College of Pharmacy creates hand sanitizer for campus, community

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | June 02, 2020

Image with caption: From left, Tess Lewis, Keith Olsen, Pharm.D., dean of the UNMC College of Pharmacy, Gary Cochran, Pharm.D., associate professor in the UNMC Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, Raj Selvaraj and Sarah Stage.

From left, Tess Lewis, Keith Olsen, Pharm.D., dean of the UNMC College of Pharmacy, Gary Cochran, Pharm.D., associate professor in the UNMC Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, Raj Selvaraj and Sarah Stage.

Jennifer Foster, Pharm.D., saw an urgent need for hand sanitizer at her practice at One World Community Health Centers, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. So she and her College of Pharmacy colleague, Gary Cochran, Pharm.D., gathered a few ingredients and put them together using pharmacy drug compounding techniques, under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

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Pharmacy student Tess Lewis applies a label while making hand sanitizer in the sterile compounding lab inside the Lozier Center for Pharmacy Sciences and Education.

And, voilà!

Hand sanitizer.

Amidst a global shortage of the stuff, the UNMC College of Pharmacy had come through.

Dean Keith Olsen, Pharm.D., had an idea. With hand sanitizer in short supply, shouldn't the College of Pharmacy produce some for UNMC and Nebraska Medicine units that needed it?

In the weeks that followed, pharmacy students produced hand sanitizer for Munroe-Meyer Institute, the College of Dentistry, home care agencies, nursing homes, construction companies, dentist offices, homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, training facilities, and UNMC maintenance facilities.

"When I asked for student volunteers," to take part in the project, Dr. Cochran said, "I received 16 student responses in about 10 minutes."

During a time of distance learning, "It's been nice to work and to see my classmates again," said student Raj Selvaraj.

"I felt antsy, like I wasn't doing enough during this time. I was looking to do something that had an impact," Tess Lewis said.

"I wanted to do more because it's kind of an uncertain time," Sarah Stage said.

The students applied hands-on skills, while following FDA and U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) guidelines, all of which they'd learned in previous classes.

Lewis, Selvaraj and Stage created an online ordering system and developed a touchless delivery process.

"I can really turn this over to them," Dr. Cochran said. "Not just making it, it's the infrastructure, handling all the orders, handling all the money, delivery."

"We're really proud of them," Dr. Olsen said.

The college sells the sanitizer basically at cost, "So the last gallon can fund the next one," Dr. Cochran said.

But Brad Nelson and the University of Nebraska Foundation helped organize a fundraiser to produce 100 gallons to be delivered at no cost to shelters throughout the community.

It's made a difference during this pandemic.

"Here at MMI, where we still provide direct patient services, supplies such as these are especially necessary," said Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., director of MMI. "MMI's deepest gratitude goes to UNMC's pharmacy students. Their help is essential for our activities as we continue to provide critical services to our families. Without their efforts, we could not operate safely."

The pharmacy students have a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds so the college may provide more free hand sanitizer to organizations that need it. Contributions may be made here.


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Joanne Johnson from Munroe-Meyer Institute
June 03, 2020 at 2:49 PM

Thank you, College of Pharmacy! We appreciate U!

Tacy Slater
June 02, 2020 at 1:17 PM

Thank you to all involved in making an important difference!

Fran Higgins
June 02, 2020 at 1:07 PM

Awesome application of your knowledge and skills! Thank you!

Geet Selvaraj
June 02, 2020 at 10:52 AM

So proud of you son

Cristy Arent
June 02, 2020 at 10:03 AM

Great Job!!!!! Way to Go!!! Thank you

Anjella S Heath
June 02, 2020 at 9:07 AM

Awesome job! Thank you!

Tom O’Connor
June 02, 2020 at 8:49 AM

So cool! Kudos to the College of Pharmacy for stepping up to the plate.

Robin Taylor
June 02, 2020 at 7:58 AM

Again, UNMC steps up to the plate! Thank you College of Pharmacy faculty and students for making a difference.

Heidi Keeler
June 02, 2020 at 6:48 AM

How brilliant! We truly have the best students, faculty, and staff here at UNMC!