob Musinsky, Jeremy Cohen and Vishnu Muppala, M.P.H., third-year FAU medical students.
Jared Goldstein, Alex Small, Mirelle Dawoud and Connor Montgomery, also third-year FAU medical students, reached out to local businesses, research laboratories – including FAU laboratories – as well as members of the community, to acquire the 23,000 PPE items. They collected thousands of surgical gloves, facemasks, face shields, surgical gowns, surgical caps, bunny suits, boot covers, various sanitation supplies, and even four P100 respirators with eight filters. Of the 1,403 facemasks they collected, more than 300 were homemade. As part of their community outreach, the medical students educated local community members about the importance of wearing masks and provided them with resources on how to make them. That is how they were able to obtain and donate more than 300 homemade masks to local health care workers.
“As a community-based medical school, our students are attuned to recognizing and addressing the many needs of our community,” said Phillip Boiselle, M.D., dean of FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine. “During these turbulent times, our medical students are now answering the call to help our health care workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collection of PPE is one of many ways in which our students have risen to the challenge of helping to addressing this unprecedented pandemic.”
The 23,000-plus PPE have been donated to Baptist Health South Florida’s Bethesda Hospital East’s emergency department for FAU resident physicians and associated staff, to the Quantum Foundation, who are helping to provide local health care clinics with PPE to screen underserved populations, and to local nursing homes.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exhausted lifesaving resources that our health care workers desperately need on a daily basis to treat patients and protect themselves from this highly infectious disease,” said Dawoud. “Together with Jared, Alex and Connor, we sprang into action to address the dire need for PPE and other critical medical supplies. Collecting and donating more than 23,000 items was our way of making a difference in our community to help combat this pandemic.”
In addition to the Emergency Preparedness Team, FAU medical students have formed the Community Care Team. This group has been reaching out to local organizations to see how best they can serve the community. So far, students have volunteered to deliver groceries for seniors, make face masks at home and have even started a campaign to increase blood donations. They are working to create a partnership with a local senior living center to form “virtual quarantine buddies” between FAU medical students and isolated residents.
A third group, the Wellness Team, leads virtual wellness activities, which are scheduled via a shared calendar and include weekly yoga and exercise classes, cooking demos, art-based reflection, and individual class social check- ins. They also have created and distributed a wellness guide featuring free resources. The fourth group, the Education Team, is responsible for COVID-19 education for both students and the community.
“As future health care providers, many of us find it difficult to sit back and observe as our community is affected by COVID-19,” said Cohen. “So, we initiated an official FAU response to the virus with the hopes of rallying motivated student volunteers to help support our community, and each other, during this unprecedented hardship. Our response efforts include elements of community education, emergency preparedness, community care, wellness, as well as student mentorship through our Healthcare Careers Outreach Program. We are excited to help in any way possible.”