Photo courtesy of University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine. From left: Mariska Kay Rivera, Abby Shaffer, Dr. Alex Kaysin, Dr. Natelaine Fripp.
With research restrictions in place due to COVID-19, labs at the aerospace engineering department are closed. But some lab supplies are still seeing use—as part of the effort to stem the outbreak and treat patients while protecting the health of medical personnel.
Anya Jones, an associate professor in the department, wondered if her Separated and Transient Aerodynamics lab had anything that doctors and clinicians could use. Doubtful at first, she checked anyway. Her search turned up a box full of N95 masks from an old project.
“I figured if I had more supplies than I realized, others might also,” Jones said. She put out a call to other aerospace engineering faculty. Meanwhile, Aileen Hentz, student services program director at the department, got in touch with Alexander Kaysin, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), and Medical Director of University Family Medicine, which is based within the Department of Family and Community Medicine, located in downtown Baltimore.Within days, a shipment was on its way to the clinic.
“We had quite a few labs providing supplies and were able to send several boxes and bags to the family medicine practice,” Hentz said. Items received included masks, safety glasses, nitril gloves, and bottles of isopropyl alcohol for disinfecting.
Dr. Kaysin, whose department serves as the backbone for primary care within UMSOM and sees around 35,000 patients annually, said these donations are much appreciated as they help replenish supplies due to widespread shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The surges in other U.S. cities are a likely bellwether of things to come in Baltimore, and Dr. Kaysin said he wants his staff to be adequately equipped and prepared to provide needed care to Marylanders. The UMSOM Department of Family & community Medicine operates two other locations in Baltimore and Columbia providing comprehensive healthcare services and training for residents and health professions students.
“One of the biggest challenges is keeping the clinicians and the staff safe with personal protective equipment (PPE) so they do not expose themselves and contract the COVID-19 infection,” Kaysin said. “Right now, given that this is a global situation, many stockpiles have been diminished and the warehouses are empty.”
“That means that medical personnel across the country may be experiencing a surge in cases and have to use the same equipment again and again, even after it has started to degrade. That’s not a safe situation, either for them or the patients they are treating,” he said.
Staff at the family medicine practice applauded when they heard of the Aero department’s supply drive. Among the faculty, staff, postdocs and students at the aerospace engineering department, the effort provided an opportunity for positive action at a time when many of their regular activities are curtailed.
“I feel we made a difference--not only through the supplies we sent, but also through spreading the word to other departments about what we’re doing,” Hentz said.
Jones notes that, despite severe restrictions, researchers are pressing ahead with aspects of their work that can be done outside the lab, such as data analysis and modeling. As for the supplies sent, “we’d all much rather it be put to use, rather than sitting in the corner of an empty lab.”
The University of Maryland Medical System and the UMD School of Medicine continue to welcome donations of supplies. To arrange a delivery, please contact Paul Jaravata, Director of Practice Operations in Family and Community Medicine, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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