Valley medical students developing new personal protection equipment

Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 22:44:07-04

A group of Valley medical and engineering students have banded together to create a COVID-19 innovation team to help address the shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers.

"A lot of us are feeling that we really want to help our colleagues, we really want to help patients out there," said Dara Farhad, a team leader with the COVID-19 innovation team.

Mandy Kaur, the team's fundraising and outreach coordinator said they are looking for donations of N95 masks, gowns, and face shields. In addition to that, the group is also working to create innovative solutions for high-level personal protective equipment, such as a full face snorkel mask modified with 3D printed adapters.

Like all of her colleagues, Kaur said they are fueled by their passion to serve the community. "My main goal in coming to medical school and really the main purpose was to help my community help patients and treat sick people," said Kaur.

The COVID Innovation team leader, Brenna McElenney added that all of them are driven to help in this time of need.

"Personally it is a scary time. There's huge adjustments with doing medical school from home for sure, but I think devoting our extra time to this has made the transition easier," she added.

Watching the impact this pandemic was having in the community is eye-opening for many members of the team.

"I could never imagine a state where our nurses who are so intimately involved with these patients who are checking on these patients for every need they have- don't have the protective equipment. I think it's unacceptable," said Kaur.

"Without armor. It is paramount to provide them with enough personal protective equipment so they are able to fight this pandemic successfully and still return home to their families," added fourth year medical student Nicole Segaline.

Community engineer Joseph Barrett showed ABC15 the type of product they hoped to create. It was a full snorkel type mask, that tightly sealed around the health care worker's face.

"The goal here is to create something that is a complete seal, and that hopefully can be re-used multiple times by sterilizing it," explained Barrett.

Some of the students in the group have personal reasons to get involved.

"I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Phoenix for medical school, and it has been devastating watching my New York family suffer so intensely from COVID-19 with no way to help," said Ann Staudinter Knoll, a first year medical student in the Valley.

Others are inspired to something more after their hospital rotations were canceled due to the pandemic.

"I was initially upset that our rotations were being postponed, and I would not be able to help in the way I had envisioned. So, when I first heard of the COVID innovation team, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to help," said Brittany Gerald, a third year medical school student.

If you would like to help the group in their mission you can donate to the cause here.

"I think the important question to ask is if this was you or a loved one what would you want in order to feel like you could do your job without fear?" said medical student Krichelle White.

Watching what's happening on the front lines of this pandemic inspired this group of students to finish their education as fast as they could, so they too could pitch in to help.

"I feel more determined than ever to help the medical field and would love to be on the front lines," said Bryce Munter, a four-year medical student.

"I am more proud than ever to be entering the medical profession. The comradery, sacrifice, and effort in this profession demonstrates the amazing family that is health care," added Nicole Segaline, also a fourth year medical student in Arizona.