Units across WMU donate personal protection equipment to medical professionals

Contact: Erin Flynn
Nurses hold bottles of isopropyl alcohol and display other donated protective equipment.

Jill Weber and Jessica Slates display some of the donated items.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Western Michigan University community is banding together to provide health care providers with essential equipment. Across the nation, hospitals and medical offices are dealing with shortages of supplies necessary to keep themselves and patients safe as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our faculty and students at WMU are caring problem solvers, and started the effort to collect personal protective gear and disinfectant chemicals from our labs to help protect those on the front line of fighting COVID-19," says Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, vice president for research and innovation. "The Sindecuse team stepped right up to serve as the collection point.”

Various colleges and units on the WMU campus are collecting personal protection equipment, such as gloves, masks, disposable gowns, face shields, respirators and ethanol or isopropyl alcohol for Sindecuse Health Center.

“These supplies are important to help protect the health care providers as well as to help prevent the spread of disease,” says Jessica Slates, director of nursing at Sindecuse.

Boxes packed in the trunk of a vehicle.

Spitsbergen's vehicle packed with supplies.

Boxes of supplies stacked on a cart.

Some of the supplies collected by the Department of Biological Sciences.

The donated equipment will be used at the clinic to treat students, faculty and staff. In the event there are excess supplies, Slates says, Sindecuse would be happy to partner with facilities in the local community.

Dr. John Spitsbergen, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, made a delivery Monday morning after putting out a call to his department. They collected so much that he packed his Subaru Outback to the ceiling. He says in a time of such uncertainty, donating supplies offers a sense of purpose.

"We really feel a bit helpless, and this is one way we can give," he says. "Everyone in my department and at WMU is being really wonderful. I constantly see folks stepping up to provide information to others, to help students and to donate scarce supplies."

Spitsbergen and his team also offered to help with sterilization, if needed.

"Everyone I talk to feels like we are living through some sort of science fiction movie. Unfortunately, with this movie you can't just change the channel, and each time you tune in, it just gets more frightening," says Spitsbergen. "We all want to do whatever we can to help."

The support isn't going unnoticed.

"Seeing the University community come together during this critical time is amazing," Slates says, thanking all of the departments who have been able to donate extra supplies. "Staff feel supported, relieved and very grateful that they can continue to perform their essential job duties while protecting themselves, as well as the greater community."

Faculty and staff from the Frostic School of Art have also been digging through their studios to find masks, disposable gloves, disinfectant wipes and safety glasses all to donate to Bronson Hospital.

After the state's stay-at-home order is lifted, those interested in donating equipment should reach out to Slates or Stacy Emery, coordinator of clinical support services, to arrange a drop-off time. Sindecuse is in need of gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, face shields and Lysol.

"I think the next couple of weeks are really going to test our community," says Spitsbergen . "So, I would encourage everyone to be kind, understanding and patient, and to do everything we can to help those in our community who need assistance."

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