UNMC students help in med center mask effort

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | May 06, 2020

Image with caption: From left, the Integrated Service Center's Kathy Hamill, Jaidyn Dalzell, Tina Frey, Pamela Housard and Jonathan Hall

From left, the Integrated Service Center's Kathy Hamill, Jaidyn Dalzell, Tina Frey, Pamela Housard and Jonathan Hall

UNMC students are taking part in the Nebraska Medicine Community Mask Sewing Program, which is entering its second month and already has produced thousands of masks for use at the medical center.

Hannah Tandon, a second-year medical student, is helping Mark Emodi and employees from the Integrated Service Center (ISC) with the effort, using material from the surgical wrap supplies to produce the masks.

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From left, Hannah Tandon and Mark Emodi display masks made through the program.

"The masks were designed to be used for inpatients, non-clinical essential workers, volunteers and the few visitors who are still allowed on campus as a way of preventing pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission of COVID," Tandon said. "These were not designed to be used by our frontline workers or folks with COVID."

The program now includes a database of 1,700 sewing volunteers, 60 students, and many employees from the ISC. This staff, student, and community collaboration has produced thousands of masks for our medical center patients, essential employees and visitors.

"From the design idea to the project getting off the ground took about 48 hours," Tandon said. "I was brought in on a Sunday afternoon, and by Sunday evening, we started recruiting volunteers to sew these masks for us. By that Tuesday, we distributed our first batch of kits to our first round of sewing volunteers."

Emodi and the team at the ISC center put together kits of fabric and thread, a sample mask and instructions for the volunteers, and UNMC students pick up and distribute the kits to volunteer sewers throughout our community.

The effort is part of the UNMC CoRe Relief program, which helps UNMC students find ways to help health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The first week we distributed 28 kits to 24 sewers -- for the last couple of weeks, we've been distributing upwards of 300 kits to a total of about 340 active sewing volunteers," Tandon said. "Last week alone we collected 7,000-8,000 masks.

"It's really quite exciting. Now that we have so many masks to work with, we're focused on identifying where the greatest need is in the hospital."

The group can distribute a maximum of 300 mask kits per week, she said.

"Though 300 kits per week is a lot, it is no match for the enthusiasm from the community."

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Emily Zetterman
May 08, 2020 at 4:59 PM

Thank you for this opportunity to help! Joanie Zetterman

Keri Castro
May 08, 2020 at 3:39 PM

I am happy to be involved in such a well organized and worthy cause. It really helps keep your mind and hands focused on something productive and the fact that is helping our community health workers is a win win! The group that has organized things are on top of it and easy to reach if there are any questions. I agree I feel like Rosie the Riveter doing my small part.

Fran Higgins
May 06, 2020 at 9:31 AM

Thank you to everyone involved in this project! It's super organized and seems to run like a well-oiled machine. I'm not a medical person, but sewing is a tangible way I can help and I feel a little like Rosie the Riveter at my machine, churning out masks. :)