Researchers from across the University of Florida and UF Health have joined an urgent effort to collect and donate personal protective equipment, or PPE, to build upon existing stockpiles in support of clinical colleagues on the frontlines of treating COVID-19.
By the pallet and truckload, laboratory teams spanning across UF’s many scientific disciplines are amassing masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and more to be sure that UF Health’s frontline health care personnel have the equipment they need to stay safe and provide the best possible care to patients.
They’re responding to a call from a leadership team including Stephen Sugrue, Ph.D., associate vice president for research at UF Health; Scott Brown, director of infection control at UF Health Shands; Tedd Comerford, associate vice president of supply chain services at UF Health Shands; and Lisa Merck, M.D., M.P.H., vice chair of research in the department of emergency medicine at UF’s College of Medicine, who together quickly initiated a PPE-collection drive in the face of global shortages of protective gear.
“We are heartened and strengthened by these donations, which are of incredible benefit to our health care providers,” said Merck, an emergency medicine physician. “During this time of uncertainty and fear, we are enormously thankful for this goodwill and sense of community.”
All donated PPE is being added to the shelves at the UF Health Integrated Service Center, a 75,000-square-foot, climate-controlled warehouse in Gainesville that stocks medical supplies for all UF Health facilities.
“In addition to staying at home to flatten the curve of infections, our group donating PPE to protect our medical staff and our patients is the easiest thing we have ever done to help save lives,” said Jada Lewis, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience and co-deputy director of UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute.
Juergen Bulitta, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research at the UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona, said their donation drive was a concerted effort by many faculty and staff at the campus.
“It is every researcher’s goal to improve and save lives,” Bulitta said. “Usually we do this by a long process that needs several years, and sometimes even over a decade, between discovery to implementation to patient care. This time, we could short-circuit this process, and we did so without hesitation.”
In addition to UF and UF Health researchers, former patients and community members have jumped to help the effort.
Dawn Watkins, director of Strategic Sourcing at UF Health Shands, has fielded than 150 emails and phone calls — and counting — from those seeking to donate PPE. “I’ve left these calls in tears, hearing about the passion that’s motivating them,” Watkins said.
Some donors have shared personal stories about how UF Health has impacted their lives, and they have expressed a desire to give back, Watkins said. The daughter of one Parkinson’s disease patient treated at UF Health offered to connect Watkins with the owner of a soap company who wanted to contribute, for example.
“Our facility stores $20 million in medical supplies and yet, that is not our greatest asset,” Watkins said. “UF Health’s greatest asset is people — from support team members to frontline health care providers to our faculty and community.”
As inquiries pour in, officials ask potential donors to fill out this form to help with organization.
Once the form is filled out and approved, donations may be delivered from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at two locations in Gainesville:
- For community members: The UF Health Integrated Service Center, 4807 NE 63rd Ave., Suite B
- For UF Health personnel: The DG-017 receiving dock, which faces the West Parking Garage at UF Health Shands Hospital
In Jacksonville, supplies may be donated from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at:
- UF Health Jacksonville, Clinical Center main entrance, 655 West Eighth St.
- UF Health North medical office building main entrance, 15255 Max Leggett Parkway.
UF Health Central Florida is also accepting donations; to coordinate a delivery, please call 860-886-3213 for UF Health Leesburg Hospital or 352-751-8871 for UF Health The Villages® Hospital.
For more information on how you can help fight the novel coronavirus, please visit UF Health’s COVID-19 Updates site, where you can learn more about local efforts to make masks and build ventilators or donate to our COVID-19 Masks fund or COVID-19 Ventilators fund.