Students at the UCLA Anderson School of Management are organizing donation drives for personal protective equipment to help front-line workers treating patients with COVID-19.
Due to the current pandemic, there has been a shortage of PPE, including gloves, masks, face shields and gowns, which leaves some health care workers ill-equipped to safely treat their patients. This has even caused the World Health Organization to estimate a needed 40% increase in manufacturing.
Judy Choe, a part-time student at the School of Management and attending physician in UCLA Health’s Department of Emergency Medicine, is the primary organizer of the drives. Choe said the idea stemmed from watching her colleagues in New York struggle with the lack of PPE supplies.
The management school team is focused on providing PPE to local hospitals and clinics that are experiencing shortages, as well as helping them prepare for a potential surge of new COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles, she added.
“PPE is a standard barrier that all health care professionals need,” Choe said. “My thought was, if we all work together to ensure our entire community is safe (with adequate PPE supplies), then that, with a shelter-in-place, will help flatten our curve even further.”
Angela Arunarsirakul, a full-time student at the School of Management, has been helping out with the publicity of the donation drives.
One of the reasons for the shortage in PPE supplies is because people have been hoarding equipment out of desperation, Arunarsirakul said. Additionally, suppliers are not able to supply or produce PPE quickly enough, she said.
“We’re all trying to help out in our own ways,” Arunarsirakul said. “I’m sure that some of us have this equipment that we don’t exactly need, or at least maybe we need them but not as much as the medical professionals do.”
Caleb Maxson, a part-time student at the School of Management who is volunteering at the donation drives, said it is important for local communities to supplement the support provided by the government and other institutions because it is easier for smaller hospitals and clinics to be overlooked.
Choe pitched the idea to the School of Management’s Slack channel, where she received immediate responses from her classmates in the full-time, part-time and executive Master of Business Administration programs, who all wanted to contribute to and collaborate on the project. The School of Management’s faculty and staff were supportive and the deans helped to introduce and spread the word about the initiative, Choe said.
Arunarsirakul said she was pleasantly surprised by how the first drive was set up within a couple of weeks.
“There’s a lot of needs that need to be met right now. And as much as we’d like to plan for the perfect drive, making sure that there’s a lot of publicity and, doing things like that in any way that we can help people out with our actions, then we should definitely go for it. So I’m really proud of (Choe), for doing that,” Arunarsirakul said.
Choe said the team was able to collect upward of 3,000 N95 masks and hundreds of boxes of gloves and eye shields in two of the drives. Although their marketing approach was successful, she said she and her team think the donations will soon run out.
In order to increase that supply, they set up a GoFundMe page with other PPE drive organizations and are vetting suppliers so that equipment can be purchased for local hospitals.
Maxson said the main challenge going forward is the uncertainty of how the situation will evolve.
“We started off collecting PPE and donations for PPE, but if challenges persist, the actions needed to address them will evolve,” Maxson said. “As a group, we will need to assess our role as the situation changes.”
Choe added that the community has responded with donations every week, and continues to reach out, asking how they can help in the fight against COVID-19.
“I hope, much like everyone else does, that a successful vaccine will be developed and administered to protect our communities,” Choe said. “In the meantime, hospitals need to be judicious in our use of PPE supplies, because the road ahead is long and uncertain. Until we can all return our new normal, it’s essential that we focus on the safety of the front-line teams with adequate PPE.”