Students transition from patient care to provider protection
Four young women stand behind a desk covered in assembled face shields and face shield parts.

PICTURED ABOVE: Students (pictured from left to right) Haley Taylor, Alice Chae and Shammah Okai, all members of the MD Class of 2021, and Hailey Vann, MD Class of 2022, helped construct disposable and reusable face shields for front line workers.
Photo courtesy of Alice Chae, MD Class of 2021

Students transition from patient care to provider protection

“How can we help?”

After COVID-19 shut down college campuses across the country in March, including EVMS, that was the first question from a group of concerned students.

“Many of us were taken off our clinical rotations and had to leave the hospitals,” says Madison Seward, MD Class of 2021, “but we still wanted to make a contribution to help those on the front lines.”

It didn’t take long to find the answer.

As COVID-19 began spreading, it quickly became apparent that there was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Rising demand, panic buying and hoarding meant that PPE wasn’t available to everyone. The shortfall left doctors, nurses and other frontline workers unprepared to care for COVID-19 patients, putting them at great risk.

Alfred Abuhamad, MD, Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs, saw the need and worked with Joseph Hudgens, MD, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, to design two different types of face shields.

It wasn’t hard to find students to help build them.

A female and male student in the foreground wear face covering and protective gloves as they use duct tape to cover the holes on the plastic coverings used to make the face shields.
Students learned how to make both disposable and reusable face shields. Over four days, about three dozen students made 400 face shields that were distributed at local hospitals and clinics.
Photo courtesy of Alice Chae, MD Class of 2021

“We wanted to make sure healthcare workers had what they needed to treat COVID-19 patients,” says Alice Chae, MD Class of 2021. “We made a harder, plastic face shield that was reusable and then a softer, disposable version.”

They used sheets of foam cut into rectangles and pieces of elastic to make sure the shields had a good seal and felt comfortable.

Over four days, more than three dozen student volunteers worked in shifts to make 400 face shields, which were distributed throughout local hospitals and clinics.

“I’m really grateful for my fellow students who stepped up and volunteered their time to quickly construct these face shields to make sure we could get them to providers as soon as possible,” Ms. Chae says. “Their dedication and hard work made all of this possible.”

Creating a face shield

Three students proudly hold 3D prototypes of N95 masks they made.
View Steps Download PDF

Mask Making 101 (in 3D)

The mask shortage also inspired a group of first-year medical students to get creative. Sarah Birk, Vivian Burton and Sam Stephenson, members of the MD Class of 2023, worked alongside a team of Old Dominion University engineers to prepare 3D-printed N95 masks for use at local hospitals.

“They are reusable and built like Legos,” Ms. Burton says. “You can take them apart, sanitize them, then replace the HEPA filter.”

The students created several prototypes and asked local physicians to give their feedback.

In all, they printed several hundred masks and delivered them to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and ODU.

“As medical students, we really wanted to help,” Ms. Birk says. “Healthcare workers are doing all they can to protect us, and we wanted to do what we could to protect them.”

The finished product, masks created by students
EVMS students show off the 3D-printed N95 masks they made with the help of ODU engineers.
Photo courtesy of Elaine Birk