University, community support fuels COVID-19 response efforts at UI Health

By Michael Wesbecher

An outpouring of donations from UIC labs, community partners, grateful patients, students, staff and a vast alumni network spanning local neighborhoods and communities across the globe have supported UI Health’s COVID-19 relief efforts from the very beginning of the pandemic.

As UIC’s academic health enterprise, UI Health has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response efforts through its adjustments of clinical programs, development of community testing sites, clinical trials, and expert guidance to policy and advocacy experts. As the nation and region began to see the virus spread, the extended university family mobilized to help. Nearly every dimension of UI Health’s academic health enterprise community raised their hand to lend assistance, through physical donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), sustaining gifts of meals for health care staff, and financial donations that have contributed to our clinical response.  

Community organizations and groups teamed up to generously donate needed PPE to safeguard the health of both UI Health health care workers and patients alike. Collectively, these donations amounted to over 240,000 face masks (including more than 20,000 N95 respirators), over 45,000 articles of protective clothing, over 25,500 face shields and eye protection, nearly 700,000 gloves, over 5,600 cleaning supplies, more than 2,380 home-sewn cloth masks and over 7,100 meals for health care workers.

While research and simulation lab managers across the university were taking inventory of their protective equipment to share, College of Dentistry Dean Clark Stanford had his sights on mobilizing the dental community from across Chicago and the state. Stanford reached out to the Chicago Dental Society and the Illinois State Dental Society in anticipation of supply shortages to bring in more than 800 masks, 5,700 gloves and more than 4,000 gowns that were slated to be used for the rescheduled regional educational programming.

And that was just the start. In fact, the College of Dentistry stepped up to temporarily house the inventory of supplies streaming in from beyond the dental community — even globally.

Meanwhile, Dr. Enrico Benedetti, head of the Department of Surgery and Warren H. Cole Chair in Surgery, as well as surgery residents, staff and community members, also saw the need for vital PPE, such as N94s and other face masks. Second-year general surgery resident Dr. Andy Lee and his wife, Susan Zhou, worked alongside administrator Arlin Aldaba to garner supply donations on social media. In all, these efforts produced over 25,000 PPE masks, including 12,000 K95 or N95 respirators and 20,000 surgical masks.

“We were aware how severe COVID-19 was in China and understood the importance of medical staff being protected by face masks,” Zhou said. “I was part of several social media groups in the Chinese American community that were looking to donate face masks to hospitals. That’s when I suggested that I could help them donate to our hospital.”  

Additionally, medical students took their own initiative to connect among their peers across the city to collect and distribute needed PPE to area hospitals. #GetMePPE Chicago was established through the grassroots effort of medical students to equitably distribute PPE donations to over 20 health care and community organizations, including UI Health, in need of protective equipment.

And yet, additional support for UI Health has poured in from many other motivated community organizations and individuals, including (though not limited to):

  • Cubs Charities‘ donation of 75 iPads to keep patients connected during visitor restrictions to the hospital;
  • Ford Motor Company (福特), Ford Motor China (福特中国) and Shanghai Public Diplomacy Association (上海公共外交协会) with 30,000 surgical masks;
  • Megan Cairns Tress, who raised funds to buy phone chargers for patients in Chicago-area hospitals — including 400 chargers for UI Health;
  • Chicago’s Vietnamese community and nail industry’s donation of PPE;
  • Home Depot Pro (IPHEC), which donated additional N95 masks
  • Smile Direct Club, which donated 500 face shields;
  • Beam Suntory, which donated 18 pallets of hand sanitizer;
  • Justin Chang Stauffer, a student at Northside College Prep and son of a UI Health physician, who started a GoFundMe page offering virtual concerts for donations in support of PPE, and
  • Another GoFundMe page for Internal Medicine Residents to support lunches and meals during their clinical commitments.

Direct donations also have expanded to include the delivery of over 7,100 meals to sustain UI Health staff, and nearly $70,000 from 200 financial donors to the COVID-19 Crisis Response and Healthcare Delivery Fund. The generosity of individuals from across UIC, the University of Illinois System, and our local community has helped provide nourishing meals throughout the day to various shifts to allow for UI Health staff to continue to provide excellent patient care, stay healthy themselves and keep the public safe.

Most recently, as a show of appreciation to UI Health nurses and in recognition of National Nurses Week, UIC College of Nursing Dean Terri Weaver, and donors Frank Naeymi-Rad, Dr. Theresa Kepic and Leap of Faith Technologies Inc. will provide 2,500 healthy, individually wrapped meals to nurses at the UI Hospital May 6-12. 

Follow UI Health social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) to see regular updates and thank you messages to our community partners and share your own #UIHealthHeroes story.

Learn more about ways you can help UI Health online here.

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