Claremont Colleges faculty, students donate protective equipment to medical facilities

A person wearing gloves holds a face shield
Students and faculty across the Claremont Colleges are donating personal protective equipment to health care workers and medical facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AZ Ekimena via Wikimedia Commons)

After her undefeated season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, CMS women’s tennis captain Anastasia Bryan-Ajania SC ’20 found herself at home reading about personal protective equipment online.  

When she learned that college athletic departments often store PPE, Bryan-Ajania decided to encourage some members of her community — the CMS athletics department, Scripps President Lara Tiedens and all seven Claremont Colleges — to donate supplies. 

Her efforts paid off, initiating donations of gloves, lab coats, masks, disinfectant wipes and cleaning supplies from some of the colleges to medical facilities near Claremont in late March, according to Bryan-Ajania and a Scripps press release. She then contacted coaches from the California Institute of Technology, PAC-12 schools and the NCAA itself, asking them to donate their unused PPE to hospitals. 

“It was great to see that my community was so excited to help,” she told TSL. “ … A lot of institutions are obviously thinking about their science department as far as cleaning supplies and PPE they have to donate, but no one really thinks about the supplies that athletic programs have.” 

Bryan-Ajania’s initiative joins a wider effort across the 7Cs to donate PPE to medical facilities, first responders and essential workers. In fact, some students and faculty aren’t just looking for existing PPE to donate — they’re taking the initiative to produce their own. 

Keck Graduate Institute professor of medical device engineering Anna Hickerson 3D-printed a mask mold and now uses vacuum forming to create masks. The masks take about two minutes to form — as much as 100 times faster than 3D printing. 

Hickerson and her husband, a nuclear physicist, were asked by hospitals to provide as much home or small-lab made PPE as possible “using any rapid prototyping technology available,” according to a website they made explaining the process.

Nina Kar KG ’20 is producing masks through 3D printing. Each reusable antimicrobial mask takes around 3 hours to produce. In 34 days, Kar has donated more than 840 masks to first responders. She has also raised more than $2,400 in donations to crowdfund the production, according to her organization, Student Scribes

“These masks are free for all first-line responders,” Kar told TSL via email. “This initiative is crowdfunded, with 100 perent of the donations going towards the production and distribution of masks across the country.”

Scripps physics professor Janet Sheung is also using her 3D printer to make PPE for medical personnel. In early April, Sheung donated 70 face shields to Totally Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Loma Linda, California, according to a Scripps press release.

In addition to producing their own masks, some professors are donating supplies from academic laboratories, art studios and other facilities. 

In April, Harvey Mudd College physics professor Sharon Gerbode gathered supplies from academic labs and donated them to Huntington Memorial Hospital. Gerbode got the idea from PPE Link, a service created by STEM professionals that connects donors with medical facilities that need supplies. She also rallied her colleagues at Mudd to contribute to the effort. 

It was a wonderful campus collaboration that really speaks to the college’s mission of impacting society, and the collection volunteers at the hospital were thrilled by the bounty,” Gerbode said in a Harvey Mudd press release

In total, Harvey Mudd donated around 35 boxes of gloves, a box of masks, two large bottles of hand sanitizer, two large containers of disinfectant wipes and a lab coat, according to the release.

Pitzer College art professors Rebekah Myers and Tim Berg donated N95 masks from Pitzer’s ceramic and sculpture supplies to QueensCare Health Centers in LA. Myers and Berg also began sewing masks after donating the N95s.

Scripps did not answer questions from TSL related to why PPE was not donated earlier, what type or how much PPE was donated, how much PPE is currently remaining and who facilitated the transfer of donations. Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Claremont Graduate University did not return requests for comment. 

While Pomona has not donated any PPE to medical facilities, according to spokesperson Patricia Vest, the college is providing supplies to ensure their own personnel and students remain protected.

“We are maintaining a supply of PPE for the use of our staff, faculty and students that include gloves, N95 masks, surgical and cloth masks,” Vest said via email. “The PPE is used in [a] variety of situations such as housekeepers working in currently occupied buildings, students entering [the] dining hall, among others.” 

Keck Graduate Institute has not donated PPE from its laboratory inventory, choosing to use their limited inventory in research labs “related to the fight against COVID-19,” KGI spokesperson Ivan Alber said via email.

Meanwhile, Bryan-Ajania hopes other college athletes and athletic departments adapt and become part of the solution during this time. 

“I think the best part about this initiative was simply the publicity that it received, because it got others involved and it really encouraged other institutions to do their part,” she said.

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