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UF medical students launch website to thank those on the frontlines of COVID-19 pandemic

Before the spring of 2020, not everyone could mentally calculate what 6 feet of distance looked like. When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, however, social distancing measures became the standard, and everyone learned exactly what it felt like to maintain at least that much space from others.

Now UF medical students have joined colleagues with expertise in business and media to design a website to bring people back together — virtually.

The 6ftCloser website, which launched April 11 with the help of first-year medical students Jesse Caron, Samantha Korn, Emily Loe and Kathryn Thompson, asks users practicing social distancing at home to record short thank you videos that are shared with those working on the frontlines of the pandemic across the United States.

Five days after the launch, 500 videos were delivered directly to the phones or inboxes of essential workers nationwide, from doctors and nurses to administrative personnel and kitchen staff.

“Our mission is to reach and recognize each front-line worker for their tireless effort and contribution to fighting COVID-19,” Caron said. “Our video recipients have said the gesture made their day, inspired them to keep working and renewed their belief that we are all united in this together.”

The positive impact of 6ftCloser videos doesn’t stop with the recipients. The feedback the website developers have received from those who create the videos describe a feeling akin to catharsis.

A nurse in Cincinnati is overwhelmed with happy tears after receiving a video from a stranger in Buffalo“Those who made videos have unfailingly described how empowering it is to feel like they can contribute in such a simple yet genuine way,” Caron said.

Caron is enrolled in the Business and Innovation in Medicine elective track, part of the UF Discovery Pathways Program. The track guides medical students with a passion for innovation through the development of their ideas into prototypes and provides lessons on intellectual property and regulatory processes along the way. Caron, who has long had an interest in combining medicine and entrepreneurship, helped to found 6FtCloser with his undergraduate classmates at Boston University.

Caron’s responsibilities at 6ftCloser include medical market research and hospital implementation. He recruited a small team of his first-year classmates to form the UF branch of the website, and he’s actively recruiting medical students at other institutions to launch their own branches. No matter how large the team grows, the creators of 6ftCloser are keeping their modus operandi simple: giving thanks to those who need it most.

“This platform was built by a small team of 20-somethings with backgrounds in business, media and medicine who wanted to create a simple and impactful way to express gratitude,” said Caron.

Visit to make a video or nominate someone you appreciate.

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