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Students Scour the Region to Help Bridge PPE Gap at Temple

News April 13, 2020

Student PPE Donations

Who could have imagined a month ago that Temple University Hospital would be taking delivery of donated personal protective equipment (PPE) from local tattoo parlors and greenhouses. This is the reality in a Covid-19 world.

The foot soldiers in this PPE collection campaign are medical students from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM). According to third-year student Joe Corcoran, who was pulled off his neurology rotation in Pittsburgh due to the pandemic, what started off as small groups of students working independently has morphed into a coordinated effort.  

“Inactivity and a bunch of Type A medical students isn’t a good combination,” Corcoran says with a chuckle. “It’s hard to be benched when we see the need for medical providers, but we understand why we’re out of the hospitals right now. That’s led many of us to think of ways we can help.”

Over the past few weeks, students have scoured the Philadelphia region for PPE and cleaning supplies and delivered their finds to the Temple Emergency Department by the carload. Their ingenuity has led to some surprising donors.   

“For example, my roommate, Caroline MacGillivray, reached out to local tattoo parlors and got 15,000 gloves donated,” Corcoran says. “Swarthmore College raided their greenhouses and gave us a bunch of masks. The Delaware River Basin Commission and various greenhouses and botanical gardens have volunteered their respirators, Tyvek suits, face shields and gloves. Even family restaurants have donated thousands of gloves. It’s been inspiring to see how many different businesses and industries have joined the effort.”

Corcoran and fellow third-year student Joe Franzen have been working with a Philadelphia company called Everything Plastic that has turned its business on a dime to produce aerosol boxes – clear acrylic boxes that are placed over a patient’s head to protect clinicians from infectious droplets while they perform an intubation. Forty of the boxes have been delivered to more than a dozen hospitals so far with the hope of more to come. 

“As medical students, we have the easy part – collecting and delivering these materials,” Corcoran says. “Much of the praise should go to the local businesses and community members who are making a personal sacrifice to donate these supplies to us.”

At last count, LKSOM students had delivered tens of thousands of gloves, hundreds of N95 masks and goggles, and countless gallons of cleaning supplies – all while keeping up with their classes and rotations, both of which have been moved online.

“Everyone is pulling together on this in a lot of different ways,” Corcoran says. “As long as there are still people and places donating, we’ll do our best to get material to where it’s needed most.”

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