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WVU’s campus-wide effort harnesses creativity, innovation to support health care workers at WVU Medicine and around the state

Two women packaging boxes of medical supplies

WVU Medicine's Janet Keirns sorts donated Personal Protective Equipment at the Shell Building. Donations are coming in from various departments around the university to be contributed for use by medical personnel fighting Coronavirus. WVU Photo/Jennifer Shephard

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A fashion designer stops creating clothing and turns her skills into making surgical masks. Cloth that might have been the mask for the Phantom of the Opera, instead is headed to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital to become a mask that protects a health care worker in the fight against COVID-19.  

This, and more, is how West Virginia University is putting skills and resources from its entire campus to battle the pandemic which has killed thousands worldwide.

Elizabeth Shorrock, a visiting assistant professor at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, is using her skills in fashion, dress and merchandising, to make 10,000 masks to be distributed to WVU Medicine, Charleston Area Medical Center and the United Way. Shorrock is using a fashion studio at the College and has commandeered a few people, including her home-from-college daughter, and two students who stayed in Morgantown, to sew the masks.

“I feel like we’re contributing to the war effort,” she said. “We’re just trying to help because it’s a need.”

Read more about Shorrock’s 10,000 masks project.

The School of Theater and Dance in the College of Creative Arts has reconfigured its equipment and moved it into Falbo Theatre at the Loulie, Valerie and William Canady Creative Arts Center so that five skilled stitchers can maintain a safe distance while sewing N95 masks using supplies from its inventory and a just-purchased lot of 100 percent cotton thread. 

“We must all work together to help our healthcare workers face such a monumental challenge,” said Dean Keith Jackson. “We are proud to show our students and community that the arts can continue to help support other industries during these challenging times.”

Read more about the School of Theater and Dance’s mask project.

Faculty and staff at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences are “putting gloves into the right hands,” as well, moving quickly to donate personal protective equipment from its laboratories to healthcare workers. 

This week they filled more than 10 pickup trucks, cars and SUVs with gloves, masks, face shields, goggles, shoe covers, overalls and lab coats and delivered them to WVU Medicine. With totals still rolling in, the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry provided more than 62,000 pairs of gloves, and the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science offered up more than 600 full-body Tyvek suits.

“I knew that there were shortages of PPE nationally, and when WVU Medicine put out a request I got in touch with them. I told them what we had in biology, and it snowballed from there,” said Richard Thomas, professor and chair of the Department of Biology.

Read more about the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences donations to WVU Medicine.

The Innovation Hub staff at the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is exploring how their equipment, particularly 3D printers, can be used to potentially supplement the local shortage of medical supplies needed by health care workers.

“The goal is to see what we can produce quickly and reliably to help the medical community out,” said Gene Cilento, professor of chemical engineering and the Hub’s inaugural director. “We are a prototyping facility, not production. If we are successful, we can coordinate with other labs across campus to make some of these products.”

The Statler College is forming a partnership with the Davis and Eberly Colleges and WVU Medicine to determine how the Innovation Hub could assist the medical community as they grapple with the quickly-spreading virus.

While the materials produced by the Innovation Hub will not be used directly in the treating of patients with COVID-19, they will be used in other critical areas of health care operations. 

The College has also donated gloves, masks and safety glasses that had been purchased previously for lab use and recruiting efforts to the Monongalia County VA Clinic and J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Read more about the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Innovation Hub work.

Already a part of the WVU Health Sciences family, Dean William Petros at the School of Pharmacy is leading efforts to compound multiple gallons of hand sanitizer by using items the school already has in stock. In addition, the School will donate 40 safety goggles, 200 nasal samplers for patient testing and protective gloves.

“Mountaineer Nation never ceases to amaze me as they step up to meet whatever challenges arise,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, vice President and executive dean of WVU Health Sciences. “Our healthcare workers are on the frontlines of this pandemic, and personal protective equipment is essential for them. When the WVU community saw a need, they answered the call. We are so grateful for their efforts.”

Other WVU colleges, schools and units have made contributions of items, services and cash to help WVU Medicine and the state weather the COVID-19 storm.

The College of Education and Human Services has donated all its tongue depressors, medical exam gloves, sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer to Ruby Memorial Hospital.

The College of Law is working with the state’s legal services to address the pandemic within the criminal justice and prison system, including early release plans and court orders regarding bail or parole for non-violent offenders. The law clinics continue to serve clients through remote technology.

The WVU Student Bar Association voted to donate $8,000 to statewide COVID-19 relief efforts. The funds are from the canceled Barristers Ball, an annual end-of-year gala for law students.

WVU Extension Service is part of a statewide effort led by Sen. Joe Manchin’s office and local United Way agencies, Masks4WV. CEOS members, 4-H’ers, retirees and employees are making masks for senior citizens and healthcare workers.

The Art Museum of WVU has also donated supplies typically kept on hand in case of disaster or emergency to WVU Medicine, including nitrile gloves, masks and personal protective equipment.



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