The University of Georgia has delivered the first batch of medical face shields produced on campus to local medical professionals, who may be facing tight supplies of protective equipment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university plans to deliver 200 face shields each to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Health Care System. The shields, which help protect health care providers from droplets, aerosols and other contaminants while treating patients, are being produced through a collaboration that includes the UGA College of Engineering, UGA Libraries and the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop, a unit of UGA’s Office of Research.
“We’re pleased to be able to help the community in this time of crisis,” said Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our staff and students have really taken the urgency of the situation to heart and they’ve stepped forward to support our community and its medical professionals.”
The face shields produced by the College of Engineering and the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop include four simple parts that hospitals can assemble quickly: a clear plastic shield, a plastic head gear, an adjustable strap made from non-latex rubber, and a neoprene strip as a forehead cushion. UGA can produce more than 100 face shields a day.
“We appreciate the dedication of the University of Georgia, its staff and students to our community and our hospital in this unprecedented time,” said Montez Carter, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health Care System. “It will take all of us working together to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19. Making and donating these face shields reflects the passion for innovation, excellence and service demonstrated daily by our state’s flagship university.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Piedmont Athens Regional needs the support of our community more than ever,” said Michael Burnett, CEO of Piedmont Athens Regional. “We are extremely appreciative of the outpouring of support from UGA and its College of Engineering. Their team’s contributions will help to keep our patients and our employees safe during these stressful and uncertain times.”
University Health Center has already received 10 face shields and expects to receive 15 more, said UHC Executive Director Dr. Garth Russo. “We greatly appreciate the innovation,” he said.
A team of two staff members and two student workers fabricated the shields in the College of Engineering’s machine shop using laser cutters. Meanwhile, a small group of workers in the Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop manufactured the head gear using water jet cutters. All the work has been conducted under social distancing protocols and other safety measures recommended by public health officials.
The UGA team examined several designs for medical face shields before moving forward with two prototypes. They presented the prototypes to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center for review before deciding which design to use and how to divide the workflow.
The Science Library Makerspace, a part of UGA Libraries, is contributing to UGA’s production of protective equipment for local hospitals using a different process: 3D printing. Andrew Johnson, an emerging technologies librarian, reached out to faculty and staff with 3D printers to let them know about the initiative. He was able to borrow printers from across campus – including the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Entrepreneurship Program in the Terry College of Business – to create a fabrication hub.
In addition to assisting with local needs, UGA is coordinating efforts with the University System of Georgia, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and the Georgia Department of Public Health to make face shields available to health-care partners around the state.
“The determination of our students and staff to use their expertise and resources to help our medical colleagues stay safe while treating coronavirus patients is truly inspiring,” said David Lee, vice president for research. “This models what a land-grant university should be all about.”