After a weekend surge of positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, faculty and administrators at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith banded together to help frontline medical teams and hospital staff stay prepared and protected. Monday morning, a small team gathered at the UAFS campus to collect, box, label, and load more than 100,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) for colleagues actively fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday evening administrators received a plea from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, whose medical providers are nearing a critical shortage of these important means of protection and containment. The UAFS colleges of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Health Sciences were already assessing supplies, and less than 24 hours after the request came in, Dr. Linus Yu, associate dean of STEM was on his way down Interstate 40 to make the delivery.
“UAMS is working triple-time right now to ensure the safety and good health of the people of Arkansas, and the least we can do is help our partners in doing that hard work by giving them this protective equipment so they can stay safe,” explained UAFS chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley. “We all benefit when they are healthy because they are making sure we can stay healthy.”
More than 70,000 gloves, 1,500 masks (including fluid-resistant masks and N95 masks), 60 surgical gowns, and 50 isolation gowns made their way to UAMS in Little Rock Monday afternoon, a collaborative effort between the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Applied Science and Technology – all of which use PPE for training and laboratory safety.
“I’m so proud of the fact that our academic deans, and our Health Science, STEM, and Applied Science faculty see the big picture of helping our community and our entire state in times of need,” Riley continued. “When asked to pitch in, they did without hesitation.”
In addition to the supplies donated to UAMS, administrators kept some supplies in reserve to meet needs as they arise in the River Valley. “We made the calculated decision to leave some supplies behind in the event our local health care systems find themselves short of supplies,” explained Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of STEM and interim dean of the College of Health Sciences at UAFS, who coordinated the effort. The remaining 40,000+ items will be donated to Mercy Fort Smith and Baptist Fort Smith and Van Buren this week.