W&L Donates PPE to Local Providers Amid a national shortage of PPE, W&L employees put the IQ Center’s 3D printers to work making face shields and mask strap holders for local health care workers.
One of the greatest concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic is that health care workers are burning through their personal protective equipment (PPE) at an alarming rate, and replacement equipment is slow to materialize. Washington and Lee University has responded to this need by donating surplus gloves from the Biology Department and by printing protective face shields on 3D printers in the IQ Center.
Academic Technologist Dave Pfaff, who works in the IQ Center, said several alumni contacted the university to inquire about the availability of masks, gloves, protective suits and other PPE. In addition, Carilion Clinic put out a public plea for PPE donations from organizations, corporations and individuals.
Bill Hamilton, head of the Biology Department at W&L, donated 4,500 latex gloves to Carilion. Latex gloves are not the first choice in health care, but he said they can be used for cleaning, maintenance and other tasks, allowing the hospital to reserve their nitrile gloves for health care providers.
Pfaff had already heard that 3D printers were being used to make PPE. “One particular group at UCLA was putting together real-time analysis of different things that people were printing,” he said, “so that was really helpful.”
Along with Larry Bird, a part-time employee in the IQ Center, Pfaff decided to test a few designs on the center’s 3D printers. After they produced five face shield designs, Bird, who also works at the Lexington hospital, gave them to infection control officials there for inspection. Based on feedback from those officials, Pfaff and Bird printed and donated 10 face shields to the hospital.
The shields themselves can be sterilized and reused, and they accommodate a clear plastic cover that can be removed and cleaned or replaced. Pfaff scoured offices across campus and found transparency film and clear report covers to use as shield covers. In addition to the Carilion donations, Pfaff donated 20 shields to local physician Cathryn Harbor and local hospice workers.
A separate request came in from hospice for mask strap holders, which relieve the pressure of mask straps on workers’ ears. Pfaff was able to make nine of those holders on the 3D printers, as well, and plans to make more. If additional requests come in, Pfaff said, they will do their best to fill those.
“It’s nice to be able to do something that can be of help in this time,” Pfaff said.
W&L Provost Marc Conner said he was very pleased that W&L personnel could supply health care providers with the PPE. “We are very eager to support the local community,” he said. “Dave, Bill, Larry and others really stepped up with creative ideas to help support our health care workers. It’s a great example of everyone being in this together.”