Health & Medicine

Campus Answers the COVID-19 Call

The Badger community springs into action to save lives.

DoIT staff member fabricates and packages face shields for front-line workers

The UW Division of Information Technology’s printing center transitioned to producing 1,000 face shields per day for UW Hospital. Jeff Miller

UW president Charles Van Hise ‘1879, ‘1880, MS’1882, PhD’1892 didn’t succumb to the Spanish flu, but his November 1918 obituary is surrounded by some of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who did. And as the world struggles with a similar pandemic a century later, it’s fitting that Van Hise’s greatest contribution to the university — the Wisconsin Idea — is clearly guiding the UW community even in the darkest of times.

In March, following an urgent inquiry from UW Hospital, UW–Madison engineers partnered with local manufacturers and a consulting firm to develop medical face shields, a critical piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients. In less than a week, the team delivered a first batch to UW Hospital, whose suppliers were out of stock, and published the design online as open source. Ford and John Deere picked up the “Badger Shield” template with plans to produce hundreds of thousands of face shields per week. Using existing materials from book binding and a new supply chain, the UW Division of Information Technology’s printing center transitioned to producing 1,000 face shields per day for UW Hospital.

The UW School of Pharmacy has stepped up to acquire ingredients and produce 300 12-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer per day for UW Health facilities. “If it wasn’t for this, we really wouldn’t have any to help protect both our patients and our employees,” said Jerame Hill MS’16, director of UW Health’s pharmacy supply chain. Departments, labs, and student groups across campus have also donated PPE, including 500 N95 respirator masks from a student competition team that builds concrete canoes.

As its workers serve on the front lines of COVID-19 patient treatment, UW Health has partnered with the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network to significantly expand the state’s testing capacities. In the earliest days of the outbreak, UW–Madison’s Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene expanded its operations to seven days a week and was one of just two labs in the state with the ability to conduct tests.

After announcing the university’s decision to postpone spring commencement, Chancellor Rebecca Blank acknowledged the heartbreaking conclusion to the graduating students’ college experience but applauded their resilience and contributions in a time of crisis. “I am immensely proud of every one of you,” she told them. “You are living through the kind of moment that shapes an entire generation, and you’re doing it with grace, resilience, and compassion.”

Published in the Summer 2020 issue


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