ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7)-- Third-year medical students are stepping up to find ways to help protect our hometowns against the coronavirus. Their classes have been moved online, so they're using the free time they now have to find and collect Personal Protective Equipment, known as PPE.
"I felt like it was part of our responsibility to be able to help out. We've received so much from the place that we're in right now so we want to be able to give back during a time of need," Vaish Sridhar, a Virginia Tech Carilion, said. She is the driving force behind these students' efforts.
"I basically just reached out to my class and asked anyone if they're interested in helping out in any way," Sridhar said.
She then created a group now called Southwest Virginia COVID Task Force that's split into smaller sections based on the need in the community. Students Manavi Bhagwat and Grace Lee are on the Supply Task Force. They have been focusing on collecting PPE for health professionals in our area.
"There's been a lot of innovation going on using 3D printing and also just regular manufacturing efforts to make Personal Protective Equipment. One of the people in our group is actually currently producing face shields for an EMS organization in Charlottesville, so we're trying to make prototypes of that and get it started here," Virginia Tech Carilion student Bhagwat said.
The group is also working with Virginia Tech Engineering and other universities in our region to come up with other ways to make PPE.
Lee is calling local businesses to see if they have any extra and unused PPE, like masks and gloves.
"We've so far gathered about 2500 gloves, a couple thousand masks, a lot of sanitizing equipment, and we're looking forward to getting more from the community," Lee, a Virginia Tech Carilion Student, said.
If you have PPE you'd like to donate, you can reach out to the students at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other students, like Dakota Buhrman, are working with the Medical Reserve Corp and the Virginia Department of Health on a hotline that's now open for all COVID-19 questions.
"The Medical Reserve Corp, it's a public health initiative to meet any of the public health needs in the local community . . . It's good just to have a resource that is credible and reliable," Virginia Tech Carilion student Buhrman said.
Students have also created social media pages to help address the coronavirus. Their Instagram handle is swva.covidresponse.
The VTC students will continue to band together in the weeks to come and are hopeful their efforts will make a difference.
"It's a just a challenging time in our community, we have to come together, it's not a time to be selfish, and I think as much as we can do while being safe, we're going to try and do that," Sridhar said.
The students say there's no better way to make use of their free time than to help the health professionals they'll soon be joining at work.
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