Two initiatives created by our department over the past two months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have garnered significant media attention, including mentions in national outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, and Fox News.
The alternative mask project, which involves upcycling Halyard H600 fabric from surgical instrument trays, and the open-source ventilator project created by the Center for Safety, Simulation and Advanced Learning Technologies, or CSSALT, together have been featured in hundreds of news articles and broadcasts. Both have also attracted international attention and collaborators.
The mask project has been featured in prominent newspapers in Florida and nationwide, including the Miami Herald and the Tallahassee Democrat. On Friday, May 8, Bruce Spiess, MD, FAHA, Professor of Anesthesiology and Associate Chair of Research, appeared in a clip on the PBS special “In This Together: A PBS American Portrait Story” discussing the unexpectedly far-reaching impact of the project.
The open-source ventilator project has been included in stories in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Examiner. Sem Lampotang, PhD, the Joachim S. Gravenstein Professor of Anesthesiology and Director of CSSALT, was also featured on the Radio Cade podcast. The project was even featured on Pattrn, part of The Weather Channel TV network.
Both projects have been featured on local and regional TV and radio broadcasts, including the ventilator project on News 4 Jax and WFTV Orlando and both the mask project and the ventilator project on WUFT.
In addition, Cameron R. Smith, MD, PhD, represented our department in a segment on WCJB TV discussing a collaboration with the UF Powell Family Structures and Materials Laboratory to make plastic face shields to protect frontline workers.
Mask project shows spirit of innovation
A team led by Assistant Professors Cole Dooley, MD, Nik Algarra, MD, and Sonia Mehta, MD; Professors Nikolaus Gravenstein, MD, and Dr. Spiess; Quality Officer Stephanie Gore, MSN, RN, CCRN; perfusionist Josene Carlson, CCP; and many more in the community led the charge on the mask initiative.
Multiple prototypes were developed using the Halyard material, which can be found in many hospitals and medical establishments. It typically covers surgical instrument trays during the sterilization process and is then discarded.
The masks are believed to be similar to the common surgical mask in their ability to block aerosols and droplets, including water, bacteria, and other particles. Both prototypes have passed fit testing akin to what is used for commercial masks, using a hood and sprayed indicator.
Patterns and instructional videos were posted online in an open-source format, which communities around the world have used to make their own masks, many adding their own innovations and ingenuity.
One Boca Raton sewist made thousands of the masks using the Halyard material and our department’s design and donated them to the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida.
The design reached as far as India and Israel. One resident of Hawaii praised UF’s designs in a comment published on an article in The New York Times.
Open-source ventilator project pushes forward
The low-cost, DIY ventilator using hardware store parts is working to obtain Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a fixed-design prototype based on an open-source design for use in hospitals when other ventilator options have been exhausted.
The ventilator is made of plentiful components outside the ventilator supply chain such as air-tight PVC water pipes, lawn-sprinkler valves, and an Arduino microcontroller board all costing less than a total of $250.
EUA approval of the fixed design is needed for the ventilator to be used in U.S. hospitals; for volunteers across the world seeking to build ventilators, the open-source design will be publicly available.
The idea gained momentum with the support of a worldwide network of coders, engineers, ham radio operators, and physicians.
Congratulations to every member of our department for rallying to a cause greater than each of us and making a difference in our field and our community.