Class of 2012 battle the pandemic in multi-dimensional ways
Elizabeth Edwards, Class of 2012 reporter, helped uncover some of the news about individuals and companies stepping up to the plate during the pandemic. Among her Laurentian peers are alumni who have the skill set to make a difference and who have jumped in to help their communities.
Finding New Ways to Be Kind
When Conor McDermott ’12 (pictured above) opened Kind Senior Care in the fall of 2019, a goal that’s been close to his heart since he was a teenager, he didn’t expect to be navigating an international public health crisis just a few months later. Deemed as an essential service by the State of Massachusetts, Kind Senior Care is a nonmedical home care business that aims to help seniors live independently at home for as long as possible. Employees assist with everyday things like meal preparation, grocery shopping, prescription pickups, and transportation to appointments, but the job is so much more than checking off boxes on a task list.
“Even though we’re nonmedical, a lot of what we do is really important to help people live healthy lives,” says McDermott. Because seniors are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, the CDC recommends they remain in their homes to limit exposure. While this necessary precaution keeps them safe, it can be quite isolating. To prevent loneliness and promote holistic well-being during this time, Kind Senior Care not only helps seniors safely acquire food and prescriptions, but it also offers compassion and companionship.
Recent events have placed unanticipated demands on McDermott and have given him a new perspective on the industry he’s passionate about, making COVID-19 the ultimate crash course in crisis management. McDermott’s team had to work quickly and resourcefully to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) and train all caregivers to ensure compliance with mandated procedures and, more importantly, protect their clients and safely provide a critical service.
“The social determinants of health are really important,” says McDermott. “That’s where our caregivers and our company come in to provide human interaction by listening and having conversations.”
15,000 Units, Just Like That
Madeleine Garone ’12 has been working under lockdown from her Brooklyn apartment as a sales manager at MakerBot, a manufacturer of 3D printers, since March. From the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, 3D printing has played a major role in grassroots efforts to address the medical supply chain shortage, especially in relation to personal protective equipment (PPE) for those on the front lines. Partnering with Columbia University and Tangible Creative, another 3D printing company, Makerbot yielded production of approximately 1,000 finished face shields per day during the month of April.
Makerbot’s fleet of 3D printers began running around the clock at the end of March, to address the immediate needs of local healthcare workers. Garone and her co-workers worked shifts of one or two volunteers on-site who were responsible for maintaining the printers, removing the finished PPE prints, handling post-processing as needed, and sanitizing the PPE prior to sending them through to the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side, where volunteers assembled their manufactured parts into finished face shields.
As of April 30, 2020, the company finished production as their collective group was set with inventory of 3D printed PPE parts. Their efforts filled an immediate need at the center of the outbreak until other sources of supplies became available. In total, they produced 15,000+ units at a time of extreme need. MakerBot also made available an open-source print file for anyone looking to get involved in the effort. Contact Garone at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Man with a Plan
Alumnus Chris Wiles ’12, biology graduate and first-year anesthesiology resident at University of Connecticut, also took up the challenge of PPE shortages by creating blueprints for 3D printing of reusable masks for providers in need.
“With COVID-19 happening, I found a way to get involved earlier than I anticipated,” Wiles shared with The Day, a Connecticut-based daily newspaper. “When the CDC recommends that if—and only if—you run out of N95s, you can use alternative, handmade devices, including bandanas and scarves. When I saw that, I said I can do better. I’m going to try to make a difference.” The result was a 3D-printed mask tutorial shared on YouTube now with more than 104,000 views and an effort by Wiles and 80 volunteers to assemble masks for local providers.
Hartford Hospital, UConn Health, and St. Francis Hospital, all in Connecticut, have now set up 3D printers to make Wiles’ masks, as have other entities across the country. Wiles encourages others to improve upon his designs and continues to fabricate the low-cost masks after establishing a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to buy more printers. The efforts surpassed his $10,000 fundraising goal in less than a week.
Breaking Down Barriers
Just because Mike Cianca ’12 is working at Brockton Community Health Center as an optometrist, serving refugees, immigrants, and low-income patients in Brockton, Massachusetts doesn’t mean he can’t pivot his specialization to help his local community. Once the pandemic started, the ophthalmology department was reduced to emergency care only. Given the reduced patient load, Cianca was assigned to the Incident Command Team and is now in charge of assigning staff to new jobs related to COVID testing, center operations, and community outreach. His center is leading the charge on COVID testing for anyone in the Brockton area. They set up three testing areas that provide services in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, and French. Two testing centers are located at their local hospital building and the third is a satellite drive-thru clinic. All of the staff at BNHC are really proud of the difference they are making for their patients.